Evergrey: The Atlantic (AFM Records - 2019) [Matt]
Swedish dark melodic masters Evergrey have been on a roll since Hymns For The Broken they adapted their more power metal approach to a heavier darker more cinematic sound. This continued on The Storm Within taking things one step further upping the progressive elements allowing Tom S Englund to really explore the personal themes of the records. Here the personal themes remain, it wouldn't be Evergrey without them, but musically it's more straightforward and more vicious than ever before, with A Silent Arc jarring you from from your seat as the riffs come at you with the frantic tremolo picking of a black metal band, it switches to the more epic melodic stylings Evergrey fans will be familiar with and is almost an overview of the entire The Atlantic album sticking with natural nautical themes of the title conjuring tempests and danger but also moments of blissful calm as Englund's smooth vocals do their thing on your ears making you feel the lyrics as the solos give way to the chugging middle eight and Floydian solo.
A Silent Arc works well as track number one and the first single as it's thematically linked to the rest of the album letting you experience what's to come but also get used to the more brutal qualities of this album. I've mentioned black metal but there's also the shades of modern prog metal bands such as Tesseract with the electronics and piano's gurgling underneath the down-tuned palm muted riffs of Weightless but taking a starring role on The Tidal which has Vangelis-like synthwave repetition that serves as an intro for the chunky End Of Silence and the groovy Currents. As the previous two albums were Evergrey's return to form, bringing them back from the brink, The Atlantic s this now established 2019 edition of Evergrey absorbing the sounds of bands around them to adapt into their dark melodic/progressive metal sound. It's not as immediate as the previous releases, it takes a few listens for it to sink in, and the balance of heaviness to melody is firmly in the former but The Atlantic is the continuing evolution of Evergrey into one of the most unique acts in the metal world. 8/10
Flotsam & Jetsam: The End Of Chaos (AFM - 2019) [Paul H]
2016’s self-titled release from one of the seminal thrash bands from the 1980s was a thoroughly enjoyable affair. Two years later and the band that are forever haunted by the ghost of that guy who allegedly played bass on the fourth (but definitely did play bass on the fifth - Ed) Metallica album (no, Bob Rock wasn’t in this band!) return with album number 13 and it is a rager. Full throttle from the start, Prisoner Of Time races out of the blocks and immediately reminds you that when this band is on fire, they are a genuine thrash monster. With original vocalist AK Knutson still possessing the pipes to do the business alongside partner in thrash Michael Gilbert on guitar, as well as long term bassist Michael Spencer, guitarist Steve Conley and new drummer Ken Mary making his recording debut with the band, this is a real statement of intent.
Far from fading away into the sunset, the US band have delivered 12 songs with enough meat on the bone for most fans of heavy metal to feast upon. At times blisteringly fast, with machine gun fire drumming and guitar wizardry at the fore, this is an enjoyable release. Slowly Insane propels itself along at breakneck speed but retains melody. Architects Of Hate broods and smoulders like a recently active volcano before exploding in a frenzy of molten metal. There’s little if any filler on this album. Flotsam & Jetsam may not have ever received the recognition they deserve but The End Of Chaos suggests that there is plenty of life in these old dogs yet. 8/10
Walter Trout: Survivor Blues (Provogue Records - 2019) [Matt]
Be careful how you vote, on every election day, because the one you vote for, might just let you down" the lyrics to the second track on Walter Trout's new album has a prophetic message that's more relevant today than it was when Sunnyland Slim wrote it. However it's not an album of political statements, it is actually another blues covers album but Trout being the blues aficionado he is, he's decided on taking some deep cuts for this record, not the tried and tested songs that appear everywhere. From the tour-de-force playing shown on Me, My Guitar And The Blues (originally by Jimmy Dawkins) to the simmering Red Sun and the louche Out Of Bad Luck (Magic Sam). These covers are faithfully recreated but with all the power of Trout's US blues mastery, he is a survivor in the truest sense of the term if you know anything about his history with liver failure, then you'll understand that. Also though here that word takes a new meaning as he's helping these obscure blues numbers survive in the best way possible, Survivor Blues is a great blues record that sees Trout on top form. 7/10
Jon Schaffer's Purgatory: Purgatory (Century Media) [Matt]
Before there was Iced Earth there was Purgatory, the first band formed by guitarist Jon Schaffer in 1985. Well in between his Iced Earth work Schaffer has once again hooked up with Purgatory singer Gene Adam (who also sang on Iced Earth self titled debut) and Bill Owen (original bassist of Purgatory) to re-record some original Purgatory material from 1985/86 to do this he's enlisted drummer Mark Prator (featured on Iced Earth The Dark Saga), longtime producer/guitarist Jim Morris and Ruben Drake bass player for Demons & Wizards and Schaffer's other project Sons Of Liberty.
It's a horror themed 25-minute EP that has all the hallmarks of Schaffer's dayjob, which of course it would as this is precursor to it. The keen eared amongst you may also recognise that two of the track names on this EP (Jack & Dracula) are the same as on the Iced Earth album The Horror Show but they are different songs entirely. In fact this album only really shares the musical similarities with Iced Earth because of course it's Schaffer's riffs that are powering every song, but vocally there's a difference due to Adam's screeching vocals, he's a good singer but some may dislike his histrionics. For mega fans this is a little bit of history lesson as it brings those early demos to life finally with some modern production techniques, it's good old US metal done by the master. 7/10
Myrkur: Juniper (Relapse Records) [Matt]
Myrkur returns with a new EP, it's only two tracks long but my god are they beautiful, cold bitter slices of dark gothic folk metal. Juniper opens the EP with the haunting vocals of Amalie Bruun who takes most of the instrumentation as well, with the strings especially resonant as the electric guitar cuts in. It's more of the traditional Myrkur sound although without the black metal blasts but leads into the Bonden Og Kragen her take on a traditional folk song dating back nearly half a millenia, this is as raw and stripped back as it gets just voice and guitar. This will keep the Myrkur faithful on side until her next full length. 7/10