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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

The Spotlight: BOA New Blood Interview With MARW (Interview By Paul H)

MARW are a blackened death metal who took the Merseyside M2TM title for 2019. Guitarist Andy Owen gave up his time to give us the lowdown on this brutal machine of a band.

Paul: Let’s start with a brief history of the band; how did you form, how long have you been around etc

Andy: MARW started out in 2015 as nothing more than bad intentions and disillusioned thoughts left floating on the internet. Fast forward a few years, those scraps were found in late 2017 by likeminded individuals and following contact, a full line up formed in early 2018. In 2019, Marw released a free self-titled demo digitally via marw.bandcamp.com.

Paul: Who is the current line up?

Andy: Current line-up is C. Phillip (vocals), A. Owen (guitar), M. Baker (guitar), R. Hale (bass), K. James (drums).

Paul: Describe the band’s sound and influences

Andy: For ourselves, the best description is 'blackened atmospheric metal' as it takes in from multiple sources. Influences are varied and will remain undisclosed.

Paul: Prior to Bloodstock, what are some of the highlights for the band so far?

Andy: There have only been four dates so far, but the obvious highlight is the unexpectedly good reception we have received so far.

Paul: Let’s move on to Bloodstock and your road to the festival. Please tell us about your journey

Andy: We were looking for our first gig and Andy Hughes (Deathwave Entertainment) was able to offer us a slot on the fourth heat of M2TM. Possibly not the most conventional way to debut, but despite it being the first time anyone had heard us, we were voted into the final round. Since that date, we have shared the decline with Blind Monarch, In Temple Abyss, Sathamel and Exhumation.

Paul: We know from our friends in bands that getting to the M2TM final is a great feeling. Tell us about the build up to your final and how you handled it

Andy: It is all about playing riffs and abusing ears as much as possible. When every opportunity to do so is a win, what else is needed?

Paul: What about when you were announced as winners? What were the emotions like?

Andy: Simply put, shock. It was very unexpected, but we were and are very grateful.

Paul: So, moving on to the festival itself, what can we expect from you?

Andy: Smashed riffs, harsh screams and blackened atmospheric metal.

Paul: Which bands are you looking forward to seeing there?

Andy: Some of us are looking forward to Rotting Christ, Death Angel, Grand Magus, Raging Speedhorn, Xentrix amongst others. There will be a lot of time spent in the SOPHIE and New Blood stages though for sure.

Paul: Have you been to Bloodstock before?

Andy: Yes. There are no BOA virgins in MARW.

Paul: Describe the three best things about the festival.

Andy: Metal, metal and metal.

Paul: And finally, tell us a guilty pleasure about each member of the band!

Andy: Need a lot more incentive before that happens.

A disappointing finish there but maybe a couple of beers at the festival will see us find out a bit more! MARW play on Friday 9th August on the New Blood Stage. It promises to be a dark and heavy 30 minutes. Check out more about the band at https://www.facebook.com/MARWUK/

Reviews: Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown, Riot V, Sorcery, Corpseflesh (Paul H & Scott)

Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown: Truth And Lies (Snakefarm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

One of a plethora of guitar virtuosos who has emerged in the past decade, Tyler Bryant first caught the eye and ear with 2013’s Wild Child. A mere 17 years ago, that was an album of blues-soaked rock which displayed a maturity beyond his years. 2017’s Tyler Bryant And The Shakedown cemented his position and numerous tours and festival slots endeared him to the classic rock crowd at Ramblin’ Man Fair and similar. Although he appears to have been around for many more years than the six since he first arrived on the scene, the man doesn’t half know what to do with a guitar and rarely overdoes it; less of the flashy and more about the songs. With a solid and settled trio in Caleb Crosby on drums, bassist Noah Denvey and guitarist Graham Whitford cemented in around him, Bryant has now come back with album number three, Truth And Lies.

The formula is applied. 13 songs, the majority under three minutes in length, the mandatory smouldering slow one (Judgment Day in this album’s case) balancing out rocking tracks such as the title track, Ride and the crunching Drive Me Mad. Bryant doesn’t show off, despite being an absolute beast of a guitarist, allowing limited flashes of brilliance but on Truth And Lies it’s the sum of the parts which really makes it worth a listen, with Crosby and Denvey locking everything down tightly. It’s a little standard in places, but so much rock music is these days. If you like a bit of fiery blues rock, I’d highly recommend a listen of Truth And Lies. 7/10

Riot V: Live In Japan 2018 (AFM Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Live albums huh? Often an exercise is self-indulgence, occasionally a record of something special. Riot are one of those bands who promised much, sit high in the echelons of the pantheon of heavy metal and who always sound reasonably good when you listen to them. History has not been kind, with several members no longer with us, including founder member Mark Reale. Recorded in Club Citta in Japan where Riot V retain one of those inexplicably loyal fanbases, this is a marathon double CD which captures the current line up of the band in blistering power metal form. Last year the band put out their 16th album Armor Of Light which I found extremely enjoyable. 

This event was recorded in March 2018, prior to the release of Armor Of Light and features the sixth album Thundersteel in full, along with a plethora of the band’s back catalogue. It’s fast, it’s furious and unfortunately the fade after each track is one of those irritating characteristics which spoil live albums completely. Whilst the tracks individually are solid, 23 songs, 110 minutes long is probably more than enough for those who have only a passing interest in the band. If, however, you are a diehard, then this glorious CD and DVD package will probably be extremely exciting. 6/10

Sorcery: Necessary Excess Of Violence (Xtreem Music) [Paul Hutchings]

Originally formed in 1986, Swedes Sorcery were initially influenced by hard rock but moved to the Swedish death metal sound by 1989, with their first 7” EP Rivers Of The Dead and debut album Bloodchilling Tales released by 1991. Although the band continued until 1997 nothing more was produced, and all went quiet until 2009 when the reunion became a reality. The return was finally confirmed in 2013 with Arrival At Six, the first studio album in over 20 years. The album received positive reviews, with most noting that Sorcery had delivered a modern sound whilst retaining the old vibe. Having followed this with their first US tour as well as several home shows and festivals. 2016 saw the release of Garden Of Bones, a solid follow up which enhanced their reputation. That brings us to 2019 and album number four, Necessary Excess Of Violence. Sorcery has undergone some line-up changes over the years. Two members remain from the original line-up; Ola Malmström on vocals and Paul Johansson on guitar. Johan Vikholm on guitar joined in early 2015 and drummer Tommy Holmen a couple of years later. Last heard on Arrival At Six, bassist John Falk has returned to the fold and the band have reunited with producer Tomas Skogsberg whom was responsible for Bloodchilling Tales and Arrival At Six.

So, what do we get? Well, if you want the simple review, 45 minutes of bone splintering, dominating old school Swedish death metal which does the simple stuff correctly. But that’s not to say this is simple. Oh, no, this is well drilled brutality. Massive, thundering riffs, double kick drumming and Malmström’s guttural vocals all combine cohesively to create one impressive release. The pace varies, with Of Blood And Ash a powerful, crushing tune whilst the pace increases considerably for other tracks such as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark and the punishing Language Of The Conqueror. Duel down tuned guitar work slashes with malice whilst the concrete heavy rhythm section is locked tight. Soaring solos emerge from the maelstrom, nothing flashy but enough to remind you that this band has the chops to augment their frenzied onslaught. Elements Of Slayer surface from time to time, noticeably on the intro to opening track The Stellar Circle and the shrieking guitar work on the pulverising acceleration of Death Is Near but for most of the album, it’s the likes of Entombed, Unleashed and their cohort that spring most readily to mind. There is little to complain about; it’s solid, well produced and punishes from start to finish. 8/10

Corpseflesh: Rearranged With A 12 Gauge (Self Released) [Scott Price]

Corpseflesh (not to be confused with Corpse Flesh from Russia, I sure did get confused) flying high, or shall I say, through gorey swamps are here in 2019 with another album. This one being your classic, meat and potatoes brutal death metal album. But just because I call it that, doesn’t mean this album is bad or boring. It’s in your face, brutal, disgusting and just totally insane. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This album has the best name for an album I’ve ever heard in my life. Rearranged With A 12 Gauge. What as just cool ass fucking name. But just the name tells you everything about this album in just a simple, but effective sentence. It’s to the point, and it doesn’t fuck around. Get in, fuck em up, get out. All the releases before this LP have been pretty standard, basic brutal death metal. But there’s just something different with this album, I can’t put my finger on it. But in the best of ways. I enjoy this album thoroughly. I cannot express how much I love the track Chains Of Despair. The heavy footsteps dragging in the grotesque and mangled body that is this song. 

The fast intro riff and the blood curdling vocals just make it obvious that this monster is a force to be reckoned with. On this album, I feel like I’m in some kind of abandoned swamp, with thick fog, putrid waters and with a population of cannibalistic inbred inhabitants. Like this would be the sound track to a torture scene, only to be taken into the shed afterwards to be Rearranged With A 12 Gauge (See what I did there? Sorry) But, as with all albums. They have 1 or 2 duds for which I do not care for. Barbed-Wire Beatdown being the only song that I will admit, do not like. The riff in my eyes is annoying and just sounds pretty bad. Like they took a bunch of notes that are out of key and just mashed them together, then played fast. I love ugly riffs, but it’s a pretty annoying ugly riff. Other than the intro riff I find the rest of the song pretty uninspired. Usual old brutal that you could hear from pretty much any brutal death band. But the tracks Grotesque Imbreds and Bathing In Acid have a slight flavour that could be more Slam or slamming death metal inspired. A welcome change that’s for sure. If you like bands like Amputated, Devourment and Disfiguring the Goddess, you should give this album a listen. 7/10

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Spotlight: BOA New Blood Interview With Inferiem (Interview By Paul H)

In the hotbed of Glasgow, it was Inferiem who came out victorious at the M2TM final. Their metalcore the approach will go down well at BOA and I caught up with the band to find out a bit more about them.

Paul: Let’s start with a brief history of the band

Inferiem: The band formed in 2017 just for a casual jam because none of us were in a band and had a lot of free time. The band started with Gordon, Duncan and Jonathan. We recruited Stewart after posting a tribute video of Paper Clip by Linkin Park because we heard of the sad news that Chester had passed and he wanted to join. We found Elliot after looking for a bass player for so long and he was a perfect fit for it.

Paul: Who is the current line up?

Inferiem: Stewart-Vocals, Gordon-Drums, Elliot-Bass, Duncan-Guitar and Jonathan-Guitar

Paul: Describe the band’s sound and influences

Inferiem: Gordon put it perfectly when we were asked this question before. He said if you can imagine Killswitch and Architects had a baby that’s how we would sound.

Paul: Prior to Bloodstock, what are some of the highlights for the band so far?

Inferiem: After only being an active gigging band for just over a year and a half releasing both our debut single and EP are some big highlights for us at the moment. Also being invited to attend and play a music awards show was a pretty cool thing.

Paul: Let’s move on to Bloodstock and your road to the festival. Please tell us about your journey

Inferiem: We decided to enter M2TM after a few people in the local scene told us about it. The biggest influencers for it were a band called Titan Breed who won it a few years before us. They told us about it after we supported them on our very first show and told us we should enter.

Paul: We know from our friends in bands that getting to the M2TM final is a great feeling. Tell us about the build up to your final and how you handled it

Inferiem: The nerves were definitely there whilst standing amongst a packed Ivory Blacks watching the other bands in the final! We all decided to give it our very best and most importantly have fun because at the end of the day if you give it your all and don’t make it then at least you know there was nothing more you could have done!

Paul: What about when you were announced as winners? What were the emotions like?

Inferiem: Stunned would be the word for us all when our name was announced by Simon. We all couldn’t believe it and we are still trying to come to terms with it.

Paul: So, moving on to the festival itself, what can we expect from you?

Inferiem: When we play we give it all in every show we have because people come out to see a show/performance and that’s what we like to give. Expect a melodic heavy groove and brutally fierce vocals! We like to include the crowd in our performance too so expect a lot of pits!

Paul: Which bands are you looking forward to seeing there?

Inferiem: The headliners are a must for us but we will try and catch as many acts as we can throughout the week!

Paul: Have you been to Bloodstock before?

Inferiem: Most of the band haven’t been but our Drummer Gordon goes every year and he can’t speak highly of it.
Paul: Describe the three best things about the festival.

Inferiem: 
1. The different bands that play

2. The VIP bar

3. The atmosphere

Paul: And finally, tell us a guilty pleasure about each member of the band!

Inferiem: Stewart’s guilty pleasure is listening to a lot of Justin Bieber and superhero films.

Duncan’s guilty pleasure is listening to a lot of grime.

Jonathan’s guilty pleasure is listening to a lot of 80’s ballads and bands like Wham.

Elliot’s guilty pleasure is taking far too many pictures of his cat

Gordon’s guilty pleasure is also 80’s music and Justin Timberlake.

With metalcore just one of the genres represented at the festival, the inclusion of Inferiem demonstrates once again how diverse the whole weekend is. My thanks to the band for answering the questions and I will be checking out their groove ridden pits (from a distance obviously) on Saturday 10th August on the New Blood Stage. Get acquainted with all things Inferiem at their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/inferiemband/

Reviews: Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Empyre, Hollow Haze, Sinheresy (Matt, Steve & Rich)

Robert Randolph & The Family Band: Brighter Days (Provogue) [Matt Bladen]

We get shed load of really heavy, angry, aggressive music here at MoM Towers so sometimes it’s nice to hear something that gets the foot tapping, the hip shaking and the face smiling. Happily it was my turn to experience this thing humans call joy with the iridescent new album from Robert Randolph & The Family Band, fresh, funky, soulful but steeped in the blues traditions Brighter Days gets you cracking out those pearly whites straight from the first moment and even some of our more dour writers would be nodding along by the second bar. Randolph is a steel player, lap based guitar played usually with a slide, he spend years honing his craft in the gospel churches in New Jersey before branching out to clubs with his Family band so named as bassist Danyel Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph are Robert’s cousins and his sister Lenesha, brings the soulful co-vocals on these rollicking gospel/soul/blues mash ups.

This record is pure R&B born out of the church and brought to the dancehalls where his gigs regularly turn into crazy free-for-all dance parties. Randolph chose to work with producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell) and this 10 track album has erupted out of those studio sessions. If you want comparisons then you can hear The Black Keys, Gary Clarke Jr (Baptise Me) Vintage Trouble (Strange Train) and of course STAX records. His cousins are the backbone of these tracks giving groove and soul as organs bubble and shimmer meaning that Robert and his sister can sing with the passion of a revival all the while Robert himself displays why he is one of Rolling Stone magazines top 100 guitarists ever as well as being nominated for 3 Grammys.

The frenzied Don’t Fight It will have you spinning around your living room with delight, Second Hand Man will get you bobbing and humming along, the cover of Pops Staples and the Staple Singers is just as poised as the original but has the burning lap steel cutting through it, while Cry Over Me is given emotion by the excellent pipes of Lenesha. I’m a sucker for origins of American music so any good blues, soul, gospel, funk will get my heart racing and Brighter Days is an album for sunny days and loved ones. 9/10

Empyre: Self Aware (Self Released) [Steve Haines]

From the slow build intro to first track My Bad, I get a feeling that this could be something good. As the track develops with excellent drum lines and driving guitars, I already find myself hoping that the whole album is like this. Well, it is and it isn’t. The album feels very prog metal in style and showcases great musicianship across the board and deep resonating vocals with a raspy edge at times – these combine to make a very good album. But, and there is a but, there are a few things that struck me when I was listening to it. The songs that started with a slow build (My Bad, Too Close and Homegrown) were in my opinion the strongest tracks. Of the other tracks, my favourite is the Black Stone Cherry-esque Drive. Overall, and understandably for a debut album, the band have tried to showcase different types of songs. They do these well musically but sometimes it can feel too formulaic and there are a couple of songs that feel very much like filler tracks. Musically, the band certainly have the ability and this is unquestionably a strong album. Based on this offering, the band are strongest in tracks that have a slow build up to soaring, guitar-driven songs and I hope they move in this direction more in the future as, on the evidence of this album, they do it as well as anyone else. 7/10
Hollow Haze: Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Seas (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Nick Savio returns with the first Hollow Haze album since the band split in 2015. He initially split to form Eternal Idol with Fabio Lione but with Lione being so in demand it was probably only a matter of time until Hollow Haze came back with their seventh studio album. Reuniting with long time bassist Davide Cestaro, the reborn Hollow Haze has vocalist Fabio Dessi (Arthemis) and drummer Paolo Caridi (MLB) joining the band, which has renewed itself with refocused attitude and sound. The sound in question is a symphonic, melodic and even slightly progressive heavy metal style that suits the Frontiers template ideally, with big anthemic hooks met by brilliant guitar and keys from Savio who also arranges the orchestral passages for tracks such as Oblivion which has all three of these things in abundance (including a keyboard solo).

Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Seas has a mixture of styles but much of it is the slick style of melodic metal that Italian bands seem to have a handle on as the more pacey numbers are balanced by ballads such as I Will Be There, tracks like The Upside Down and New Era add drama with their cinematic sound. I hadn’t heard much Hollow Haze before this but on the back of this record I’d go back to their six previous albums to hear the progression of the band. Melodic metal done well is always a good thing, Hollow Haze do it well. 7/10

Sinheresy: Out Of Connection (Scarlet Records) [Rich Oliver]

Out Of Connection is the third album by Italian melodic metallers Sinheresy. The band is led by the vocal duo of Cecilia Pedtrini and Stefano Sain and their dual vocal delivery is a definite selling point for the band as both are very fine singers. Music wise Sinheresy play straightforward, catchy and pop oriented melodic metal sounding like a cross between Amaranthe and Lacuna Coil. There is a heavy use of electronics and keyboards throughout the album which along with the very straightforward songwriting gives the music a very contemporary pop sheen. The guitars, bass and drums are all heavily prevalent throughout but don’t really do anything impressive and dazzling. This band is very much led by the vocals. I can see the appeal of a band like Sinheresy especially as a gateway for people to get into heavy music but whilst the songwriting is decent and the performances competent this sort of thing just isn’t for me. 5/10

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Reviews: No One Knows What The Dead Think, Murderbird, Earthbound Machine, He Is Legend (Rich, Paul H & Matt)

No One Knows What The Dead Think: S/T (Willowtip) [Rich Oliver]

No One Knows What The Dead Think is the new band from The Discordance Axis duo vocalist Jon Chang and guitarist Rob Marton who are also joined by drummer Kyosuke Nakano and what we have is a short but sweet album of dissonant and discordant grindcore with a twisting maze of furious riffage, intense blastbeats and screams so intense that it sounds like Jon Chang might turn himself inside out. Like most grindcore this is a short and sharp but sweet release with ten songs that hurtle by in a dizzying blur.

 There are some damn complicated riffs and melodies going on throughout this release along with a few atmospheric moments but on the whole this is like having razor-blades shooting through your earholes. No One Knows What The Dead Think is an enjoyable piece of grind that a mixes technicality and ferocity into a finely tuned package. It is not wholly memorable but through the sheer intensity of it there’s probably plenty that passed me by on my listens. Fans who miss The Discordance Axis should definitely get their mitts on this upon release. 7/10

Murderbird: Pillars Of Creation (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

A pleasingly heavy yet melodic soaked release, Pillars Of Creation is 64 minutes of crafted hard rock from the band who originate from Stockholm. Clean vocals are saccharine coated but not to the point of sickness, the guitar work is focused and crisp, whilst the band hold everything tightly together with a neat rhythm section. There are elements of melodic and progressive rock, thrash metal and good old standard heavy metal wrapped up in this interesting and enjoyable release. Single Shining Star is a pacey, melody drenched tune, thumping bass lines driving the music forward with Tobias Ekholm’s vocals reminiscent of the early delivery of Claudio Sanchez of Coheed And Cambria. Smooth harmonies add greatly to the general feel of the album. 

Mr & Mrs Prejudice is a moody rocker, some tight riffs adding grit. Inferno sits centre album, and is the inevitable acoustic intro number, allowing a pause in the thunder that is erupting all around before a crushing riff kicks in and the track explodes into one of the heavier and certainly more epic tracks on the album. Murderbird sit closer to the melodic rock side of the fence but this album contains plenty of moments of fire and passion. Sometimes it’s refreshing to listen to something a little more mainstream, and that is no disrespect to Murderbird who have a genuine quality. Whether they can enter an already saturated market I’m not convinced, but Pillars Of Creation provides a solid foundation for the band to move forward. 7/10

Earthbound Machine: Destined For The Grave (Final Sunlight Records) [Matt Bladen]

Filthy doom is the order of the day for Helsinki four piece Earthbound Machine, Destined For The Grave is their debut full length following in on from two previous EP's. As soon as the first low, slow chord of Figures In A Terrain crashes out of your speaker you can immediately identify that Earthbound Machine are a doom band, the instrumental section of this band play crushing monolithian riffs that drag their knuckles across the concrete, though occasionally there is widdly, often reverb drenched lead break to move away from the down-tuned monotonous riffing.

Much like those original doomsters of the 70's Earthbound Machine, they rely on clean vocals rather than the more modern style of harsh shouts. There is of course an influence of Sabbath, but also Candlemass and Electric Wizard due to the sonic disorientation created by Rallies In Rage and the more ambient passages of Man In The Attic. These songs are not immediate, there are no four minute 'bangers' here they all build to a thundering sound of a stampede in slow motion. As we are all Destined For The Grave in the end what better soundtrack to get you there and prepare you for it than Earthbound Machine. 7/10

He Is Legend: White Bat (Spinefarm) [Paul Hutchings]

Formed back in the late 1990s, He is Legend are American hard rock from Wilmington, North California. Their name is adapted from the 1954 book I Am Legend written by Richard Matheson. Throughout their two decades as a band, they have experienced several line-up changes but have always maintained a core trio of vocalist Schuylar Groom, guitarist Adam Tanbouz and bassist Matt Williams. Latest recruit Jesse Shelley joined in 2016 although he didn’t feature on the band’s fifth album, Few which was crowd funded in 2017. White Bat is a ballsy, robust and rowdy 11 track release which doesn’t provide many surprises but is all the same a confident and polished album with a necessary swagger. The title track is a rampant aggressive piece of work and Burn All Your Rock Records adds a post-punk slant to the album. There are elements of The Foo Fighters amongst many others in the mix. This is American hard rock from a band who clearly have history, experience and confidence on their side. With a cult following certainly in the US, this latest album is likely to be welcomed with open arms. 6/10

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Reviews: Eradikator, Come Back From The Dead, Sykelg Englen, Faithsedge (Paul, Sean & Matt)

Eradikator: Obscura (Divebomb Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s been four long years since 2015’s sophomore release Edge Of Humanity wowed Matt with a 9/10. In those days the band were very much focused on the thrash side of the metal world, and indeed, when I saw them a couple of years ago, they were heads down thrash your face off in their style and approach. So, it was something of a shock on first spin to find that Eradikator have changed their style. Obscura is a massively mature piece of work, with a clear departure from their earlier works yet an album that oozes impressive confidence and progression. Whilst they retain their heaviness with large servings of riffs, there is also masses of melody throughout the album. Opening Nightmare Dawning has a bluesy feel with a punk tinged uppercut and is a real statement for the rest of the album. The sonic guitar work of Liam Priest and Andy MacNevin is superb throughout, nowhere more so than on Poisoned To Sorrow, a real groove laden track which races along like an escaping racehorse. Pat Cox’s vocals have developed, and his solid delivery pleases greatly.

Tracks such as Revolve and Haunting are crushingly heavy and inevitably draw comparisons with Mastodon. The organic pathways contained here are very much the trademark of the American legends. Intricate segments, complex structures and a progressive flavour all fully interweave neatly. There’s also a bit of Alice in Chains tucked neatly away here, with the subtle harmonies working superbly on Haunting, which also has shades of Metallica circa Fade To Black. There is no doubting the progressive influences on Hourglass, the pulsating bass work of Cox linking with John MacNevin excelling. A slower pace and lighter touch on Eyes Of The Old slowly build into a swirling maelstrom which maintains clarity and rhythm whilst the lead work shines brightly. Two thirds into Obscura and I’m loving every minute. And then we reach I Want To Believe, a seven-minute powerhouse epic, which leads into The Siren Song, a beautifully paced acoustic piece which smoulders before building majestically to a climax befitting of this magnificent album. I was genuinely stunned at the progression and quality that Eradikator has produced. Simply brilliant. 9/10

Come Back From The Dead: The Rise Of The Blind Ones (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Sean Morgan]

I don’t know what’s up with Transcending Obscurity, I really don’t. All I can say is that they’ve been killing it lately, releasing quality death metal (amongst others things) from all corners of the globe. Seriously, I’ve lost count! Spain’s Come Back From The Dead are another fine addition to Mr.Choksi’s ever expanding house of horrors, returning to desecrate the living with their second album, The Rise Of The Blind Ones. Just looking at that gnarly cover, you know these lads deal death the old way. Outcast Of The Light kicks off, doomy power-chords surrendering to good ol’ death/thrashy goodness. It’s pretty full throttle, alternating between speedy tremolo runs and lurching grooves. Spearheading the attack are the disgustingly throaty vocals, only achieved via gargling a pungent cocktail of broken glass and out of date Domestos (probably).

Martyr Of A Gruesome Demise momentarily guts the tempo, before exploding between violent blasts of d-beat and angular riffing, enough so to make Autopsy proud. It never relents, charging onward with murderous intent on Restless In Putrescence. It’s good fucking death metal (old Death, Possessed, Autopsy etc) before everything got buried under a wall of blast beats, brick walls and fucking slam. Jugular I - Heretic Impaler opts for full on sinister groove, dragging it’s hideously malformed bulk in across 3 minutes of razor sharp riffs. Jugular - II - The Altar Of Your Neck flirts with SOME blasting, though used sparingly against the more dominant crossbeats. Some bluesy shredding is thrown in for good measure, going off like a grenade in this short sharp shock of a song. Truth be told, ALL of these songs are pretty short! Either that or I’m having WAY too much fun, thoroughly entrenched in Come Back From the Dead old school onslaught. Nebulaes Of Malevolent Shining gives it all the stompy business, neanderthal in its brutish stride and containing as much subtly as a hammer to the dick. 

At 4 minutes in length it’s the longest song on here, firing off every shot CBFtD have in their arsenal. After all, there’s no kill quite like overkill, eh? Darkness Abominations goes in for the full Leprosy vibes, even recalling Abominations Of Desolation era Morbid Angel in certain sections. Lick My Hands Wild Beasts thrashes it’s way with little regard for the posers slain in it’s wake, whilst Dead March does exactly what it says on the tin. Possessed By The Death (by the dead, surely?) brings the killings to a close, Slayer vibes in full effect and a decent ending to a solid album. If you like death metal sans pro-tool and devoid of pesky complications, chances are this will be your bag. Come Back from the Dead hark back to the genres fledgling days, still developing identity and sound form under the shadow of its thrashy forbearers. And they do it well, as The Rise Of The Blind Ones is a lean, mean killing machine that doesn’t fuck about from the get go. 8/10

Sykelg Englen: This Hollow Land (Self Release) [Paul Hutchings]

A mere three months ago my colleague Sean mused long and hard over the third full release from Sykelg Englen, the one-man Norwegian outfit from Norwich. As Sean noted during that rather dour review, Nattskog is a machine, with multiple projects in motion at any one time. He has the energy that a 21-year-old should have and which is a distant memory for me. This Hollow Land pulls through the morbidity of the three previous albums, Hymns Of The Dead, Hagall and To Walk Among Death And Pestilence. I’m not deeply rooted into the Icelandic dissonance of the black metal scene. In fact, I’m shallowly anchored to the whole early development of Scandinavian black metal. I’m also not a musician so I don’t approach the review with the same ear that Sean does. I like to think that I hear different things and for me, the essence of black metal is that atmospheric misery which can crash on you like a wave upon the rocks. This release certainly captures the depressive misanthropic mood.

Stepping inside This Hollow Land, the first thing to note is that the production is focused very much on attempting to recreate the raw style of the early BM movement. Dense walls of repetitive riffs and a drum pattern which appears to be much the same on each of the four tracks contained here. The first three tracks merge into one, any conscious separation buried in a mix best described as ‘muddy’. Scowling vocals are hidden in the background on all the songs here. A snarling, guttural vomit inducing delivery, lyrics appropriately indecipherable. Closing track Parasitic Affection at least has a change of tempo but once more the blueprint which Nattskog followed and which Sean disliked so much on To Walk Among Death And Pestilence mirrored here. Certainly, there is potential here, and maybe a reduction in output and increase in development would be helpful for the future. 6/10

Faithsedge: Bleed For Passion (Scarlet Records) [Matt Bladen]

Sometimes here at MoM we get surprised, we can look at a band and think negatively about them only to be surprised. However we do get our fair share of bands that are exactly how we picture them. One such band is Faithsedge, this so called ‘US super band’ features singer/songwriter Giancarlo Floridia, former Dokken lead guitarist Alex De Rosso (who has the distinction of being the Dokken guitarist that’s not George Lynch), Mr.Big/Ace Frehley drummer Matt Starr and ex-Stryper bassist Timothy Gaines. So I wouldn’t really say they are a super group, I’d say it’s more on par with The Dead Daisies, a collection of musicians who have taken over in famous bands. Musically though they also have similarities with The Dead Daises in that this album is godawful. The production seems to be all over the place, the songs are simplistic 80’s melodic rock and vocally Floridia struggles to deliver his grade school lyrics. It sounds like a mixture of Kiss, Dokken and Mr Big but played by a local tribute band. I’m not sure how much was spilt for their passion, but I’d say they probably need a transfusion. 4/10

Friday, 12 July 2019

Reviews: Pattern Seeking Animals, The Allman Betts Bands, Possessor, Besvärjelsen (Matt)

Pattern Seeking Animals: S/T (InsideOut Records)

Pattern Seeking Animals combines the talents of former and current members of Spock’s Beard, the band is comprised of Jimmy Keegan (drums & vocals), Ted Leonard (vocals & guitar) & Dave Meros (bass), with long-time contributing songwriter-producer John Boegehold handling all the synths. This started out as Boegehold solo project that had an emphasis on melody but also musical dexterity, however after the recruited the rest of the band the songs came together properly with Dave and Ted coming in as co-writers. There was a deliberate attempt to separate this music from that of Spock’s Beard and that has been achieved. Yes obviously the influence is still there due to Leonards vocals but he was also the singer of Enchant whose influence creeps in as does that of YES, especially on the jaunty opening number No Burden Left To Carry a track that develops into some great synth work matching the soaring guitars.

The idea here was to not leave any dead space, it was either to have vocal melodies or instrumental sections nothing in between, it means that all the songs on this album, despite having elongated run times capture your attention, especially when they take a turn for the dramatic or romantic on The Same Mistake Again, although I think part of this has been nicked from Red Dwarf’s theme. As the album progresses we get plenty of different facets of this band’s musical talent and over the course of 9 songs they really show what they can do. It’s not the Spock’s Beard copy many would guess it could be, it’s a more modern progressive rock record albeit with some classic 70’s hallmarks in place. Talented musicians, release good album shocker, that’s a pattern you can follow. 8/10

The Allman Betts Band: Down To The River (BMG)

To be honest you probably just need those surnames to know how this record is going to sound, especially when you consider that Devon Allman and Duane Betts are joined on this album by Peter Levin (Hammond B3 player for Devon’s father Gregg Allman) and also Chuck Leavell (former Allman Brothers Band and current Rolling Stones keyboardist). This album and partnership was spawned by Devon’s concert tribute to his father and after Betts turned solo becoming the opening act for Devon’s tour, both men obviously played tribute to both their fathers (Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts) every night so the only natural course of action would be to form their own band and keep not only the music of their father’s legendary band alive but also provide their own take on it.

They set about forming band that included Berry Duane Oakley (son of Allman Brothers Band founding bassist Berry Oakley) all three of these men have obviously got a long history due to the legacy bestowed on them but it with the addition of Devon Allman Project members slide guitar sorcerer Johnny Stachela (slide guitar), John Lum (drums) and R Scott Bryan (percussion – Sheryl Crow) that The Allman Betts Band was started, for live shows they have also gained keyboardist John Ginty (Dixie Chicks, Robert Randolph) but here it’s those old hands also lending the keys. So how much does it sound like The Allman Brothers Band? Well first track All Night has a soulful Southern rock sound, it creeps in with a swagger but it’s Shining that brings the first taste of that Allman Brothers twin guitar sound with the slide guitar added for some slinky sounds which are made to sound more authentic by the production of the Grammy Award winning Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, John Prine and Elvis Presley) who recorded the album with the band at THE Southern Rock studio Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

With smoky vocals, some groovy rhythm swings, those definitive guitar sounds and the organ/keys jangling, but there’s so much more than just country rock mash ups, the title track is based around the percussion bringing some world music influence. Allman and Betts have drawn from their fathers but not slavishly copied them, you can hear the echoes to the past but this is very much a record that has its own identity, spearheading the country/southern rock sound pioneered by three of these men’s fathers, into the next chapter and as Southern Accents finishes the record off beautifully it’s a journey I want to be a part of. 8/10

Possessor: Gravelands (APF Records)

Filthy horror based punk-metal from London now as Possessor grace us with their latest album Gravelands, it’s a rocket ride through the evil and occult that owes as much to Matt Pike as it does to Jerry Only, brimming with punk attitude, heavy metal mastery and some stoner sledgehammer grooves tracks such as Backwoods are relentless riff monsters that take no prisoners as they are augmented by the more vicious numbers like Breathe Fire. It’s hard to realise that Possessor are a three piece Graham Bywater attacking his guitar with the steely eyed wildness of Norman Bates, while also howling like the Wolman in mid-transformation, his biting guitar tone and reverb heavy vocals are underpinned by Ellie Mathews’ grizzled bass lines and Bean behind the kit giving it more abuse than Jason Voorhees could take.

The album never loses its pace even when it breaks down into stoner jams on Savage Rampage which is a song of two halves, they do a similar thing on Hitchhike To Hell which is proper occult stoner metal with an 8 minute run time. Gravelands is one of the most stripped back savage sounding records I’ve heard for a while, there’s disregard for the safety of the listener but it’s more honed than their previous releases showing that time spent on the road with Uncle Acid, Truckfighters and All Them Witches has been worth it in developing this band past that of just frantic punk-metal and into a multi fanged beast. 7/10

Besvärjelsen: Frost (Blues Funeral Recordings)

Besvärjelsen is Swedish for conjuring and it’s pretty much what these psych drenched stoner rockers do, the waves of fuzzy guitars, throbbing bass and off kilter drumming is all used to give a woozy sound that has the front woman Lea’s shamanic chanting over the top. When We Fall is the best example of this; the disorientating riffs are met with more otherworldly noises that sound like a 50’s Sci-fi B-Movie. Things come back to earth with the insistent All Things Break where Lea isn’t as wild but is still bewitching, something which carries through the EP. As of course does guitarist/vocalists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot both showing their respective chops and a forceful rhythm section of Johan Rockner and Erik Bäckwall carrying everything along, making your head nod to the big grooves coming out of your speakers. Short and by no means sweet this EP distils the essence of Besvärjelsen, gaining attention once again ready for another full length. 7/10

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Reviews: Aborted Earth, Bastion's Wake, Massive Destruktion, Rowsdower (Paul H, Lee & Joey)

Aborted Earth: Cut The Cord (Self Released) [Lee Burgess]

The new album from Aborted Earth, Cut The Cord is the kind of record most metal purists love to hate consisting of a mix of low-fi blackened grind and 80’s infused synth-pop worthy of such industrial doomsters as CROWN. Imagine if you will, the disturbing image of Bolt Thrower making friends with Enthroned and meeting local outsiders Joy Division at the extreme metal park, and you’ll have an idea of what you’re in for. The album begins with an overlong tribal intro, but once we’re in it’s a thumping ride beginning with the crushing barrage of metallic noise that is The Prurist. The violence continues through the first half of the record until a sudden shift in gear drops us into electro-pop meets grind tracks like Polygonal Planet and Pop Goes The World that make for a truly experimental trip to the art-metal world. Brilliant stuff. 8/10

Bastion’s Wake: Sea Creatures And Sky Pirates (Midland Studio Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Bastion’s Wake is a two-piece unit comprising vocalist ėVė and guitarist Derelith October. Originating from Delaware, they play an operatic, dramatic style of symphonic rock/metal which has moments which genuinely excite. The complex compositions allow ėVė to showcase her strong vocal style, whilst musically this is a combination of numerous styles. Listening opens the album, gothic overtures, big riffs and dramatic sections combining to create a soaring cinematic soundscape. It’s an album that needs multiple listens to appreciate. Claudia for example, has so much happening that repeated spins were needed to appreciate the deftly layered elements. Beneath it all, there lies two talented musicians who merge the heaviness of the riff with the drama of the operatic. The haunting Alice Dieve contrasts completely with the gentle acoustic folk style of Nyarlathotep whilst Fairwell to Midland contains crushingly heavy guitar riffs and spiralling vocals. My first listen left me unimpressed but by the third listen I had been converted. This is an impressive album. 7/10

Massive Destruktion: Mercenaries (Self Released) [Joey Watkins]

Massive Destruktion's album starts out promisingly enough with a heavy intro track, that manages to grab your attention and leave you wanting more, the guitar work leaves you in no doubt that this is going to be thrash, with the guitar tone heavily reminiscent of Slayer's South Of Heaven. As the intro fades you are hit by the first song Nations Of Doom, and when I say hit I mean assaulted, in your ears, with god awful drum tone, and out of time guitars. The vocals are great but unfortunately they are turned down so low in the mix all you can really focus on is that flabby bloated drum sound.

As someone who has spent many hours sat by a studio computer listening to the same track over and over trying to get that drum tone spot on I understand that getting it right is a bit of a dark art, but at what point did anyone in this band decide this sound was what they wanted? The guitar tone is weak, with solos never quite having the impact that they should, it's a shame because you can tell there is talent here. As thrash albums go this is not great generic song writing, baffling production choices and a distractingly bad drum tone all combine to do what is clearly a talented band absolutely no favours. I'm not saying there is no enjoyment to be had here it has its moments but they are few and far between. 4/10

Rowsdower: Michael Jordan's Of Suicide (Sludgelord Records) [Lee Burgess]

Have you ever fancied being hit by a bus, then a truck and finally being finished off by a derailed freight train? Hmm, thought not, but that’s kind of what Rowsdower will do to you. It’s slow, sludgy and very extreme in its delivery of distortion-heavy noise. It’s difficult to overstate just how hefty this album is. If you’ve got the nerve to give it a go, you will be rewarded, because this is a one of a kind experience. There aren’t many metal wrecking crews out there who are willing to push their work to such extremes and when it happens it is something to be celebrated. I imagine this won’t be for traditional fans of hard rocking NWOBHM, but if you have an open mind, or you just fancy demolishing reality for a while, then this will be music to your ears. Go on, you know you want to! 9/10

Review: Sabaton, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody, Immortal Birds, Hammerhands (Matt, Rich & Lee)

Sabaton: The Great War (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Perfectly timed to coincide with the bands 20th anniversary, Swedish historical power metal act Sabaton's ninth (!) full length album is a concept piece about the titular great war 1914 -1918. The recording for the album started on 11/11/2018, exactly 100 years since the end of the WWI, keeping their commitment to history in tact. I've had a massive respect for Sabaton, they are a band who should not be at the level they are now, very few power metal bands headline festivals all over the world, nevermind embark on arena tours, as they will next year. But there is something about their mix of stories from history (mainly from wars), bouncy, sing along tracks and infectiously fun stage show that resonates with metal fans all kinds.

In my opinion their music has gotten a little lighter than it was in their early days but much of this is due to their position as an arena bands so I suppose it needs to be accessible. That's not to say they are an AOR band, no this ninth album has a lot of crunchy guitar riffs and searing solos from Tommy Johansson and Chris Rörland as Pär Sundström (bass) and Hannes Van Dahl (drums) bring the power metal gallops but on tracks such as The Attack Of The Dead Men they bring more synths in. Now I've outlined it here but I'm sure some of you will ask what The Great War actually sounds like? Well it's Sabaton at their most bombastic for the most part. The production of the band and co-producer Jonas Kjellgren makes everything sound huge and Joakim Brodén is on fine vocal form his bellowing vocals giving the, historically factual (more on that later), lyrics life. The Great War is also more approachable than their Carolus Rex concept just mainly because most people (in the UK_) will be familiar with WWI.

Musically it's full of big power metal anthems like the Devil Dogs about the US Marine Corps, ode to sniper in A Ghost In The Trenches, the gloriously thrashy Seven Pillars Of Wisdom about T. E. Lawrence and the excellent Fields Of Verdun which has stupidly simplistic lyrics, but mark my words at Bloodstock they will be sung back with gusto. However they also have the Deep Purple-like Red Baron (it's the Hammonds), the mini-epic symphonic title track and of course a massive dramatic piece in the form of The End Of The War To End All Wars, which features their special Great War choir, who appear again on the beautiful sung rendition of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields which ends the album on a bittersuite note. It's a massive improvement on the The Last Stand with Sabaton recapturing that early sound while also retaining that arena sized quality they now possess.

Now we get to the historical accuracy and I can say that Sabaton do it better than any other band mainly due to the fact that in conjunction with multimedia historians Indy Neidell and Timeghost they have launched their own History channel available as an app or on social media meaning that the historical content is a factual as it can be (a big plus for a Historian like me), it also means that there is a special 'History' edition of the album which has spoken word intros to each song giving an overview of the subject matter allowing you a bit of context if you're not a history buff. Who knew heavy metal could be educational!? Sabaton are now at a point where they can do no wrong, from taking up the empty stage left by Manowar, to lasting 20 years in a fickle music industry, these camouflage obsessed Swedes are now next in line to the thrones soon to be vacated by Maiden, Metallica and their ilk. Primo Victoria Indeed! 8/10   

Turilli/Lione Rhapsody: Zero Gravity - Rebirth And Evolution (Nuclear Blast) [Rich Oliver]

The long standing joke amongst metal fans about how many versions of the band Rhapsody there are has been extended with this being the fourth incarnation of the band.  In case you aren’t aware of the long running drama of the band formerly known as Rhapsody the original Rhapsody formed in 1995 and released a string of highly successful symphonic power metal albums.  The band were forced to change their name in 2006 due to copyright issues and were rebirthed as Rhapsody Of Fire where they continued until founding guitarist Luca Turilli jumped ship in 2011 and formed his own Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Vocalist Fabio Lione also quit Rhapsody Of Fire in 2016 but the band continued with new members and continue to this day having released new album The Eighth Mountain this year.  Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody also folded in 2018 leaving Rhapsody Of Fire as the sole incarnation of the band.

Until now that is.  Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione have reunited and formed Turilli/Lione Rhapsody joined by former Rhapsody/Rhapsody Of Fire drummer Alex Holzwarth and bassist Patrice Guers and guitarist Dominique Leurquin from Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody.  Confused yet?  I know I am so let’s talk about the actual music. Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution) has all the key components of prior Rhapsody albums such as epic orchestration, soaring choirs and virtuoso vocal and guitar performances but this has little to do with the dungeons and dragons nature of former albums being a far darker and more mature sound. There is a huge progressive metal influence throughout with a big Dream Theater influence as well as progressive power metal acts such as Kamelot and Serenity. This is a wholly contemporary sound for Rhapsody and as much as I enjoy the fantasy forays of previous albums this new mature progressive sound was a welcome surprise.

From the start of the album you can tell this a different beast with the beefier guitar sound and use of keyboards and electronics in opener Phoenix Rising. The concept of this album very much seems science based rather than fantasy with song titles such as Decoding The Multiverse and Multidimensional showing the new lyrical approach of this version of the band.  My personal highlight was the fantastic I Am which features the fabulous guest vocals of DGM frontman Mark Basile and is a fantastic piece of progressive symphonic metal with a very Queen-esque middle section. The performances on Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution) are all top tier. Fabio Lione is incapable of doing a less than stellar vocal performance and Luca Turilli impresses as always with his fretboard pyrotechnics. Impressively he also handles all keyboards and orchestrations on the album and does a sterling job of it.

I’ll fully admit that when I found out there was yet another version of Rhapsody forming I rolled my eyes but it has to be said that the chemistry between Luca Turilli and Fabio Lione is still there and with this new direction sounds like a very promising reunion. Zero Gravity (Rebirth And Evolution) has definitely won me over and shows there is room for more than one Rhapsody. 8/10

Immortal Bird: Thrive On Neglect (20 Buck Spin) [Lee Burgess]

Immortal Bird's Thrive On Neglect isn’t a bad album, it’s just not very well put together. It’s all very tight and pacey, but it lacks the kind of chugging bloody menace that great DM has in order to drag the listener in. There’s plenty of metal on show, but plainly speaking there isn’t much in the way of death. The mix is thin, making for annoying guitar tone and tinny drumming. All this is topped off by screaming tantrum vocals that grate instead of enrich and terrify. That said, it’s obvious that with a bit of work and serious thought, this band could, with a few changes evolve and reach their lethal potential. Must try harder. 5/10

Hammerhands: Model Citizen (Hammerhands) [Lee Burgess]

Hammerhands crawling, weaving, menacing Industrial tinged doom is quite infectious. With Model Citizen, they create the kind of atmosphere that fans of the genre will want to devour or even savour. This is not your run of the mill Candlemass wannabe nonsense, this is the real deal. A seething and slithering record with tracks that are rich and dark. Too Many Rivers, That Awful Sound and Bastard Jesus pretty much sum up the tone of this bleak but brilliant tower of misery. It’s all very negative and suffocating, and rarely brings us up for air, and when it does, it’s probably toxic. But it’s when we are submerged in sadness that the magic happens. 8/10

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Stranglers (Live Review By Alex)

The Stranglers & Ruts DC, Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly

Despite being born into a musical landscape dominated by the raucous and unruly tones of punk, that particular garb never really suited the Stranglers, with their sense of experimentation and skill. Don’t misunderstand me, they definitely took on the sound at times. However, their emphasis on lofty keyboard arrangements, their knack for unpredictable song structures, and their overall experimental nature excludes them from being classified along with The Ramones or the Damned as archetypes of the punk project. A casual listener might be forgiven for not being familiar with an admittedly huge discography. In fact, they might look at the support act tonight, and consider Ruts DC to be almost akin to the headliners. Still, there is a wide and varied discography on display from both bands, and while it becomes clear that the main act has been massively less partial to sticking to a tried and true idea, both perform with vigour and passion. It helps that the venue location is excellent as well. Located in one of the yards of Caerphilly Castle, there is a sense of earnestness and comfort which you can’t really get from a stadium or an arena, especially one that’s indoors. Together, these elements merge into an exciting experience.

Ruts DC (8) open, performing some of their most well-known anthems. Babylon’s Burning provokes the biggest crowd reaction of the set, and the first in a few of the most polite moshes I’ve ever experienced. Something that I said, Staring At The Rude Boys, Shine On Me and In A Rut also make an appearance in the setlist, provoking energetic singalongs. Meanwhile, Haggarty, Jennings, and Ruffy perform with the freneticism shown by the crowd, excelling from each other’s liveliness and passion for playing. In keeping with the brand, our frontman jokingly throws two fingers up to me, before making a consolatory hand gesture, proving once more that punk rock is nothing without good manners. They only calm down for Jah War which provokes some unwelcome heckles from those seemingly unfamiliar with punk’s longstanding fondness for reggae music. Standing out in the setlist though are newer songs Music Must Destroy and Kill The Pain, which shows a willingness to move forward and embrace modern styles, yet simultaneously capture the magic and social conscious of early anthems. By the end of their 45-minute set, everyone in the spacious courtyard is powerfully enthused for the main act.

A Waltzinblack tape interest opens as flaring orange lights signal the Stranglers (9) entry to the stage. Sparing no time or energy, they dive into Toiler (On The Sea), immediately sending the crowd into another mannerly mosh. Get A Grip On Yourself and Peaches of course cause some of the biggest shout-along moments of the night, while Golden Brown and Skin Deep, sees everyone quietly listen in a gracious yet exciting style. Perhaps the most inspiring moment comes with Always The Sun, a truly beautiful song made all the more so by our voices rising in unison as the same sun sets, spilling its radiant orange over the archaic remains of the Castle. Although the vast array of different genres on display tonight – from the Avant-garde of moments like Duchess to the alt-rock of newer songs like Unbroken – throws shade on the punk label, the attitude is certainly present. As one person throws a bottle on stage, vocalist Baz Warne taunts ‘Ooh, indiscreetly throwing bottles, you’re a big man, aren’t you? If anyone throws a bottle, and It hits me, you’re f***ing out’. Later, in response to another ill-educated heckle that he is not, in fact, Hugh Cornwell, he retorts with ‘no I’m not, what the f**k’s that got to do with anything?’ leading to roars of approval. In defiant fashion, both of the original members, bassist Dave Greenfield and keyboardist Jean-Jacques Burnel, perform with an eagerness and exhilaration. Given that some of his parts are incredibly complex and detailed, Burnel makes the occasional mistake, yet still give an impressive performance, deserving credit for his virtuosity.

The band of course finish with some more classics, tearing through the angsty Something Better Change and the ferocious 5 Minutes. They round off the main set with Hanging Around. Still, this crowd seems determined to hear an encore and sure enough, they come back on, finishing with Tank and No More Heroes. The sun has fully set by now and the enveloping buzz of the music, the bright glare of the stage lights, and the jostles of crow members – now fully immersed in the music, creates a yet fervent, avid quality.

A View From The Back Of The Room: M2TM Bristol 2019 Grand Final (Live Review By Paul H)

Bristol M2TM Grand Final, The Exchange, Bristol

The second semi-final of the Bristol event was an enjoyable event and it was with relish that we returned to catch one of the last finals in the 31 which have been taking place across the county. With Simon Hall in the judging chair this was serious stuff and six bands were pumped for the performance of their lives with that spot at the UK’s premier Independent Metal festival up for grabs. Having witnessed one of the most intense finals in Cardiff a month earlier, we were also interested to see how the two events compared. If you read my review of the semi-final on 1st June, which seems an age ago now, you’ll have noted my observations about the organisation from Questionable Life Choices and Mortishead. Well, the final ran even smoother and full credit to Steph, Rich and the team who even appeared to have time for a beer outside in a relatively relaxed fashion throughout the evening. Once again, the venue was perfect for the numbers, the sound and (newly improved) lighting were on point and the cool blasts of air conditioning in the main room most welcome. Th Exchange also benefits from a raised stage, allowing viewing from around the venue and that works superbly well, especially for those who may not be 6 foot tall.

Having negotiated crazy scenes on the M32 and the final drag into Bristol due to the St Paul’s Carnival, we secured a car parking spot and high tailed it to the Exchange in time for band number one – The Fangs Of The Dodo (6). A carnival of dystopian chaos awaited, as the Bath based five-piece launched into their set with powerful enthusiasm. Their post-industrial sound which mixes Radiohead with Tool with Manson with The Velvet Underground, proved to be the first of six different styles we witnessed during the night. The band were interestingly bedecked, their image a little suspect but overall in keeping with their changeling style.

Count Dodo commands attention at the front of the stage, his leather trench coat removed after a couple of numbers (to much mirth and The Stripper being sung by the crowd) whilst keyboard player and vocalist Cinder, in her Mystique-style face paints was possibly underutilised, her clear vocals on the opening Please Don’t Feed The Vultures more pleasing to the ear than the Count’s slightly off tune approach later on. With drummer Hazard forced to remove his gas mask to add growls on one song, and guitarist The Guardsman suffering from technical challenges, the band soldiered on but lost vital momentum. As their set raced to a close, A Nice Warm Mug Of Old Hatred reignited the fire and the band took matters into their own hands, the Count commanding a pit from the edge of the floor, brandishing his bass dangerously as the brawlers collided about him. The Guardsman had other ideas, abandoned his guitar and flung himself into the melee. It was chaotic, it was carnage but a high-octane start alright. TFOTD have plenty of potential and their social media work is a delight well worth checking out.

However, what followed was a lesson in brutality, Death metal four-piece Dies Holocaustum (8) simply brutalised for their 30 minutes. Despite only having been gigging since the start of the year and having to introduce guitarist K-lum Schmit during the competition, the band levelled the room with their brand of old school death metal. In Will Pearson they have a drummer who knows his stuff, being the engine room for 2018’s winners Body Harvest. Frontman, vocalist and bassist Robb Innell commands the stage, his tall muscular frame and growling vocals dominating without overshadowing the duel guitar work either side of him. Furious pits, albeit small, erupted as Dies Holocaustum went about their business and by their final song there was limited oxygen circulating. This is a band who can push on hard from this event and in a city where death metal has a sizeable following, don’t be surprised to hear a lot more about the band soon.

Local outfit Myst (6) were next and once more provided the evening with a dramatic twist. The band’s conceptual utterings drew a large crowd in the semi-final and the band drew decent support as singer Andy Squibbs invited the audience to join the band on their unnerving journey. With Squibbs once more the focal point, it allowed the rest of the band to deliver what is at times a crushingly heavy sound. My only issue was that the repetition of song format meant that attention drifted at times rather than holding me tightly enthralled. As the set edged to a close, Squibb became the second singer of the night to disappear into the crowd. Dark and disturbing, Myst’s unique brand of metal was once more a chilling set to watch.

A favourite with our friends in Sepulchre, Voluntas (7) decided that attack was the best form of defence and hit the stage with energy to burn. With K-lum Schmit doing double duty, the progressive thrash of this four-piece drew a frenzied response from the crowd. With the grit of early Machine Head and a plethora of influences that clearly ranged from Maiden to Death, the set flew by. Bassist Joe Barton resplendent in the early edition Sepulchre tee laid down the groove alongside vocalist and rhythm guitarist Mark Watkins whilst Schmit soloed for fun. Lacerating shredding, frantic old school thrash which combines both clean vocals and death growls was going down well with the assembled masses and material included the band’s debut single Into the Black from their forthcoming EP Walk Into Hell. Job done.

In the semi-final NO:IR UK (5) had overcome the loss of a bass amp with an energetic passionate performance to reach the final. With all systems working, it was a strangely subdued first ten minutes which greeted me. Maybe the nerves were having a bit of an impact? Vocalist Sam ‘Evvi’ Davies bounced around, and as usual the band’s loyal support enabled the energy to increase but, on the night, they were a little flat. I stated in my previous review that I’m not the biggest fan of their schizophrenic musical style, and the fusion of hip hop and progressive metal still doesn’t really do it for me. However, I truly admire the enthusiasm the band bring. They work hard and I am sure they have a big future. On the night they just weren’t quite up there.

Once more the square peg in the round hole, South Walians Trep (8) impressed me hugely in the semi-final with their progressive rock/metal. Another quality 30-minute set with the band focused and tight. This was always going to be tough for them, their sound very much the odd one out in the evening but for me they were streets above the other bands in terms of musicianship. A smaller crowd suggested that I was in the minority but for those who decided to watch them, what a reward. Bassist Sam Green’s infectious enthusiasm and humility in his plaudits resonated, whilst singer/guitarist Rhys Evans allowed his guitar work to take centre stage. Cutting some tracks back from their usual lengthier passages worked well, keeping the band bang on track with their timing. Once more the band at times were also able to let rip as hard as any other band on the night. As a ‘palate cleanser’, Trep certainly did the job and although deep down you knew they weren’t quite the right fit, there is much more to come from a band who have been one of my finds of 2019.

Five down, one to go and oof! This was some set. Trayus (7) bring the metalcore, the raging pits and a visceral intensity that only Body Harvest could match on the night. I’m not hugely into metalcore but Trayus worked the room hard and were rewarded with some of the night’s most intense floor action. With only one guitarist, there is some reliance on technology to flesh out their sound and when things went South, there was some panic. Still, the M2TM event is all about comradery and it was sorted with enough speed to allow the band to continue with their onslaught. Frontman Alex Bennett is exactly what you need in this type of band, his enthusiasm and guttural roars stoking the pit fires. A huge crowd reaction on the night, and another band who are worthy of checking out.

Before Simon Hall delivered the verdict, and the raffle prizes, it was time for last year’s winners Body Harvest (9) to demonstrate why they almost took the Hobgoblin Tent into orbit in 2018. With their sophomore release Parasitic Slavery the band grabbed the word brutality, turned it inside out and threw it sobbing onto the pavement. Their live set was probably the most punishing I’ve seen since Behemoth earlier this year. This was viciousness on a different level to anything that had gone before. Pinned against the wall by the sheer ferocity, I stood with my jaw open at the power and intensity that the Bristol four-piece summon. Not since Gojira moved my internal organs several years ago in an intimate 400-person gig in Cardiff had I felt such a disturbance. Body Harvest simply destroy. It was sheer joy to watch, whilst trying to work out if those down the front were moshing or merely caught in the death metal tractor beam emanating from the stage. If you’ve not seen Body Harvest or listened to their music, then you really should sort your life out. Pure brutal death metal. I loved every second of it … again.

And so, to the results. After I was one ticket away from winning the raffle, Simon thanked all those involved including the bands, the venue, the excellent sound and the organisers. Announcing one runner’s up spot, this went to Trayus, who may get a slot subject to the outcome of some of the other events. Surprisingly to me, the winners of the Bristol M2TM 2019 were Voluntas. I say surprising because they weren’t my choice on the night, but I wish them nothing but good fortune. Their set was certainly entertaining and with their EP launch the weekend before BOA, I may well pop back to Bristol to check the lads out before their massive set at the festival.

As with all the M2TM events this year, this was huge fun. Let’s do it all again next year, and with good fortune and kind scheduling, we can bring coverage of the Bristol heats as well.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Reviews: Bokassa, Black Sheep, Lone Gunmen, Ole English (Paul H & Liam)

Bokassa: Crimson Riders (MVKA) [Liam True]

I'll be honest, until the band were announced as the opener support slot for Metallica on their recent stadium tour, I'd never heard of them before. But the record itself is just a showcase of their abilities and what they're capable of. And they were more than deserving of that slot. The Norwegian metal outfit are somewhat of a marmalade band. You either like them, or not. Simple. Me? I love them. With a unique crossover sound, blending both Stoner Rock and Hardcore Punk elements to create a sound like no other band around right now. It's the second album from the band so they have a general idea of what they're doing and the sound they're trying to encapsulate for the masses. And if they keep this momentum up, who knows where they'll be within the next 4-5 years. I can definitely see them being on the festival circuit and being a hit on their own headliners. But only time will tell. But right now, let's just let this record sink in. 8/10 

Black Sheep: State Of Mind (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Not exactly an unusual choice of name in the world of music, a quick Google reveals that Black Sheep were the band that Lou Gramm sang in before he joined Foreigner, a punk band from Belgium, a hip-hop duo from Queens and Dorset’s most popular barn dance band. This however, is a four-piece stoner outfit from Lanaudière, Quebec. With a typically fuzzy dirty sound, what appeals about Black Sheep is their blues backbone which complements the usual influences of Sabbath, Orange Goblin, Sasquatch, Down and Clutch. Anthony Savard’s gravel-soaked vocals are perfectly suited to the gritty heavy sound that is produced by Gabriel Bellerose’s filthy guitar, Marc-André Dubrule’s doom soaked bass and the Bill Ward style drumming of Dave Labbé. It’s perfect for summer driving, summer drinking or just summer. Which is great because I’ve listened to it doing both (not at the same time kids, remember, drinking and driving kills). Time Is Mine, the Sabbath induced riffage of On The Highway and the Southern swagger of closing track Wasted Love are all fine tunes that demonstrate that Black Sheep have a quality well worth listening to. 7/10

Lone Gunmen: Lead Skies (Self Released) [Liam True]

I don't know what i was expecting from this record. With the name of the band I guess I was expecting a Black Stone Cherry and Blackberry Smoke crossover, but I was not expecting a German Groove Metal band. Being the band’s first full length (after releasing an EP back in 2016) it's full of riffs and an aggressive sound. The band themselves just plough through the record at a grueling pace with face melting riffs, ear shattering drums and throat ripping vocals with almost a demonic feel. Vocalist Hendrik Noack leads the band as they journey through the dark depths of Lead Skies, providing a musical backdrop that would fit in perfectly with a Mad Max movie or just any apocalyptic scene.

Back to front the record keeps you glued as you have no idea how the next song with start. You could have the furious finger work of Robin Görss ripping you to shreds, then the next moment you could have the deep dark tones of bassist Stefan Riesz pounding you until you're begging for more. Even though the vocals feel like it, it's not a Death Metal or standard Heavy Metal record. It's a pure adrenaline rush of aggressive Groove Metal madness. Get these guys on the road with Lamb Of God and they'll fit in perfectly. 7/10

Ole English: Ole English (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

26 minutes of throbbing, pulsating stoner rock from Lafayette, Louisiana. This is right up there with the usual balls out rock that you’d expect from a band that soaks up the best of the 70s vintage rock and desert rock. It powers from start to finish, kicks your ass and then heads off down the high street whistling. Ferocious riffage, thundering bass and drumming and the gravel-soaked vocals that all good stoner bands possess. Definitely one for summer driving and whiskey drinking. 7/10

Reviews: Mirror, Bloody Hammers, Crypt Sermon, Nodafreth (Matt, Paul H & Scott)

Mirror: Pyramid Of Terror (Bad Omen Records) [Matt Bladen]

The self proclaimed "Cypriot denizens of darkness" Mirror return with their second full length album, their first was released in 2015. Once again is the sound of 1980 distilled into one record. It's the that special year where the big rock monsters like Deep Purple, Rainbow and Led Zeppelin were giving way to the burgeoning NWOBHM movement that gave birth to Maiden and Priest. Formed by former Electric Wizard amd Satan's Wrath bassist Tas Danazoglou, it's his rhythm work that steers this record along with the drum work of producer Jaime Gomez Arellano, though live he has been replaced by Danny Koullis Georgiou Conway. On top of that Constantinos C. Bynd and Nikolas Spirits Moutafis weave in and out with some slick dual guitar riffage, yes folks it's twin axe heaven here with a lot of great soloing.

In fact musically this album is a bit more mature than their debut, the title track pairs classic sounds with modern flair but it's a godsend that vocalist Jimmy Mavromatis returns with his powerful pipes, especially on the raw I Am The Freak where he really lets rip as the staccato riffs make way for soaring solos. There is a real flair to this record, Tas has seriously studied the influences to bring the sounds of battle metal to Secrets Of Time, the doom-laden Master Of The Deep as well as the more cinematic Black Magic Tower and Running From The Law which has the punky aggression of Di'Anno fronted Iron Maiden. Pyramid Of Terror is a perfect follow up to their self titled debut as it adds an extra dimension to their sound broadening their musical style a little but still retaining that balance of melody and heaviness. Since returning to Cyprus and moving on to an independent label (their debut was released on Metal Blade) it's almost as if Tas has been able to experiment a little, taking his time to craft an ideal album for fans of Scorpions, UFO, Iron Maiden and Rainbow. 9/10 

Bloody Hammers: The Summoning (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s album number five for Bloody Hammers, the band founded by Anders Magna in 2010 in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Of course, Magna is the writer, producer, singer and musician behind the band along with organ player Devallia, whilst he is reliant on touring musicians to bring Bloody Hammers to the live stage. This is a brilliant album which opens strongly with the Hammer House Horror of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Now The Screaming Starts, both fabulously heavy with the psychedelic doomy undertones we’ve come to expect. The gothic style is in full flow on the title track, a punchy number with a driving almost industrial riff and thick 1980s style layered keyboards.

The haunting The Beast Is Coming Out provides simplistic yet impressive organ as the main instrument of focus whilst the gothic stomp of Welcome To Darkness has a retro yet fresh sound. Magna’s compositions are epic, containing a dark brooding feeling that merges psychedelia, metal, doom and gothic styles to create music that just demands attention. Tales That Witness Madness takes an almost Godsmack approach, chunky riffs and a melody which infects like maggots on a rotting corpse. Condemned, The Prisoner, opens with a Johnny Cash style country feel before opening into a macabre funeral march, Magna’s excellent vocals complimented by echoing backing tracks whilst a Sabbath style riff enters in crushing style. Sombre, doom laden and impressive, The Summoning is another fine release in an already notable discography. 8/10

Crypt Sermon: The Ruins Of The Fading Light (Dark Descent Records) [Matt Bladen]

This for me is a highly anticipated record, I really enjoyed the debut album from these Philly epic doomsters so when I received this album it wen immediately on the decks of doom. Unfortunately the rest of you will have to wait until September for it's official release but hopefully this review will be enough to whet your appetite. Owing their biggest debt to Candlemass, Crypt Sermon's second record has  choral opening before The Ninth Temple (Black Candle Flame) starts things off with some heavy chugging riffs as the echoed vocals and repetition of it's hook give that Candlemass feel, as it rumbles past the doom creeps in on Key Of Solomon a slow moving sludgy number with some added gong for good measure. 

The lyrical inspiration of this album and in fact their previous album is clear and simple "We're doomed", which is pretty apt for a doom band. With some sorrowful chants on Our Reverend's Grave we get a nod to Sabbath while Epochal Vestiges is a folky intermezzo built around theatrical synths and even some flute before the gothic overtones of Christ Is Dead bring horror and the slowest riff of the record, this is a properly nasty doom song with flailing drums, melodic guitars, fuzzy bass and the best vocals of the whole record as it explodes into a cracking solo too. With three short existential instrumentals, the aforementioned Epochal Vestiges along with Oath To Exile and Enslave The Heathens you get chances to move away from the heavy but then they come back and beat you around the head with a track such as Beneath The Torchfire Glare or the epic tile track that closes the album. Brilliant epicus doomicus metallicus from the USA, in the fading light of the autumn this album will really shine. 8/10     

Nodafreth: Days Of Fading Light (Self Released) [Scott Price]

The Switzerland based deathcore outfit Nodafreth are finally back from a lengthy 5 year wait from their self-titled EP. Being a pretty big fan of this Swiss band, I was quite excited to listen to this album and give it some time so I can get a good grasp of this installment. And I’m going to be completely honest, I am very happy to say that I was actually surprised by this LP. This album kick fires with the track The Old Dead Tree. It is almost like a page out of Lamb Of God's book of madness. Winding riffs, pumping drums and fucking brutal vocals. But obviously what sets this band apart from the others is the almost alien like guitar passages all over this LP. Almost like a nod towards Rings Of Saturn. But before you get too comfy, the staccato breakdowns hit you like a hell bent anarchist with a baseball bat. Only the baseball bat is made of fire and hate and you are on a twisting road down to hell. 

This album always keeps you guessing, no song is like each other. Others are more deathcore/death metal inspired but the next thing you know, you have these soaring guitars and beautiful guitar passages that are just awesome. This isn’t one of those bands that you could listen to one song and all of a sudden you’ve listened to all of their songs. This isn’t one of those albums. One small gripe I have with this album, is in fact some of the breakdowns are a bit predictable, all have the same kind of flow, and they are in pretty much in all of the tracks. They all kind of sound the same. It’s like they wrote one break down and said “Fuck yeah, put that in allllll the songs”. But honestly it’s just one gripe out of an excellent album. Overall, love this album, love this band, check it out or I’ll find you and make you listen to it. Hell yeah. 9/10

Monday, 8 July 2019

Reviews: Pijn & Conjurer, Skelator, Itheist, E-an-na (Matt, Rich & Paul H)

Pijn & Conjurer: Curse These Metal Hands (Holy Roar Records) [Matt]

Take two of the best new bands around, both of whom are on one of the best record labels around Holy Roar Records, and smash them together like toast and avocado for one of the most organic, mesmerising and downright heavy EP's of the year. At just four tracks you do certainly get value for money with long swathes of atmospheric guitars that lead into the substantial riffs that both bands, Pijn and Conjurer are known for but with this collaboration there is a lot of amalgamation as Pijn's post-rock soundscapes are melded with the abrasive heaviness of Conjurer. Opening track High Spirits is both euphoric and forlorn, but as it progresses through it's long runtime we get melodic up beat guitars juxtaposed with the low end power. That low end is courtesy of Pijn's Nick Watmough (drums/vocals) and Luke Rees (bass/vocals), emphatically driving the tracks so that Pijn's Joe Clayton along with Conjurer's Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale blend lighter melodic harmonics, deafening down tuned misery and pastoral acoustics with their guitars while also providing vocals.

At just four tracks you will obviously see that these songs are all mini epics except for Endeavour which is just over 2 minutes but is probably the loudest heaviest track on the album more aligned to the Conjurer style of musical abuse. There has been a deliberate upbeat approach to this record and that shines through that no matter how extreme it gets these four songs are positive influenced by all of the joys the band members have, it has been advertised by the band almost exclusively by memes, most aimed at being better than the new Baroness record. Though these are jokes, it's certainly more grandiose than Gold & Grey with a celebratory attitude. A song such as Sunday is a literally one of the finest songs I've heard this year. The band formed at ArcTanGent festival last year and will perform again this year, do not miss them, but before that you must pick up this EP if you want to hear the most positive and musically dense albums you will here in 2019 guaranteed. 9/10 

Skelator: Cyber Metal  (Gates Of Hell Records) [Rich]

Traditional heavy metal is very much alive and well in 2019 and is even gaining a resurgence thanks to the aptly titled NWOTHM (New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal) scene of which US band Skelator are very much a part of and are ably aiding the cause with their tremendous new album Cyber Metal which is the fifth full length release by the band. As with the majority of traditional heavy metal resurgence acts their influences are very clear and on display so you can expect to hear touches of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Diamond Head, Accept and Manowar amongst others but done in a way not to mimic these legendary bands but to pay homage to these metal gods of yesteryear. There’s also a clear influence from thrash and speed metal with some dizzying speeds especially on Akira which sounds like it is about to take off. It’s this fantastic mix of intensity and anthemic that makes Cyber Metal such an enjoyable listen.

 If you love old school heavy metal then songs such as Cast Iron, Highlander and Psychic Silver Wheels will prove an irresistible listen. The musicianship throughout is commendable with some very tasty guitar work, pummeling bass lines and intensive drumming. The vocals are the only weak point of the album. Frontman Jason Conde-Houston doesn’t have the best voice in the world but nor is it the worst and whilst he sounds a little strained at times he doesn’t really push his voice too far beyond its limitations. His voice may be off putting for some listeners but it didn’t really affect my enjoyment. Cyber Metal is a fantastic album and wholeheartedly recommended to those like me who still can’t get enough of 80’s metal. It is wholly unoriginal but done so well that I couldn’t care less. Long live the old school. 8/10

Itheist: S/T (Self Released) [Paul H]

In the current summer heat, how about some blackened metal to freeze your warm heart from the South Coast (Plymouth to be precise)? This is the debut release from the duo known as Itheist who have been around in several shapes and forms since the early 2000s. Powerful, soaring and dramatic, KN (vocals) and DC (music) have produced a blisteringly heavy evisceration which bleeds the ears, damages the skull and warps the mind. Satanic entrails drape across this gargantuan piece of work, with track such as Guardian Of The Baphomet, the sprawling Infernal Insurrection and a massively impressive and atmospheric Suffering In Existence which closes the album in typically evil and chillingly epic conclusion. One for the dark nights and winter evenings. 7/10 

E-an-na: Nesfârşite (Self Released) [Paul H]

Romanian folk metal is nowhere near a genre which I am either familiar with or which I want to be familiar with. 64 minutes of all kinds of jigging, rambling, death vocals, clean vocals, heavy riffs, light harmonies and disjointed chaotic music. If you like that kind of stuff then E-an-na, formed in 2014, is probably something you should check out. Me, I’m rarely excited by the mismatched sounds that vomit up in the name of folk and classical metal, and this album, despite being intricate and cleverly constructed just left me cold. I listened to it three times. That’s over three hours of my life and all I can hear is hurdy gurdy widdling, a fucking accordion (possibly the most appalling musical instrument every designed) and the image of those people of the tube who play you three notes and expect you to hand them a fiver. This is not something I would watch or listen to by choice ever again. 3/10

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Reviews: Chernaa, Piston, High Fighter, Highway Hunters (Matt & Sean)

Chernaa: Empyrean Fire (Noizr) [Sean]

Yeah, this is good. I don’t normally start reviews with a positive comment, normally it’s some lengthy preamble and/or an opinion. But gosh darn it, I just could not help myself upon hearing the opening seconds of Chernaa’s excellent Post Black Metal debut, Empyrean Fire. Hailing from the bustling city Czech city of Prague, Chernaa are a brand spank new act with one hell of an opening statement. Shall we? Opener Pink Powder is dense as all hell, thick waves of huge chords and blastbeats propelling it onward. The sound is crips, expansive enough to give everything clarity, even as the torrential downpour guitars hits its zenith. The furious thundering is then silenced, meek strumming of augmented chords filling the now gaping void, accompanied by the ever present wailing of vocalist….uh…..Hedonist The Poisoned…..well, can’t be worse than Insulter Of Jesus Christ (see Nifelheim). Tranquility is soon swept away and the blasting is resumed, further enhanced by melancholic leads. The aptly named Ominous conjures an eeriness befitting its title, suddenly exploding into a furore of more blasting, melodic tremolo rhythms and soaring melodies. Subtle layers of synths bulk out the already weighty wall of sound, the riffing style not too dissimilar to later day Borknagar, particularly during the slower sections. Continuing into the maudlin of Alice Syndrome, the most depressive number thus far, Chernaa continue to shift stances and offer even greater variation throughout its run time. It’s quite something to hear each succeeding song expand in scope, with Chernaa having little difficulty in upping the compositional ante.

As I Succumbed bathes me in swathes of guitar, brightened by the transition into the key of D. Even as it assumes a doom laden stride, the warmth remains, intensifying in feeling with the well placed addition of clean vocals. On it’s own, a good song but as part of an album? It’s a great one and perfectly fits into the overall flow, proving just how malleable Chernaa’s sound really is. Mania dials down the metallics, adopting a quasi post punk approach, though post punk with screechy black metal vocals. The frosty metallics are resumed some ways towards the end, concluding with the dulcet tones of a choir, hideously morphing into harsh noise upon reaching the climax. “Camus” feature a few off kilter chord progressions, moments of major keys against the minor, adding ample amounts of colour to the already stretched dynamic spectrum. The closing act is Discrepency, shades of Drudkh manifesting here and there, neatly fitting into Chernaa’s already large sonic oeuvre. While Chernaa are a young band, their compositional maturity completely belies the youthfulness of their existence. Especially when one takes into account how well executed and cohesive Empyrean Fire is, the end result is an incredibly well rounded and impactful debut. Every track is fully realised, adorned and crafted by skilled hands with imaginative minds to match, and honestly? I can’t think of a single sodding negative things to say about it! Some gutturals to break up the screeching, maybe? Whatever, it’s a great album and one can only wonder what blackened brilliance Chernaa will create next. 9/10

Piston: S/T (Self Released) [Matt]

With four members from The Midlands and a mouth from the South, Piston are a band that are part of that UK rock fraternity that will certainly appeal to the Planet Rock contingent. Their self titled debut album is a mixture of big radio rock tracks and ballads that bring to mind The Cult, Guns N Roses and some Black Crowes too on Carry Us Home which has big open chords and a hint of Country slide. It's one of the few tracks that actually stands out on this record as the rest of it is straight down the middle hard rock that doesn't really challenge you in anyway. It's not bad, in fact the best part is the guitar playing which is pretty tasty at times unfortunately the songs are very middle of the road so they are sparkling diamonds in plastic jewellery. While I was listening to this album four tracks passed by before I even noticed and it was actually not until the U2-like Into The Night that I really took noticed again. If basic hard rock fodder with raspy vocals and I'll admit some good guitar work appeals to you then check out Piston and see them on their co-headline tour with, the in my opinion better, Collateral, other than that I'd say you'd be better with some proper classic rock as there's nothing new here. 6/10

High Fighter: Champain (Argonauta Records) [Matt]

High Fighter are Christian "Shi" Pappas (guitar), Ingwer Boysen (guitar), Constantin Wüst (bass), Thomas Wildelau (drums) and Mona Miluski on vocals. They are characterized as a sludge band and while the massive downtuned, feedback drenched riffs do stick to the sludge sounds of Eyehategod etc but also there is a real nod to the blues and even the dark psych sounds Jefferson Airplane. The reverbed opening notes of Before I Disappear sound like a tolling of a bell, creating a gloomy intro before the doom metal rhythm comes in to vibrate the eardrum furiously, it's a slow opening with Mona's howl coming in early but later on she has a rich, deep, blues styled vocals, it moves into Shine Equal Dark which is a faster number that blazes past.

Dead Gift
has a majority of clean vocals which really suits the more stoner style while Another Cure is more atmospheric but the riffs kick in again with a vengeance. This is the band's second studio album and it sees this Hamburg based band more pissed of than ever before, with crawling doom numbers such as Kozel often break into big thick stoner riffs that get the head moving to Mona's brilliantly unique vocals. To get a feel for the bands over all style check out a track such as When We Suffer which has Anton Lisovoj Downfall Of Gaia adding vocals and it's that similar style of kitchen sink experimentation that makes Champain a diverse and interesting record that brings, soul, sludge, stoner all together in a one marvellous lump of molten metal. 8/10

Highway Hunters: S/T (Self Released) [Matt]

This came as a surprise, imagine Halestorm but with Jon Lord adding some sick Hammond Organ riffs, that's pretty much what you get with trio Highway Hunters. With Yanni (bass/vocals) and Olivier (drums/vocals) bringing the thunder with groove-driven rhythm bottom end, the album though is all about Marine who gives us the organ skills of Keith Emerson and the melodic rock radio friendly vocals of Lzzy Hale. Ain't Got No Mama is the kick off with big organ stabs that have come off  a Wolfmother record, with some highly sexualised, feminist lyricism it's a filthy number, with some blues underpinning it. It's followed by Inside Me which apes Emerson's carnival style of playing on top of a bouncing rocker.

It's great to hear a band that have tried something a little different with the hard rock formula, especially because personally I do love how a Hammond Organ sounds, it's a particularly versatile instrument that lends itself as well to hard rock as it does classical, see the middle section of It's Time. Now I will say as versatile as the Hammond organ is unfortunately the songwriting here is a little basic, lyrically and vocally Marine is above average, but on the keys she's a beast. The best track on the album by far is Firebrand which has some Deep Purple sounds and a radio baiting rhythm, it's different to the rest of the record because it was written Jim Peterik (Co-writer for Eye of the Tiger) and you can tell that a more experienced hand has crafted this, though the Halestorm-like anthem of Down To The River has it's charms. If you think there are too many guitars in rock music then Highway Hunters may give you an insight into another way, classic hard rock but without the six string razors, jump on this highway. 7/10 

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Reviews: Consecration, Desolate Plains, Old Forest, Kings Winter (Sean, Rich & Paul H)

Consecration: Fragilium (Solitude Productions) [Sean]

I would like to think that I’m a fairly jolly person, an optimist if you will. There’s not much on this big old ball of blue that really bothers me, save for the few odd spells of seasonal melancholy. Happy go lucky on the whole, even if what I listen to doesn’t reflect or affect my overall disposition. In terms of music, I see the miserable and morbid as a chance to reflect, to soothe one's sole with a necessary dose of woe. Others, however, are probably as miserable as the very art they create. Which brings us to Norwich misery wizards, Consecration and their new album, Fragilium. The order of the day is death with a double serving of doom, so let’s not waste any more time and tuck in! In Darkened Slumber is the appetiser, a mournful instrumental of pendulous strumming. A funeral dirge through and through, it’s fairly sparse, relying on repetitious phrases and patterns. Subtle layers are added upon each rotation but it never feels aimless, shifting just enough to hold your attention throughout. It introduces touches of major to offset the minor, conveying an acceptance of the inevitable. Baleful and with a hint bittersweet, it’s a suitably opener for Fragilium . It’s followed up by the next (and main) course, A Sentinel For The Fragile.

The strumming returns, leading down in the main catacombs of Consecration’s dense, deathly doom. Further and further we descend, before Consecration spring to (un)life. The tempo is slow and steady, the vocals are disgustingly guttural and the riffs are as one would imagine; CRUSHINGLY FUCKING SLOW! It’s also pretty raw, drawing more on Autopsy than My Dying Bride, with vocals occasionally reminiscent of early Incantation. It briefly quickens, though soon returns to Consecration’s preferred pace, almost as if it were a moment of fancy. Remember, going fast isn’t doom! In Somnus Ego Morrior (In My Sleep I Die) delves deeper into the dark, traces of a melodic lead rising up from the murk. It’s pretty simple in construction, a series of descending power chords, but it works well. There’s even a some shredding toward the end, showing that Consecration can belt out notes if needs be. An Elegy For The Departed injects even more melody, this time into the rhythm guitars themselves.

This may not seem like much of a revelation but here, it’s a noticeable shift and welcome one indeed. Patience is rewarded with thicker riffage, the stylistic aura gradually shifting, to eventually resemble early Paradise Lost. To Welcome The Grey brings Fragilium to its inevitable conclusion, stripped down and (initially) bereft of aggression, before building into one last anguished gasp. It doesn’t go gently, a fitting death rattle before fading into eternal silence. Christ….that was intense. So…..what’s a (formerly) upbeat dude like myself to say in the face of such crushing oppressiveness? Pretend I wasn’t crippled by under the sheer weight of Consecration’s latest offering? Try to deny the domineering 50 plus minutes of unrelenting despair? No, Fragilium pretty much flattened me and I enjoyed every dreadful second of it. 8/10

Desolate Plains: The Face Of The Earth (Molon Lave Records) [Rich]

The Face Of The Earth is the second album by Greek progressive death metal band Desolate Plains.  Not a band I have heard of previously but Desolate Plains perform an enjoyable mix of death metal and progressive metal with influences from other subgenres of metal such as thrash metal, black metal and doom metal. Desolate Plains manage to juggle these various different influences and produce a cohesive album. The guitars are put to great use throughout the album from the thrash riffage of opener The Movement Of Fear, the  blackened tremolo riffs in A Final Thought  and the tasteful melodic lead guitar playing throughout the duration of the album. Vocalist Aliki Katriou utilises a mix of vocal styles throughout the album from her unique sounding low register clean vocals to blackened screams and guttural growls and her range is quite impressive.

The music ranges from the more thrash and death metal stylings of the aforementioned songs to more atmospheric progressive songs such as Empire and Across The River and the mix of styles keeps this album interesting and entertaining throughout. The Face Of The Earth whilst not a mindblowing album is a very satisfying listen. There is a nice mix of styles throughout and the song structures keep things interesting but the album isn’t wholly memorable. Maybe this is one that takes a multitude of listen to sink in.  However on the whole I did enjoy and Desolate Plains are definitely a band to keep on your radar. 7/10

Old Forest: Black Forests Of Eternal Doom (Dusktone Records) [Paul H]

Initially formed in 1998 UK black metal veterans Old Forest comprise Kobold (James Fogerty) on vocals and keyboards, Kobro (Anders Kobro) on drums and Beleth on guitars and bass. Fogerty and Kobro are both active in numerous other outfits, most notably the magnificent In The Woods. Black Forests Of Eternal Doom is the band’s fourth long player, although their catalogue also boasts several Eps and compilations. Opening with the majestic Subterranean Soul, this is 45 minutes of UK black metal at its best. Frantic tremolo riffing, thundering drumming and snarling vocals which break into clean vocals are the blueprint for this magnificent album. Permeated with thick layers of keyboards that do not detract from the oppressive heaviness at any time.

Old Forest blend melody and harmonies with perfect old school UK style black metal. The atmospheric title track and the beautiful acoustic Shrouds Of My Dream allow Kobold to utilise his vocal range to full effect, whilst the latter adds time for reflection and respite in the centre of a frenetic album. Black Forests Of Eternal Doom is a delight from start to finish, its melancholic, organic feel slowly enveloping the listener as the album develops. The songs are lengthy, all over seven minutes except for the 5:39 Shrouds Of My Dream but that should not distract from what is a varied and absorbing release. Old Forest have once more delivered their own style in a grand manner. 8/10

Kings Winter: Forging The Cataclysm (Self Released) [Paul H]

Kings Winter is the husband and wife duo of Jule and Tobias Dahs. Both seasoned musicians, this is their debut six-track EP. Jule is the voice of the band, whilst Tobias covers all the instruments. With a vocal delivery uncannily like Doro Pesch, it’s difficult to avoid comparisons with the metal queen and Warlock. The EP is 25 minutes of classic heavy metal the opener Time’s Running Out is traditional fare, with a keyboard riff dominating. Their website referred to a sound which resembled UK rock legends Magnum, and The Grand Delusion does indeed sound like Tamworth’s favourite sons. A majestic powerful song, full of drama. The title track’s opening riff is very similar to that of Lost On The Road To Eternity and the Magnum feel is more evident with every song. Forging The Cataclysm is beautifully delivered, and Tobias is clearly a talented musician. I often measure a band by asking myself, if I walked into a tent at a festival and these were playing, would they hook me in? Kings Winter would certainly grab my attention, such is the quality on display. 6/10