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Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Reviews: Unleashed, Unearth, Hank Von Hell, Dunbarrow (Paul S, Lee, Matt N)

Unleashed: Hunt For White Christ (Napalm Records) [Paul S]

Unleashed will have been going for 30 years next year, and they have had a stable lineup since 1995. There aren’t that many bands that can claim that level of stability, but has that led to them producing good material, or after so long have they got lazy and comfortable? Well, Johnny Hedland and co have not got comfortable, far from it. The stability has lead them to produce some cracking old school death metal, clearly knowing each other so well has allowed them to work very effectively.  The album kicks off with an absolute blast of a track with Lead Us To War, tight fast riffs pounding drums, viscous vocals and one hell of a guitar solo. The song has so much energy and inertia, it’s almost a perfect old school track. You Will Fall, has a heavier feel with denser riffs and with more blast beats. This has a very effective verse section as well, it feels like a very well rounded song. All the lead work on this album is very good, technical and intricate, but always in tune with the song, and always adding and improving the track.

The solo on Stand Your Ground is particularly good. There is a impressive level of musicianship on this album, clearly being together for so long has led the band to work in an instinctive way with each other. They are making old school death metal because that is what they want to do, not because they aren’t good enough to play technical death metal. There are some parts that are a little reminiscent to some technical death metal, the track The City Of Jorsala Will Fall has a few riffs that could have been on a Nile album. But whenever you think they might go that way completely, a cracking old school riff will crash in and we’re back to a more simple battering. The album is brought to an end by one of the best tracks on it. Open To All The World is a blast of a track, the verse is just pure speed riffing, maybe a little thrashy in style. The really fast riffs are separated by more staccato rhythmic riffs, which just seem to make the fast riffs they separate seem faster! Hunt For White Christ is a great album, Unleashed can add this to their already impressive back catalogue of great albums. One of the best death metal albums released this year. 8/10

Unearth: Extinctions (Century Media) [Lee]

Unearth have gone through a number of band member changes since their formation in 1998 and each subsequent replacement help shape the tone and pace of the records that they’re featured in. Having been in their current line-up since 2015, Extinctions takes metalcore, chucks in a good dollop of hardcore in the first track, Incinerate. It offers slow, methodical and at times brutal punishment that Code Orange could be proud of. Dust then offers listeners the chance to see just how technically proficient the guitaring of Buz McGrath and Ken Susi is. Nick Pierce’s pace and control behind the kit along with Trevor Phipps’ fantastically gravelly voice tying in with the guitarists and conveying some what seems apparent pent up aggression has been channelled to what can only be described as a fantastic album.

Survivalist is a crowd pleaser from the start, the chugging guitaring coupled with the double bass drum is sure to open that pit up, the pace of the song teases and pays homage to traditional Metalcore, with so much progression in this sub-genre, it’s refreshing to see that Unearth like to keep to the fundamentals here. Cultivation Of Infection again offers hardcore and metalcore elements, but I can’t help but feel that this track could have been better utilised as the opener. The Hunt Begins is a clever song, there are number of breakdowns in the form of melodic offerings here which remind me of Parkway Drive, in fact, there’s quite a bit about this song which reminds of them and why they are as successful as they are today.

The more I progress through the album, it’s clear that they just want to take heads and keep the pit going non-stop, tracks such as Hard Lined Downfall, King Of The Arctic and Sidewinder ensure the ferocity of the band doesn’t ease, these are just hard hitting songs from a crushing seasoned band that will be on the warpath with Darkest Hour on the “Death To All False Metalcore” tour next year. The album ends with the latest single, One With The Sun which just offers a fitting summary of Extinctions. Very well produced, solid material and bad tracks here, solid effort. 8/10

Hank Von Hell: Egomania (Headbangr) [Matt H]

Yeah I don’t want to write this review… everything I can say is completely redundant if you’ve heard this album. Why? Because nothing I can write could truly encapsulate the beauty of this album. It is glorious. Fun and cheesy whilst also kicking a heck of a lot of ass. I think it’s the attitude of this band, they clearly don’t take themselves too seriously and that’s infectious for this music. I want to play this stuff at every school disco ever until the end of time! But I suppose I should do my best to ignore my immediate attraction to this sound and actually do a bit of a dissection. As is common to the glam rock genre, the rhythm section doesn’t have a huge amount to do in terms of complexity. But they do get to go pretty fast in songs like Pretty Decent Exposure so that’s cool!

The guitars hit the spot for me, the riffs are used powerfully, I’m a big fan of riffs being used as leitmotifs in songs and that’s what happens here. Damn what a great album. Ok ok I’m trying not to run away with my emotions here. The lyrics are great; they flow nicely into one another. If I had to make a criticism of the vocal lines I would argue that I don’t feel they explore a wide range, preferring to stick in a mid-range. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great, I can just hear some huge screeching vocals that Hank is capable of (and did plenty of in Turbonegro - Ed). 9/10

Dunbarrow: Dunbarrow II (RidingEasy Records) [Paul S]

Dunbarrow hail from Haugesund is Norway. As you might have guessed from the name, this is their second album. On Dunbarrow’s facebook page they sight their influences as being 1968 - 1973, and to these ears, that is pretty accurate. The style of music played by these 5 Norwegians could be seen as being doom, but played in a more hard rock style. First song On Your Tail has a riffing style that is reminiscent of early Pentagram, but with much less distortion. The vocals have a bit of a Tommy Liebling feel to them as well. The song has a very strong melody and a great chorus, and a cracking up tempo ending, making it an extremely strong piece of rock music. Please Let Me Be is another great track, slower, but with real drive and power. There is a certain similarity with early Black Sabbath in the riffing, but with a guitar sound that is closer to Black Sabbath’s Dio albums.

The second half of the song has an instrumental break that uses some jazz influences, giving it a bit of a prog rock feel. Weary Lady sound a little like an early Bowie track. Partly this is due to the Espen Andersens vocals, whose phrasing feels a little influenced by Bowie’s early pre Low work. The album does boast some harder material as well. The Wolf has a very purposeful, driving feel to it, it’s more of a strait rock track, and has a great solo! The Demon Within, has a mid-paced feel to it, with softer passages and some very nice bluesy guitar work. Final track On This Night, is a measured, slower track, which, despite the softer feel, is menacing and ominous, with a powerful ending. This is a great album, really well crafted songs, great riffs and some of the best vocals I’ve heard in quite a long time. This albums strength is in the subtlety and nuanced way the album has been put together. The lower level of distortion on the guitars stops the band hiding badly written songs behind a wall of distortion. The songs work, and you can hear this very clearly. Fantastic album, highly recommended. 8/10

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