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Saturday 27 October 2018

Reviews: Soulfly, Nazareth, Skålmöld, Dirge (Reviews By Paul H & Matt)

Soulfly: Ritual (Nuclear Blast) [Paul H]

It’s been three years since Archangel, an age between albums for Soulfly but with Max Cavalera busy with Cavalera Conspiracy and the Return To Roots tour with brother Igor, it’s probably not a surprise. I missed the band’s recent UK tour which by all accounts saw Soulfly on blistering form. Well, Ritual is worth the three year wait. As soon as Marc Rizzo’s unmistakable trademark riffs open the album on the title track, which then explodes into a melee of tribal thrash you know exactly where you are.

It’s hard, it’s heavy; it’s Soulfly. Chunky riffs combine with explosive drumming coming from Zyan Cavalera’s third appearance on the drum stool. Dead Behind The Eyes has the bonus of Lamb Of god’s Randy Blythe laying down his characteristic gnarly vocals on a fiery, ferocious track which slices and lacerates. It’s intense, a whirling maelstrom of aggression. One of the standout features on what is a fabulously brutal album is the underlying groove which hasn’t always been present in their recent music. The Summoning combines death and thrash metal but with a huge underlying groove throughout the track. 

Immolation's Ross Dolan adds gravitas to Under Rapture, another bludgeoning head banger which accelerates to warp speed within seconds and doesn’t break until it hits the brick wall at the end. Rizzo is a massively underrated guitarist and this release showcases just how fine he is with some astonishing lead breaks. Mike Leon underpins the entire album with foundation shaking bass lines, former bassist Tony Campos now on duty with Ministry and Fear Factory not missed at all. Mixed with the usual tribal elements, the album maintains the traditional conclusion with an instrumental track, this time it’s Soulfly XI, sharply contrasting with the scorching ten tracks that precede it , and which features some haunting saxophone and beautiful acoustic guitar Josh Wilbur’s fine production adds to the quality on an album that stands proudly alongside the band’s finest works. An essential listen. 9/10

Nazareth: Tattooed On My Brain (Frontiers) [Paul H]

Four years after the Scots final album with the gravel-soaked voice of Dan McCafferty, one of the UKs most legendary rock bands are back with a new album. I’ve always had a soft spot for these guys, ever since I heard a live version of Razamanaz on a heavy metal compilation in the very early 1980s. That song, the title track from their 1973 Roger Glover produced album has always been a favourite. I was a little disappointed with the band at Steelhouse a couple of years ago, but I think that’s due to the lightweight mix which rendered the band limp in the riff stakes. Having brought Carl Sentance, the former Persian Risk and Krokus vocalist into the fold in 2015, this release demonstrates that he is the perfect fit for Nazareth. 

Tattooed On My Brain consists 13 songs, the majority of which are good solid hard rock in the style of boogie kings AC/DC. In fact, the only weak track on the album is the ballad Rubik’s Romance, which is pretty insipid. The rest of the tracks, all allow Sentance to show his chops, whilst original member Pete Agnew’s simple bass lines thump out of the speakers, combining neatly with son Lee on drums. Elsewhere, long-serving Jimmy Murrison adds enough meat with his tasty guitar playing. There are many highlights on this rock solid release, and whilst it won’t win the big plaudits, there is still plenty of life in this dog. 7/10

Skålmöld: Sorgir (Napalm Records) [Paul H]

I admit to knowing little about the Viking metal of Icelandic outfit Skålmöld. Relative veterans of the scene, this is their fifth album. As with most Viking metal, there appears to be a range of styles all wrapped up with random shouting and screaming. Scotta is case in point; plenty of thundering metal with the vocals all over the place. Lots of horn in the air style gestures and pumping riffs, backed by batteries of drumming and fast paced. It certainly isn’t as shocking as some of the rubbish I’ve heard this year. In fact, at times it’s very catchy. Take Gangori as an example. This is an explosive emotive and rousing track with some terrific guitar work. Sorgir opens in majestic style, combined riffs and neat hooks pull in the right direction on Ljosio, the image of longboats crashing through the waves as hordes of bearded long-haired broad raiders worked their hardest to get to their prize. 

Much like the other bands in this genre, there’s a typical format which they follow. The sing-along style of Sveroio follows Ljosio whilst the more focused straightforward approach of Brunin adopts the usual blueprint of heads down heavy, almost thrash power metal, with a meaty Anthrax style stomp welcome halfway thoroughly as the chanting to the god’s kicks in. Atmospheric introductions are not far away and Mori, at over six minutes in length can build dramatically and impressively, choral voices soaring as the riffs of the track kick in. Unlike some of their counterparts, it’s the rather grating vocals of Bjorvin Sigurosson which cause me the most grief. Gruff like Hegg is fine, but I find Sigurosson’s delivery the weak point here. As I said, Viking metal doesn’t always do it for me and this is a mixed bag which doesn’t quite hit the spot. 6/10

Dirge: Lost Empyrean (Debemur Morti Productions) [Matt B]

We've got a term here at MoM Towers for when something is particularly heavy, we say it has heft. Lost Empyrean the 7th album by Parisian sludge mongers most definitely has heft, a molten brew of early Baroness, Pelican and Isis with huge slabs of crushing ferocity it "Serves as a soundtrack to the dual relationship between the primordial quintessence colliding with the earthly body and the illusory nature of providence upon the somber, meager trappings of existence."

Meaning that it's packed with highly conceptual doom riffs that switch between punishing thunder of down tuned savagery to post-metal ambience in an instance flowing like glacier. Having been around since 1994 the band have a been purveyors of noise for a bloody long time which means that the music here has been carefully constructed for maximum impact, it's primal and uncompromising coming from the same gloom as Neurosis with added industrial oppression to really freak you out (Algid Troy). A heady mix of beauty and brutality Lost Empyrean is a heavy hitting album that will have you transcending earthly realms from the word go. Just play it loud! 8/10

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