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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Reviews: Metal Church, Sigh, The Three Tremors, Sarah Longfield (By Paul H & Matt)

Metal Church: Damned If You Do (Nuclear Blast) [Paul H]

Two and a half years after the excellent XI announced the return of Mike Howe to the Metal Church, the San Franciscan powerhouse is back with a thunderous new release. Bolstered by the arrival of new drummer Stet Howland who has been behind the kit for their live commitments for the past 18 months, this is ten tracks of solid, enjoyable and thoroughly magical old school Metal Church. The title track opens proceedings, Howe on superb snarling form, his lower tones complimented by his ability to still hit the higher notes with ease. The Black Things follows, a thick beefy tune which chugs along at pace, guitarists Rick Van Zandt and Kurt Vanderhoof exchanging visceral riffs. If XI was an intense ride, Damned If You Do at the very least accelerates even harder. The riffs are bigger, heavier and more crushing, whilst Howland and Steve Unger have the rhythm section locked down perfectly.

This is the band’s 12th album and they show no signs of weariness. Mike Howe always stated that the intention of the band was always to put out more music or as he put it “then it’s time to go away for me”. Well, Mike might as well settle in because if the band continue to deliver quality at this level there will be no chance that he will be allowed to leave. By The Numbers is a standard Metal Church song, punchy and ferocious, whilst Revolution Underway is doused in melody and a hook big enough to catch Moby Dick, the calmer less thrashing approach providing welcome respite after the intensity of the opening three songs. Metal Church has always delivered the epic piece well, and this is no exception.

It’s followed by Guillotine, another five-minute chuck of angry vociferous thrashing metal which may not be the strongest but certainly isn’t a filler of a song. I particularly enjoyed the stomp of Monkey Finger, maybe a little bit different to their usual approach but it certainly ticked boxes with me, a catchy chorus and robust structure getting the head nodding. A final cracking double of Out Of Balance with its speed and power and the thumping The War Electric with Howe’s shrill pitch working overtime bring this extremely strong album to an epic conclusion. 9/10

Sigh: Heir To Despair (Candlelight Records) [Paul H]

Extreme black metal legends Sigh have evolved their sound over many years since they emerged from Japan back in 1989. They are very much more experimental and avant-garde in their style today and their latest release, Heir To Despair is an interesting combination of extreme thrash, symphonic black metal which combines industrial and even jazz elements into one massive ball of crazy. Homo Homini Lupus is case in point, with a 70s style Hammond breakdown sandwiched between some full on 100mph metal which verges on the power metal boundary. The introduction of a flute adds to the Rammstein style Hunters Not Horned, which has gallons of groove underpinning it. With percussion, woodwind, vocoder and saxophone amongst the instruments engaged across the entire breadth of this album, there is both variety and bat shit craziness. The three part centre-piece of the album, Heresy I – Oblivium, Hersey II – Acosmism and Heresy III -Sub Specie Aeteritatis illustrate the sheer variety on offer. It’s certainly retained some of the early sinister darkness but really, you just have to listen to this for yourself to form a real opinion. No boxes or pigeon holing of one of the most interesting albums of the year. 8/10

The Three Tremors: S/T (Steel Cartel Records) [Matt]

The Three Tremors (I know, I know) are a band featuring Tim 'Ripper' Owens, Sean Peck and Harry Conklin their mission statement is to be “Three times louder than a sonic boom" and the "three fingers on the hand of doom!" so as soon as you press play you can hear why there is such hyperbole around this record, it's mad from moment one with three insanely powerful voices working in unison screaming to the heavens over the top of speed metal riffs. Tim Owens is probably best known for his tenures in Judas Priest and Iced Earth, Sean Peck is the voice of Cage and Death Dealer meanwhile Harry Conklin fronts Jag Panzer.

With so much vocal power and machismo on display it's hard to think this record is going to be subtle and it isn't, it's full of chest beating, sabre rattling heavy metal based on classical and fantasy themes. The backing tracks are supplied by guitarists Dave “Conan” Garcia and Casey “The Sentinel” Trask alongside bassist Alex Pickard and drummer Sean Elg but all three voices blend into one another due to their similarity which is no bad thing as it adds depth to this album that doesn't differ much from any of these three men's normal bands. If you're looking for lullaby's or prog noodling this won't be the album for you, however if you want some balls to the wall metal posturing then The Three Tremors are a seismic force to be reckoned with. 7/10 

Sarah Longfield: Disparity (Season Of Mist) [Matt]

Sarah Longfield is a Wisconsin based multi-instrumentalist and YouTube star, her guitar tutorial and other videos seem to be the scourge of some of the guitar playing members of the MoM. She's renowned as one of the best 7 & 8-string guitar players in the world and on this album she shows that guitar playing is not just full on shred, here she plays technically proficient guitar full of appreggio's but there is no Friedman style distortion, the tracks on this album are all played cleanly, with ambient soundscapes that build the amount of instruments on every track bringing in horns, keys, loops and of course Longfield's lilting voice.

Musically it's all over shop with some heavy grooves The Fall giving way to soothing smooth sounds (Citrine) and world music influences (Sun). It's a complex album for sure but with broad appeal those not musically accomplished as it can be fluid music to relax too and enjoy, while those who are musos will obsess over the playing on this record. If you can imagine Anneke Van Giersbergen fronting Terria-era Devin and you'll understand what Disparity sounds like. An interesting eclectic album worth investing in. 7/10

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