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Sunday 4 November 2018

Reviews: Outer Heaven, The Heard, Battalions, Cognitive (Sean, Paul S & Paul H)

Outer Heaven: Realms Of Eternal Decay (Relapse Records) [Sean]

What is it with Death Metal lately? 2018 has seen some utterly stellar displays of old school brutality, one would think that the thirst for ancient horror would have been quenched by now, all creativity spent and all urges satisfied. Fortunately for those who still kill the old way, the reaper's scythe is set to fall again with Pennsylvania’s Outer Heaven reaffirming once more that 2018 is the season of Death. Unleashing their monstrous debut Realms Of Eternal Decay through Relapse Records, Outer Heaven prove that the carrion king cannot be dethroned. The the killing commence!

Vortex Of Thought plunges us straight into an abyss of blastbeats, gutturals and sinister grooves aplenty. Striking a fine balance between the lurching crawl of Incantation and mid period Cannibal Corpse, Outer Heaven thuggishly stomp onward with little regard for the weaklings that fall under their boots. Pulsating Swarm varies the tempo, doom like in it’s approach though with sudden burst of speed for good measure. Multicellular Savagery is wonderfully neanderthal balancing the usual tremolos typings with hefty chugs and brief flashes of technicality. My goodness, wailing divebombs! Bloodspire introduces a slight blackened tinge to the air, sinister in its subtly but used to great effect. It transcends the muscular death stomp to incorporate a genuine air of menace, fucking marvellous. Sacrificial Evolution is reminiscent of Domination era Morbid Angel, spitting some absolutely crushing moments but relenting just enough for haunting lead to echo above the carnage.

Realms Of Eternal Decay is an unashamedly brutish beast of a records, though it falters ever so slightly due to lack of variation. Outer Heaven could stand to be a touch more adventurous, elevating their barbarous bludgeoning beyond the primitive chugging of certain sections. Like I said, a minor quibble that doesn’t detract too much from the sheer raw strength on display. Outer Heaven have crafted a fine debut and should be damn proud of their work. Make no mistake, Realms… is unabashedly uncivilised romp of decaying goodness and you would be a fool to miss out. Bow down, for here awaits thy doom. 8/10

The Heard: The Island (Despotz Records) [Paul S]

The Heard are a Stockholm based rock band who grew out of the ashes of the band Crucified Barbara. The 3 former members of Crucified Barbara are joined by Janns ‘Skinny Disco’ Kangur from Deathstars on lead guitar and Pepper Potemkin on vocals. This is their first album, and for a first try this is fantastic! The music on offer here is basically hard rock, in a fairly classic style. There is a similarity to Rainbow, specifically Ronnie James Dio era Rainbow (Which is the best era Rainbow). The feel of the material has a definite seventies feel to it. The track Tower Of Silence has an opening riff that is quite reminiscent of the heavy riff in Focus’s Hocus Pocus. The song writing on this album is stunning throughout. I’ve had trouble finding tracks that stand out, because the material is all so strong. A Death Supreme is a cracking rock song with a huge chorus that will get stuck in your head. Revenge Song is another great track, and going on the lyrics this is not a band to mess with. Queen Scarlett is a superb song, with a very strong melodic identity, and a really interesting piano part.

Musically this is very good album, all the music feels organic and live. Interesting riffs, great rhythms and leads. However this band also have an ace up their sleeves with vocalist Pepper Potemkin, who’s voice is just stunning. The song Sirens is mainly a soft acoustic song which would be a great song with any other vocalist, but with Potemkin on vocals it reaches another level. Her voice is powerful, full of personality and she has an ability really make a song shine. Her phrasing is fantastic, there is a storytelling feel to a lot of the songs, and a lot of that is down to how Potemkin handles the vocals. The album finishes with the track Leaving The Island, another really strong track, which has a similar feel to the opening track (The Island), giving the album a nice bookended feel. This is a very well written, well played, well sung album, I’ve really enjoyed listening to it, and have a feeling it’s going to be on heavy rotation in my flat! If you like hard/classic rock this is essential! 9/10

Battalions: Forever Marching Backwards (APF Records) [Paul S]

Hailing from Hull, Battalions have been going since 2010. Forever Marching Backwards is their third album following on from 2016’s Nothing To Lose and 2017’s Moonburn. Battalions play a fairly laid back, bluesy style of sludgy doom. There is a definite similarity to Weedeater in their sound. These aren’t massively heavy detuned riffs, there is more of a groove to what this band does, rather than going for earth shattering heaviness. Although they might not be the heaviest band going, I challenge any of you to listen to this without nodding your head in time. Cities Of Ruin has a main riff that is beautifully bluesy, while at the same time having a groove the size of a planet. 

There are also similarities to some Motorhead material in this stuff as well (Lemmy was always open to some blues). In fact about halfway through the song Vaseline (G)Love is a riff that is a little too close to the main riff from Deaf Forever by Motorhead. The track Infinite Void is a much heavier track, probably the heaviest on offer here. Slower, and with a more pounding tempo, the track stands out in being less about groove and more about battering the listener into submission.There isn’t much in the way of variety on this album. The band have got a sound and they seem to want to stick to it. The band don’t seem to be that interested in stretching their style much. There's no ground breaking material here, but what is on offer is so much fun, does there need to be? This album isn’t going to start any new movements, but if you just want some enjoyable bluesy sludge, you can’t really go wrong with Forever Marching Backwards. 710

Cognitive: Matricide (Unique Leader Records) [Paul H]

Technical death metal can be a bit hit or miss. The constant polyrhythmic patterns, the occasional blasts of melody and a general cacophony of noise needs to be channelled with care. New Jersey’s Cognitive have delivered their third album Matricide, which initially appears to capture all the essential ingredients and suggests that it will destroy. It is frantic stuff, with lacerating riffs, machine gun fire drumming and the roaring vocals of Shane Jost all combining to pummel and batter. 

With several tracks surprisingly shorter than your usual tech death output, Cognitive choose instead to go for punishment through intensity. Architect, False Profit and Vessel Of Violence pass by in a blur of thrashing carnage. At times the tracks appear somewhat unstructured, and by the mid-point Clouds Of Rust there is an air of repetition kicking in. Overall though, this is a decent enough release from a band whose mission statement can only be ‘level everything’. 6/10

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