Burning Witches: Hexenhammer (Nuclear Blast)
Once again packed with proper speed metal riffs and produced by V.O Pulver and Destructions Scheimer the second album from Swiss metal band is the ideal accompaniment to its predecessor, there’s no honing to be needed here they had the defiant classic fist pumping heavy metal sound perfected on the debut so this doesn’t need to do anything else really. The band have garnered attention as they are an all female metal band, which is still sadly a rarity, however they should be judged as musicians and they can really play, check out a track like Open Your Mind which has thunderous rhythm gallops, slicing riffs and vocals that go from Halford shrieks to growls in an instant.
You get Priest throughout along with Mercyful Fate and Doro also both clear influences, it’s not all rampaging metal though they can do a ballad too, Don’t Cry My Tears has a Maiden-like hook too it but the style doesn’t really suit the vocals the band are better when they’re in full flight on big hitters such as Maiden Of Steel a feminist metal anthem. The record is based around the famous historical book the Malleus Maleficarum (a.k.a. The Hammer Of The Witches or Hexenhammer) that legitimated witch hunting. The album speaks about oppression, violence against the week and manipulation of facts all of which resonate today. Not a band to take it lying down Burning Witches are fighting against the macho world of metal at their own game with their own iron clad heaviness. Pure, classic metal like it's supposed to be! 8/10
Ursa: Abyss Between The Stars (Blood Music)
Ursa are a band that eek out slumbering sonic doom, they hail from the Sun drenched Bay Area of California, but their sound is lot colder and darker, it’s possibly why Blood Music in Finland have picked up this record for release. If you want to know what they’re all about listen to The Mountain that closes this 6 track album, it may only be 5 minutes long, the shortest song on the album but it’s got the scale of epic, fantasy influenced doom metal that owes as much to Candlemass and Rush as it does to The Sword and Neurosis, for every towering fuzz riff there’s a dreamy aura that floats past like a haze washing over you before the riffs come back to rattle your skull loose.
The sprawling doom riffs are well crafted by this trio who employ not only organs but also a banjo on Cave Of The Spider King added to the unearthly vocals and impressive sky reaching guitar solos (Serengeti Yeti), it’s the kind of cosmic epic doom metal that really gets my metal senses going. No major improvements needed or minor points deducted Ursa are seeking out that abyss with all the pot-powered focus they can muster. 8/10
Karybdis: In The Shadow Of Perception (Self Released)
Both breathtakingly savage and technically adventurous London based Melo-deathers Karybdis return with their third full length of blistering riffage, aggressive vocals and knack of going against expectations, lyrically especially they have shunned the bloodsplattered gore of their contemporaries instead they are focusing on the damage to the planet human beings are causing. The record opens with an orchestral swell but soon enough the bludgeoning begins, juicy breakdowns move into some sweeping strings and melodic uplifting solos adding the Swedish gleam of At The Gates to their American rage Lamb Of God mixed with Trivium and a hint of Sylosis.
The first track is American groove metal, the title track is pure fucking death metal with explosive blast beats and intricate guitar motifs exploding into a gloriously big chorus and beatdown at the climax. Manifestation is where the prog comes creeping in the orchestrations once again used to great effect before the insanity continues. Tech-metal continues to evolve from the realm of guitar nerds into the coolest train in town and Karybdis seem to be one of the bands spearheading it deftly balancing their brutality with their technicality, welcome the next chapter of these Brit metal warriors evolution! 8/10
Chaos Over Cosmos: The Unknown Voyage (Self Released)
So weird one this Chaos Over Cosmos are a two piece from Spain/Poland who didn't meet once during the making of this record such is the power of the internet. Javier Calderon is the vocals and lyrics while Rafal Bowman takes guitars, synths and programming, which is pretty much all the band need, there are no authentic drums here synths create the majority of the backing music with the guitars and vocals over the top however you don't notice due to the sheer musical journey this album takes you on. It's a heady brew of ambient synth textures that owe a debt to Yes, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd and galloping power metal which sounds like Maiden, Hammerfall or actually our own Fury. It's a strange concoction but it works, the ambient passages are enough to separate the rampaging drum blasts, searing solos and powerful vocals.
It's sort of like if Genesis played Maiden, I can't really get my head around it but I bloody enjoy it! It's only 5 songs long but they all have healthy run times clocking like prog epics the second track Armour Of The Stars (Xenogears) is a pretty good opening statement changing numerous times with some spoken word parts in there as well to make it totally overblown. Ok so the production is not the best but what do you expect from a DIY effort there are professional established bands doing this sort of thing much worse. It's and intriguing listen that's I'd encourage any progressive metal fans to pick up. 7/10