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Wednesday 31 October 2018

Reviews: Bloodbath, Ascaris, Them, Festerday (Sean, Matt & Paul H)

Bloodbath: The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn (Peaceville Records) [Paul H]

Four years ago, I waxed lyrical about the fourth studio album from the outfit known as four Swedes and a Yorkshireman. Yes, Grand Morbid Funeral was ferociously evil and earnt a 9/10 from me. Well, by Satan’s hairy ball bag, this album is even fucking better. From the opening filthy riffs of Fleischmann, there is something special happening here. It’s dirtier, heavier and earthier than anything they’ve ever done. Nick Holmes performance is inspired; I’ve never heard him as sinister and guttural before whilst the interplay between Anders Nystrom and new guitarist Joakim Karlsson from Craft is subtly disguised but never hidden under the frantic riffing and Martin Axenrot’s blistering drumming. Jagged, cutting riffs on Fleischmann are relentless, segueing rapidly into Bloodicide which maintains the frenetic pace, a pace which hardly ever slows throughout the 41 minutes on offer. Bloodicide offers no relief, with additional vocals from three of death metal’s legends, Carcass’s Jeff Walker, the mighty Karl Willetts and John Walker of Cancer increasing the savagery.

Whilst Bloodbath pin their flag to the Floridian old school death metal mast they have moved far closer to black metal on this release, with the ominous echoing atmosphere on Levitator merging with the darker death metal with ease. Filthy reverb and down tuned guitars really make the difference on this album, superbly mixed by Karl Daniel Liden to allow the full morbid malevolence to spew forth. Utilising the state of the world as inspiration for the themes, Nystrom and his wretched souls have created a fetid, stench ridden release which demands repeated plays. Tracks like Deader, the harrowing Morbid Antichrist and the closing B-movie horror-soaked Chainsaw Lullaby all combine on one of the most rotten, stinking and repulsively incredible death metal albums of 2018. 9/10

Ascaris: The Raised Hand (Self Released) [Sean]

Some say that patience is a virtue, others that great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance. As Guinness used to be fond of saying, good things come to those who wait. And indeed they do! In case you haven’t been paying attention for the last few years, dapper destroyers Ascaris have been steadily cementing their reputation as one of the most formidable acts spawned on these shores. Finally following up on their impressive Initiation EP, the Gloucester based trio are now set to let loose their creation upon all who dare bare witness. Enter The Raised Hand, the forbidden fruit of their arduous labour made flesh. 

Incantation screams into being, a monstrous opening statement as Ascaris proceed to flatten to my brain into puppy mush. No holds barred here, just the full fury of each member actively trying to kill their instruments with blistering blackened death metal fury. The dual vocal attack of guitarist Sam Godding and bassist Dave Marcovecchio interplay with the merciless precision, the raspier style of the former perfectly complimenting the more inhuman of the former. Anchoring this storm in place is drummer Chris Barton, a man mountain unleashing torrent after of unyielding blast beats. Apocalypse Eternal continues this, altering between time signature proving some variation amongst the chaos. Old favourite Crimson is reborn, the muscular production providing merciless cutting edge to the razor sharp riffs. Sundered Creation introduces some symphonic elements, adding a welcome layer of atmosphere. “Sin of the flesh”, whom yours truly did demo vocals for many moons ago, combines every aspect the band has to offer as the riffs come fast and more manic than the ones before it.

The Raised Hand is nothing short of triumphant. Everything has been refined to knifelike sharpness, culminating in what is essentially one of the most intense listening experiences of 2018. If anything, too intense! There were a few moments where this poor author almost suffocated under the sheer tenacity of it all. But after the dust had settled? After I had finally been given a chance to breathe? You can bet Dio’s hip replacement that I immediately pressed repeat. Like an adrenaline shot to the face or a sledgehammer to the soul, Ascaris have created a stunningly heavy debut with little pity for those that cannot endure their victorious onslaught. Rip and tear boys, rip and tear. 9/10

Them: Manor Of The Se7en Gables (SPV/Steamhammer) [Matt]

International metal band Them released their debut Sweet Hollow in 2016, it set about establishing the overarching story-line that focuses on vocalist KK Fosser who is a Gravedigger/Warlock and head of the titular manor in Salem Massachusetts. This follow up record deals with the aftermath of the first and sees KK, his sidekick Remsen and Sarah the Scullery Maid/Witch being hunted by a Witchfinder and ends with them both being met with grisly fate as a secret is revealed at the climax. So to get this story-line across Them have made yet another theatrical metal record that will appeal to fans of King Diamond, Hell, Alice Cooper and even GWAR, frontman KK really embodies his character taking the image on cover his top hat and scarred face giving him the look of both The King and Cooper.

Vocally as well he is the master of these occult ceremonies, having a huge range to his vocals on a few tracks he sounds like a totally different person having the shrieks, growls, croons and snarls of several different personas on the album. Musically they sit at the heavier end with a lot of rampaging thrash on the blistering CircuitousAs The Sage Burns and The Secret Stairs where as the impressive finale of Punishment By Fire has black metal shredding mixed with some Gothic/symphonic touches, as the spoken word pieces are ideally placed to further the story. It's not one of those records you can pick out individual songs on, they all have to be taken in as part of this album to really understand what's going on. With the final track not leaving the story open for the next chapter, it'll be interesting to see where they go, however for now Manor Of The Se7en Gables sits as the perfect follow up for the debut and stands by itself as quality metal album. I know at least one other member of the MoM universe that will love this record and if I'm honest I do too.  8/10

Festerday: Cadaveric Virginity (Season Of Mist) [Paul H]

This is a two track bludgeoning from the Finnish underground cult death metallers which is apparently the precursor for 2019’s long awaited full length debut. Named after a track on Carcass album Reek Of Purification, the band released three demos before splitting in 1993. Having reformed in 2013, this EP is released via Seasons Of Mist Underground Activists division. The two tracks contained on this release, The One Who Strangles Stars and Suns and the 1:12 Let The Sun Vomit It's Beams Upon Your Cold Swollen Skin are uncompromising, fused with raging punk anger and massive slashing riffs. Apart from that, there isn’t really much else to say. Savage, angry and bursting with an intensity that is obviously screaming to be heard. The album will be interesting. 6/10

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