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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Reviews: Thunder & Lightning, Murray & McGowan, House Of Shakira, Ancient Crown (Reviews By Paul Hutchings)

Thunder And Lightning: Demonicorn (Self Released)

No end to the German conveyer belt of power metal with Thunder And Lightning’s latest release Demonicorn. The Berlin based outfit have been delivering their brand of metal since 2004 and whilst I will admit they are new to my ears, their style of music is actually a lot easier to bear than many of the hyperactive delivery of some of their countrymen. Opener All Your Lies combines traditional metal with the frenetic speed of power metal and instantly Norman Dittmar’s clean strong vocals grab the attention. The title track follows, a thick riff heavy track, with much more heft than maybe expected. This is solid fast and enjoyable. There are elements of Sabaton, Priest and Helloween mixed here.

Demonicorn contains some superb guitar work, lead guitarist Fabrizio Agabiti making his full-length debut with the band after joining two years ago shredding for fun on Demmin, a song about the largest mass suicide in German history which took place in May 1945 in the German town. A brave move to tackle a subject that for years was banned in East Germany. The album impresses as it progresses, The Temple Of Death a soaring, bludgeoning track which captures some of the best elements of power metal and uses it in a much heavier style. Gods For A Day continues the journey, and by now I’m thoroughly engaged. Salt To The Wounds drips with melody but carries a steel backbone Whilst closing track Telltale Signs tackles terrorism in a robust and bombastic manner. Demonicorn is bombastic, fun and above all a cracking listen. 8/10

Murray And McGowan: Out From The Inside (Self Released)

Neil Murray: bassist with a multitude of rock bands ranging from Whitesnake to Thin Lizzy to Black Sabbath and all stops in between. He’s been part of the We Will Rock You musical for many years and is still part of Snakecharmer. Even so, this album is a bit of a mystery, with little information available. It’s been released almost under wraps. Recorded at Ken McGowan’s Blackberry studio on the South Coast over a nine-month period, Out From The Inside is 13 tracks of classic rock, in the vein of Lizzy, Bad Company and Skynyrd. Slick and competent, the shock here is that Murray takes not only the bass lines and keyboards but also the vocals.

At least that what’s I’ve gleaned from the magic of the interweb. If so, this will be the first time I’ve ever heard Murray open his mouth. In all previous bands I’ve seen him in he has rarely even added the briefest of backing vocals, content to lay down the bass whilst avoiding the spotlight. Well, whatever, this album is a polished piece with McGowan adding some sweet blues style guitar work and Chris Allen keeping time with ease. With Christina Wood adding backing vocals on Living The Dream, a funky honky-tonk number which adds brass to the mix. All in all, a rather comfortable but highly entertaining release. 7/10

House Of Shakira: Radiocarbon (Frontiers Records)

Formed in Stockholm in 1991, House of Shakira is a band with some pedigree. Radiocarbon provides 39 minutes of high-quality melodic rock which echoes their influences such as Journey and Van Halen. With the smooth vocals of Andreas Novak leading the way, there is plenty for fans of melodic rock to enjoy. Elements of Def Leppard on tracks like Radiocarbon should get the Joe Elliott fans dancing whilst the high-pitched harmonies of Matts Hallstensson and Basse Blyberg will appeal to those whose tastes sit with Journey, Foreigner and Eagles. I can’t hear much in their sound of Sabbath, but the glam trash of Kiss does surface from time to time, for example on Sweet Revenge which is a banal song but one that is delivered with an upbeat tempo. Melodic rock is a genre I generally struggle with; its lightweight feel and dramatic lyrics often too overblown for me. Here, the band are tight and polished, a up-beat almost pop-rock flavour for most of the time. It really does little for me, but as melodic rock goes this is near the top. 7/10

Ancient Crown: Blood Evolved (Self Released)

Blood Evolved is the debut release from this five-piece from Syracuse, New York. It’s a right gnarly bastard, a hybrid cross of thrash and death metal with the faintest hint of industrial gothic. Ghost of Future Vision is a roaring opening, the strained vocals of Andrew Hulburt better when he’s spewing up his lung as the duel guitars of Buddy Fishcal and brother Barry Hurlburt rage with chainsaw effect. Clean vocals are employed on Helm Of Awe, a raging Mastodon influenced almost death-sludge beast which races away, increasing in tempo and ferocity to a punishing velocity. On Primal Fire continues the intensity, thick heavy riffs, punishing drumming and a guttural delivery combine. This would be exhausting live. Think the intensity of early Mastodon combined with Neurosis and a chunk of fat death metal. Continue to pour oil on water and the flame will increase. Such is the obliterating progress that occurs here and by the time you arrive at Above And Beneath this is simply a pummelling that the referee should stop, such is the brutality. A vicious, aggressive and back breaking slab of metal to end the year. 7/10

Saturday, 14 December 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Spectral Voice (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Spectral Voice, Flowering Blade, Tides Of Sulphur & Cryptworm, Fuel Cardiff

So another mid-week gig at Fuel Cardiff and again another mix of acts. I once again was accompanied by Mr Deeper Shades himself for three acts I'd never seen and an entire show that was new to him.

First at bat were Bristol death metal act Cryptworm (7), the trio took to the stage and plowed a furrow with some evil sounding death metal, no for me the bass was not audible for much of their set with the nasty guitar and loud as hell drums dominating except for on one song where the bass was only audible for some slinky bass leads. An impressive first viewing of some down the line death metal from just over the bridge

Next up were a band I'm very familiar with Tides Of Sulfur (7) are probably one of the angriest bands on the South Wales scene with their politically inspired music that blends sludge, death and even some hardcore sounds was perfect for a gig taking place on the week of one of the most important elections ever. Just two songs in the guitar cab seemed to fail from the sheer fuzzy force as Snake fixed it Chris and Tom noodled a little before they returned to the intensity ending with the raging 'Orrible Cunt which broke down at the end, they weren't everyone's cup of tea but I'm always love watching Tides play live.

Then things got weird...Flowering Blade (0) were next now this was a member of the headliners playing an industrial/noise set, now noise I struggle with but at least they often use instruments what this was, was one long pulse with the occasional stab to change the sound, but essentially he was 'playing' one long stomach churning pulse. Now it was less a performance rather live intro that eventually segued into the headliners but I'm sorry, it lost the attention of much of the room, especially me who basically generates pulses of different types for a living.

Still with the previous 'set' coming to an end, it was time for Spectral Voice (6) who enveloped the room with doom/death metal, now considering they feature 3/4's of Blood Incantation you could expect sci-fi technically but this is very earthbound, yes it's ominous and very bloody heavy, but it's also really, really repetitive (and I love doom) especially after the appalling intro. Unfortunately after two drawn out numbers we'd had enough and left walking into the miserable night reflecting that some times it's the more underground acts that make the night.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Reviews: Mammuten, Selefice, Vultur, Shadowmass (Matt & Paul H)

Mammuten: Prophet Of Disaster (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Characterised as 'Apocalyptic Stoner Metal' the band hail from all over but are based in Thessaloniki/Aberdeen (the two couldn't be more similar really). This is trippy shit folks, an 8 minute opening track Augury is just the first part of a two part Premonition suite with fuzz drenched bass from Makis and Nikos it's the rockier of the two tracks starting the album off with an insistent beat based on the drum patterns of Thodoris as Rachael's vocals phase in and out of the heavy psych sound. Part two is a little slower starting with Sissy's keening guitar, things get all distorted again with major doom vibes meaning you can hear more of Rachael's shamanic voice. Part two (The Hex) makes its predecessor look like a punk song clocking in at over 15 minutes of mind altering psych. This album is made for headphones it's one you can just plug into and drift away with, I've always said I was a massive fan of the stoner genre especially when the bands use their music to take you on a journey and Mammuten definitely do this, even on 'shorter' rockers like Disenchantment (ideal as I listened to this album on election night) they have an otherworldly force about them with large swathes of desert rock, as numbers such as The Vacillant slow burn into thunderingly heavy doom that drags itself along exploding into the darkest number on the album. There seems to be an overarching theme here of the end of the world and the music other-worldly enough to conjure those images in your mind.  Prophet Of Disaster is a blissed out stoner rock record that you can ignore your in-laws with this festive season. 8/10

Selefice: I Met A God (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Oof this is as meaty as a double stacked gyro! I Met God is the latest EP from Athenian death metal band Selefice, formed in 1990 and releasing an album before splitting in 1994, the band reformed in 2017 which has culminated in this four track record of death metal with some melodic flair running through it. Final track Damned shows this better than most, with some clean proggy guitar at the beginning moving into the groovier, heavier style yet keeping things very proggy as it ploughs through it's 7 minute plus run time, bringing a climactic end to this EP, it's in opposition to the blistering opener Mora which is driven by blistering blast beats. There's a real thump of groove metal on this album with touches of Pantera especially with some of the superb guitar playing, but it's mostly aggressive death metal with some melodic sections such as the opening of Kol Haneshama which brings some crunching doom. I Met A God is a fine welcome back for this Greek band, over 20 years since they split they can still deliver quality music. 7/10

Vultur: Drowned In Gangrenous Blood (Memento Mori) [Paul Hutchings]

Brutal death metal takes many shapes and forms and this sophomore release from Greek death metallers Vultur has one apparent aim; total obliteration. From the opening strains of, Groans of Excruciating Torture the lumbering beast of the title track through to concluding track Postmortem Lividity this is just spine crushing.  As well as having typically gory song titles (DevirginisedButchered And Eaten, for example), the Athenians follow a simple enough path. Demonic guttural vocals, chopping chainsaw guitars and a total battery of drumming. Vocalist Giannis ‘Grim’ Panagiotidis is a seasoned veteran of the Greek Death metal scene and it shows in his visceral performance on this release. 2018’s Entangled In The Web Of Fear was sinister enough. More blood, guts and gruesome imagery spew over here. If your thing is honed by Cannibal Corpse, then Drowned In Gangrenous Blood will probably excite you a little more than maybe it should. 7/10

Shadowmass: S/T (Soman Records) [Matt Bladen]

The trio of Stamatis Syrakos (guitars, vocals), Constantine (bass), Maelstrom  (drums) make up blackened thrashers Shadowmass who have released a 37 minute, 9 track debut of music that owes a debut to Slayer, Kreator and Venom. Exploding out of the speakers with the frantic Exitium, the intense Make It B-Rain and the galloping Killing which takes a lot from Kill 'Em All Metallica. These youngsters play with their hearts and their influences on their sleeves, firing on all cylinders for every track they rampage through this albums 37 minute run time with ease. For just being a debut Shadowmass is a very mature sounding thrash record, it makes me think a little of Black Tide when they first hit the scene, full of youthful exuberance and music taken from a wide spectrum of the bands that have made Shadowmass form with down the line thrash on Exitium, the more technical Tolerance Of Intolerance, crossover on Skeletal Remains and the occult loving Felicity. Shadowmass is a vicious debut release from this Athenian three piece. 7/10

Reviews: Fen, Cutting Teeth, Paladin, What We Do In Secret (Paul H, Liam & Matt)

Fen: The Dead Light (Prophecy Productions) [Paul Hutchings]

Has it really been over two and a half years since Fen delivered Winter? My gushing praise of one of 2017’s most impressive albums was perhaps a little too effusive at the time, but this is a band who really excite me. March’s EP Stone And Sea whet the appetite for this sixth full length release and now it has arrived, there is little to disappoint.

Yes, the band has changed their sound a little. Is it due to the popular progressive black metal scene? Is there even such a thing? Maybe bands are evolving organically rather than attempting to court the populace. Hardly the biggest market in the world either is it? So, what does The Dead Light offer?
Witness opens the album. A haunting, atmospheric and ethereal piece that echoes Alcest, elements of Opeth, In Mourning and others. Ambient tones echo as deep resonate bass tones and delicate guitar notes harmonise in tandem, allowing space before the slow drums kick in. Shimmering guitar riffing takes hold as the track builds, leading us to The Dead Light Pt. 1 and the first surprise. A gentle intro, almost alternative in feel but with The Watcher’s customary snarling vocals before the pace quickens, the riffs sharpen, and bass and drums increase in velocity before receding to be replaced by a gentler approach. The contrasting tempo and styles work well and whilst this will not be to everyone’s tastes, it works well. The Dead Light Part 2 is a blistering instrumental piece that leads into the intimate delicate opening of Nebula, which expands into another post-metal track, clean vocals giving way to a battery of intense drumming, tremolo riffing and more snarling growls. Full of haunting rhythm and melody, this is seven minutes of exploration, the tempo switching several times as the song develops.

The longest piece on the album follows; Labyrinthine Echoes clocks in at just shy of ten minutes and contains some of the most complex work here. Tool like in its bass lines; the track contains some intricate breakdowns as well the more traditional riffing. The tempo varies enormously, the rasping vocals adding an earthy element as the track ebbs and flows, at times frenetic in pace whilst other times easing back. More progressive elements in Breathe Of Void which follows, the undulation of the track intricate. Plenty for the non-black metal fan to get to grips with here, the underling melody emergent but never overwhelming. The Dead Light is strong on atmosphere and Exsanguination which follows sees clean vocals over death growls, a slower, darker pace increasing into a post-black metal evolution. The cleans are added effortlessly, the interchange with the more traditional vocal delivery. As with every song on this album Exsanguination follows several different paths along its journey, the haunting change in the final two minutes a step or two away from their previous music.

Crisp jangling guitar chords lead into a crushing riff open track eight, Rendered In Onyx, and if you haven’t by now realised that this is an album that needs time and devotion to fully absorb, then there is little hope. The track is another which deceives with its intro, explodes into a cascade of pummelling drumming and intensive riffing before dropping the pace but none of the intensity or feel. Another track that weaves its magic, spinning a musical web of delight, the darkness and light bouncing, the interplay at times breath-taking. The closing trio maintain the variation. Monochromatic Ossuary is spine crushing black metal, ferocious and raging. Searching ventures once more toward the Alcest territory, the subtle and gentle composition allowing breath to flow and peace to return. With a slightly oriental edge to it, this penultimate track builds to the climax of Echoes Of The Crowpath, a gentle acoustic piece that sits perfectly as the closing song; as unexpected as it is stunning. It rounds off this quite superb release in magnificent manner. With The Dead Light Fen have moved the bar, and closed off 2019 with one of the best releases of the year. 9/10

Cutting Teeth: Fracture/Decompose (Self Released) [Liam True]

This is a and I’ve heard a lot about, but never actually gave them a listen. And I’m disappointed in myself because they’ve blown me away. Being the perfect blend of Hardcore Punk and Metalcore, they intertwine the genres with perfect results. With the venomous vocals from James Thurlby the band have a point to prove, and they’ve made it. They’re aggressive. They’re in your face. And they’re here to change the Hardcore scene. With their beefy riffs and brutal breakdowns the band charge at you with a full head of steam. Pulling no punches and not letting up for an second, there’s no end to what the EP consists of. While not a huge fan of Hardcore music, the EP is the perfect gateway into the genre, while not being to light, they can still blow your dick off with their brutal instrumentation. And while not being the most original sounding band out there, their blend of genres make them a rising band to be noted in the scene. And you can catch these guys on tour in January 2020. If you can handle the intensity they bring. 7/10

Paladin: Anamnesis (Prosthetic Records) [Matt Bladen]

Paladin released a brilliant album called Ascension, earlier this year full of blistering speed metal that had the right amount of extremity to it to differentiate it from the other power metal acts around. So I was looking forward to this EP when it dropped into my inbox as anything from Paladin will now be welcomed with open arms. However what got me more excited was that this is three track EP of Nevermore covers, who still stand to this day as one of my favourite bands of all time. The progressive mix of thrash and death metal makes them the ideal band for Paladin to attempt the songs of. Guitarist/vocalist, Taylor Washington stated that the song choice was to make thing a little eclectic. It opens with River Dragon one of the bands best tracks and it's followed by Final Product from The Godless Endeavor again a popular choice from one of their later records but it ends with 42147 from early album In Memory, it's this last song that really shows that Paladin are true Nevermore fans picking this album cut to close out the EP. All three of these numbers are delivered with the serious chops witnessed on Paladin's debut, they are treated with deference not straying too far from the originals, but make for an entertaining distraction. 7/10

What We Do In Secret: Repose (Facedown Records) [Liam True]

With the heaviness of The Ghost Inside combined with the vocal styles of While She Sleeps and the catchy chorus’ of Architects, What We Do In Secret are a little Metalcore lovechild. While the first fee songs aren’t anything special, the further you get into the album, the more you’ll come to love the direction if where the band is going. Yeah it’s straight up Metalcore, but with a few twists that make it hit the mark more than other bands in the scene right now. Whether it be the combined vocals of Josh Adams and Clay Crenshaw, or sticksman Frankie Forbes, the band are firing on all cylinders through Repose. While most albums don’t contain either personal or topical issues, this album is both about themselves and hot topics right now. I’m not going to give anything away but there are some heartfelt moments here that hit me. If you like your Metalcore with a mixture of both heavy and melodic approaches, WWDIS are the hot band for you right now. 7/10

Thursday, 12 December 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Brutality Will Prevail (Live Review By Liam True)

Brutality Will Prevail, Guilt Trip, Mass Worship & Asidhara, Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

With a very short time allotted Asidhara (8) delivered a three song set, and they were not pissing about. The Cardiff four piece unleash their Hardcore to the half empty room. That doesn’t matter because they dominated the stage with their presence and everybody was banging their heads in tune with the grisly vocals and beatdowns. Looking into the crowd asking everyone to take a few steps forward to the stage to become more intimate. The band themselves were on point and crushed the room with their blend of Thrash and Hardcore. The only issue I had with the set is the sound of the bass drum. It was louder than the band at some points, almost drowning out the vocals and instrumentals completely. But they power through the issue and deliver a powerful small set. And I think I've found a new favourite local band.

With their heavy riffs and breakdowns to match, Mass Worship (8) laid waste to Cardiff. The Scandinavian five piece weren't messing around and go full force through their set. While not speaking a word to the audience through their set, they let the music do the talking. Whether it’s the demonic like growls of vocalist Claes Nordic or the violent instrumentals, Mass Worship showed us they have the means to become bigger and better and to fill out their own headline tours in these sized venues. But tonight they’re also plagued by the insanely loud kick drum. Not their fault by any means, because they blew me away with their downright dark style. This is a band to keep an aye on. Who knows, next time the come back around they may be headlining? Here’s hoping.

Being the heaviest and most aggressive band of the night so far, Guilt Trip (8) have shown that Hardcore is stronger than ever in the UK. Coming from Manchester, the quintet blast their way through the violent set and lay waste to any concerns that anyone may have had about them tonight. With vocalist Jay Valentine heading the charge he patrolled the stage and never stops moving and commanding the crowd to do that same. With the first mosh pit of the night Guilt Trip pulled no punches and make sure the crowd left happy at the end of their set. The band themselves were on point tonight, being technical yet straight up Hardcore with the beatdown riffs and destructive breakdowns, there’s not a single head that wasn't banging to the down tempo guitars. From start to finish GT don’t let up, don’t slow down and above all, they’ve blown some minds and made a whole lot of new fans.

Here comes the moment we were all here for. The hometown boys playing their first show in Cardiff for quite some time, so it was going to be a special one. Taking to the stage to do a quick sound check before vocalist Louis Gauthier urges everyone to take a few step forward so he can "See all of your beautiful faces." Before saying "Kill the lights". The room goes dark and the build up to opener Misery Sequence starts. Through the darkness you can barely see the band on stage getting themselves ready for what’s about to being. Then with no warning, the band launch into Misery Sequence barking at the crowd to move and get the pit opened. For the next 60 minutes the band does not stop moving, the crowd is thrown into chaos with the flailing limbs from the mosh pit. 

With Louis getting up close and personal with the crowd by giving a few select people the microphone to scream the lyrics with him or being in the pit himself, there’s no shortage of energy from the band and that’s what made the show better because you can see the passion in their faces when they play and when they singalong with everyone themselves. From start to finish it’s complete chaos, and that’s what the band thrive off. And when the show comes to a close, the band don’t want too leave the stage and thank everyone for tonight and their support. If there’s one band you need to see, it’s Brutality Will Prevail (10), because these guys have worked themselves to the bone for this moment. And it did not disappoint.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Blood Church (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Blood Church, Incursion, ??? & Hellfekted,  Fuel Rock Bar, Cardiff

And so, it came to pass, that a mere 19 days before consumer ecstasy, the hordes were summoned by Legion Promotions to their second evening of dark, sinister metal and malarkey. There was plenty of the former and even more of the latter, which we will get to in a short while. Kudos to Legion Promotions for putting a stellar bill together and even bigger cheers to all those who made the effort to get there. It was well worth it.

Fuel, like most of Cardiff city centre, was in vibrant move, and during the night the gig drew a reasonably healthy crowd. The curse of the opening act is that they invariably draw the smallest numbers of the night. Those that made it in time were richly rewarded as Stoke-on-Trent’s blackened thrashers Hellfekted (7) stomped a size 12 hole in the venue. A bruising and brutal set full of power and intensity, the band roared their way through their set, with riffage galore from vocalist and guitarist Liam, whose snarling delivery added spice and fire to the band’s sound. Alongside him, bassist Chris, splendidly attired in his Metallica battle jacket (who I found out later works with Demon’s Dave Hill) brought the thunder, linking neatly with drummer Myles whose rapid-fire attack cemented the band’s sound. With influences ranging from Power Trip to Bolt Thrower evident in their sound, Hellfekted certainly have captured the punishing side of those influences and threw a raging gauntlet to the floor for those to follow.

Shortly before arriving at Fuel, social media announced that Swansea thrashers Sepulchre had been forced to pull out at short notice. The reason? Because Darren Evans is a melon head who managed to pump petrol in the band’s diesel van. Cue much mirth but also a frenzied hour of sheer panic for Alyn and Tim who desperately searched for a last-minute replacement. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and with Uber duly dispatched, Agrona, Cranial Separation and Levitas drummer Sam arrived in the nick of time for the Agrona Stripped (???) set. With Jonny from Incursion stepping in as well, their four-song set which consisted a cover of The Windmills Of Your Mind by Val Doonican, Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe And Wine and a rather lovely When A Child Is Born, most famously covered by Johnny Mathis. At least that’s what I thought I heard from outside the door. Reality may have been slightly different. Feedback from the weeping punters as they streamed out varied from “fucking awful” to “best thing I’ve seen in a long time”. I guess you had to be there.

2019 hasn’t been the easiest for RCT’s hob knob wielding holocaust survivors Incursion (8) and main man Jonny Foxhall but with the drum seat now occupied by maniacal Josh Griffiths and Thom Taylor giving the bass rumbles for a final time before heading to Canada, the band reminded all in the room that there is plenty of mileage in the Incursion wagon yet. Continuing with their green camo theme, the three emerged on stage in their battle garb, and hit through a knockout set which struck all the right chords. After the Agrona-lite show a bit more grit was welcomed, and the return of the hob knobs saw a slightly less violent but still energetic scuffle amongst the audience. With Scourge purged of those clean vocals Incursion proved there is still life in the old dog and 2020 should be an interesting year for the band.

It’s always good to be exposed to new bands and Telford Satanic blackened death metal four-piece Blood Church (8) were another ‘new’ band to add to the list. Their aural battery was intense, the meaty bass and extreme vocals of Chris Thomas pulverising whilst the razor-sharp duel attack of guitarists Liam Simpson and Scott Gater shattered ear drums. The Metal 2 The Masses finalists are a force to be reckoned with and their death metal was at best spine-crushing. A cover of Sepultura’s Roots Bloody Roots got the venue pumped and it’s fair to say that the atmosphere picked up. Thomas has a striking appearance, stripped to the waist, covered in chains and corpse paint, his wild image linking perfectly with the deathly sound the band deliver. Duel blasts from Chris Massey anchor this interesting outfit together. With time running out it was with regret that I headed for the last train, Blood Church continuing to punish those who remained.

*NB: There may be some artistic licence in this review. May be. *

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Devin Townsend (Live Review By Rich Oliver)

Devin Townsend, Great Hall, Cardiff

It will be no secret to people who read this blog that I am an enormous fan of Devin Townsend. His latest album Empath received a full 10/10 score from me and in my opinion he has rarely put a foot wrong in his long and extremely varied career so when it was confirmed that Devin would be playing in my home city for the very first time there was no doubt that I was going to be there with bells on.

Unfortunately due to some confusion to the start time with conflicting times shown on the tickets and the event page on social media I missed the vast majority of the support act Haken walking into the venue for the last half of their final song so this review will only be covering Devin’s set.

Devin had previously announced that the tour for Empath would comprise of different stages starting with the total deconstruction of his music and rebuilding it step by step throughout the various stages of the tour. Stage 1 was the acoustic tour back in April which was Devin’s music in its most raw and stripped down form and this show was part of Stage 2 which is taking Devin’s music and performing it in a freer almost improvisational style with the usual backing tracks removed and the vast majority of the music performed live by Devin and his supporting musicians. For these shows Devin gathered together a bunch of seasoned musicians from various backgrounds. A few of these had played on Empath including bassist Nathan Navarro, drummer Morgan Ågren (who also played on the Casualties Of Cool album), multi instrumentalist Mike Keneally and singer/guitarist Ché Aimee Dorval (who also collaborated on Casualties Of Cool as well as the Ki album). You also had Haken keyboard player Diego Tejeida pulling double duty, guitarist Markus Reuter (known for his King Crimson related work) as well as a trio of choral backing singers.

Now onto the actual performance itself. This was a bit of a different Devin show. The set drew heavily from Empath and was quite light on the crowd pleasers instead drawing on material which matched the skills of the musicians he had joining him. There was also plenty of jamming and doodling between everyone showing that they had magnificent musical chemistry. It was a quite self indulgent set and I don’t think a chunk of the audience quite got what they were seeing but the self indulgent nature of the set was offset by the usual goofing around that is synonymous with a Devin Townsend show from Diego’s on stage cocktail bar to jazz hands to the entire audience screaming KITTENS in a death metal growl Devin ensured that entertainment was the key of the evening and as stated at the start of the show “You shall have fucking fun!”.

Songs wise it was a good mix with plenty of picks from Empath such as Borderlands, Evermore, Sprite and Genesis. A good chunk of songs were played from Ki many of which I had never seen performed before including Coast, Gato, Heaven Send and Ain’t Never Gonna Win. For the older fans we also had War, Lucky Animals and a jaw dropping performance of the magnificent Deadhead which was a clear highlight for me and pretty much everyone else in the room. Other highlights for me were the absolute silliness of Why? which saw both Devin and Ché wearing tutus and a quite frankly beautiful version of Spirits Will Collide which saw Ché and the backing singers take the lead on the vocals to absolutely stunning effect. After a routine mocking of the ritual of encores at rock and metal shows the band returned to stage and performed the last song anyone was expecting (unless you knew it was coming of course) which was a cover of The Trammp’s disco classic Disco Inferno. Most people got into the spirit and danced along apart from the staunch metalheads who stood there arms folded looking decidedly unimpressed. Another curveball was thrown as then Mike, Morgan and Markus started jamming on the Frank Zappa song The Black Page #1 which added to the bewilderment of some of the audience. Things were brought back to a semblance of normality (as much as you can expect at a Devin show) with a finale of the classic Kingdom.

I thoroughly enjoyed this show and whilst not the best Devin Townsend show I have seen it was still hugely entertaining and enjoyably different. I’ve heard a few mixed opinions from people about the show with others fully enjoying like myself and some others not enjoying it at all. I think a good chunk of the audience were expecting a more traditional Devin Townsend show (if there is such a thing) so were a bit put off by the more improvisational and experimental nature of the music performed. In a set of two hours there were a ridiculous amount of musical tangents from calypso to funk to disco to avant-garde to fusion as well as the usual progressive rock and metal. For those wanting a more standard Devin show I recommend going to see a show in Stage 3 of the tour which will be more metal based and will also see Devin revisiting the Strapping Young Lad material which is gonna be a sight to behold. All in all I would give this show an 8/10.

Reviews: Ironvolt, At Night I Fly, Artillery, Beyond Chaos (Matt & Paul H)

Ironvolt: Grimm (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

An insistent string intro belies what is to come on this debut album from Bristol's Ironvolt as The Pale Red Gentlemen brings some funky guitars as the grooves work their way in. This is Ironvolt's raison d'etre low slung groove metal with some alternative metal intrigue. Led by the soulful vocals of Minka Miles who has a snarl of attitude on Satan Taxi where she decries "show me that your just no good" as the funk-styled guitar continues. Ironvolt bring a melting pot of influences to this album, Aaron Miles' lead guitar is unique sounding, kicking out choppy riffs and twisting solos bring punk to a band that owe as much to RHCP and No Doubt as they do to Korn (Pigs) and Soundgarden. The rest of riff focussed energy come from  Lewis Weyman (rhythm guitar), Butters (bass) and Sam Harbridge (drums) they creep on Sloth but Defiled is more of a classic rocker, and a raging pit starter I'd think, there's even a killer cover of Filthy/Gorgeous by Scissor Sisters. The songs on Grimm are made to be played live, riffs that breakdown into thick grooves, funk/punk and alt influences abound and hooks-a-plenty it's no wonder why this band are making a big splash across the bridge. 7/10

At Night I Fly: Mirror Maze (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

At Night I Fly are something of a supergroup, they were formed by prominent members of the Hungarian progressive metal scene. So because of that you can probably assume, rightly, that Mirror Maze is a progressive metal album. A distinctly good progressive metal as well, based in the style of Dream Theater, Psychotic Waltz, Evergrey and even Pain Of Salvation. After the choral Silent... it's Gethsemane that opens the record with some melodic guitars and keys a the grittier metal sound runs through this track, The Pit brings some more Pink Floyd styled atmosphere and a seriously superior guitar solo. The music here has introspection, it's emotive and filled with power due to the heavy distortion of the rhythm section on tracks like Uriel, as the guitars soar with intricate fluidity and the excellent voice of Zoltán Bátky carries the passion of the lyrics. It's prog metal as straightforward as it can be if you like you'll fine a lot here to love, if not then I'd suggest you look elsewhere. 7/10

Artillery: In The Trash (Mighty Music) [Paul Hutchings]

Raw, loose and totally honest, this 11-track compilation from the Danish thrashers consists of songs from their formative years, 1982 -1986 when the band were starting to make a name for themselves in the burgeoning thrash movement which was mushrooming. Early songs, such as their first ever demo We Are the Dead with the line-up of Per Onink on vocals, Jørgen Sandau on guitar, Michael Stützer on guitar, Morten Stützer on bass and Carsten Nielsen on drums are ragged but show the potential the band had. The demo In The Trash was recorded for Neat Records at the time but was never released. It’s earthy, gritty and full of vibrant enthusiasm. Listening to tracks such as Bitch in 2019 isn’t pretty, with the vocals rather poor but overall this is an album that holds interest for those who love their thrash unadulterated and straightforward. 6/10

Beyond Chaos: The Mind Trauma (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Apart from the fact that Beyond Chaos are from Sweden, I have very little information about this band. What I can tell you is that they play a vicious style of explosive death metal which is slightly marred by the duel vocals. Whilst I appreciate the Johan Hegg style roar, the additional screeching which runs in parallel with many of the vocals, such as on The Last Minute fail to impress. Musically it is tight enough, with some interesting melodies and switches in style providing atmosphere. Thick heavy riffs aplenty, as you would expect and at 35 minutes it is a reasonable listen. Few memorable tracks though and some of the more formulaic styles fail to elevate overall. 5/10

Reviews: A New Tomorrow, Power Theory, SL Theory, Cursed Sun (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

A New Tomorrow: Universe (Frontiers Records)

Formed by ex-Power Quest & Arthemis vocalist/guitarist Alessio Garavello, Andrea Lonardi (bass) and Tim Hall (drums) in London in 2009, adding Michael Kew (guitars) later. A New Tomorrow return with their debut full length having released 2 EP's before. Those expecting the power metal or thrash of Garavello's other bands will be surprised to hear that A New Tomorrow are a slick well honed hard rock machine that are influenced by Alter Bridge, The Foos and Metallica (Black Album onwards). Universe has been crafted by years on the road through all the good and bad times making melodic riff driven music, built around the brilliant vocals of Garavello and the hook filled hard rock they bring, Universe is an album of sing along numbers made for rock radio.

Now this is where the problem is as they do sound a little too much like Alter Bridge, musically and vocally, to say that they are influenced by the American megaband, at times A New Tomorrow sound like a pastiche, bordering on a tribute at times. Take a song like Golden Sands, it's got layered acoustics underneath everything, the AB backing vocals and slows things down with some added drama similar to much of ABIII. There's nothing wrong with how A New Tomorrow go about this record, the songs are as good as anything Alter Bridge is currently releasing, it's just they sound so much like Tremonti and co that they limit themselves any expansion of their fan base...still Alter Bridge are bloody massive so maybe I'm being cynical. 7/10

Power Theory: Force Of The Will (Pure Steel Records)

So in the power metal/heavy metal genre, there are distinct differences between the European style and the American style, while the Euro sound has lots of keys/gallops and shrieking vocals the US bands have heavier riffs and lower register singing. For an easier comparison see the obvious differences between Stratovarius and Iced Earth who were both formed around the same time. Power Theory are American and they stick to the US style of power metal, full of thrashy riffs, heavy rhythm sections and bellowed vocals the Pennsylvania five piece have been around since 2007, with Force Of Will being their fourth album. It's the first with new vocalist Jim Rutherford who took the mic in 2018, The Force Of Will has an epic feel to it from the intro track that segues into the blasting title track this is heads down heavy riffs from moment one the classic heavy metal style getting those fists pumping.

Power Theory share a lot of similarities with their countrymen Iced Earth, in the vocals chiefly but also with the muscular riffage. They bring a bit more modernity with If Forever Ends Today which sounds a little like Disturbed, though they ramp up the metal savagery on Mountain Of Death, the album does slow with almost cinematic Albion (though there is a little bit of irony as an American band play a song about Albion). Albion sits in the middle of the record as a great split between side 1 and side 2, which kicks off with the Th13teen which is a brilliant battle metal anthem and the rampaging Spitting Fire. In fact it's the second half of this album where the heaviness really increases until the grandiose finale of The Hill I Die On. Force Of Will is an excellent fourth album from these US Power Metal stalwarts. 8/10

SL Theory: Cipher (Self Released)

"Sturm–Liouville theory is the theory of a real second-order linear differential equation of the form where y is a function of the free variable x" complicated Maths, not the most entertaining way to open an album review but the music of SL Theory is equally as complicated but much more accessible. Formed by multi-instrumentalist Sotiris Lagonikas who has amassed a now 8-piece band for this band who play heavy prog band with AOR touches. This is their third studio album and their first after a live release that captured their spectacular audio-visual shows. On this record Lagonikas has shown you immediately what they are about with a 13 minute first track that could have come off a Kansas album as the AOR singalongs are wrapped around numerous time and tempo changes. Although the band are lot heavier than Kansas with their heavy riffs nodding to numerous Mike Portnoy releases, especially Transatlantic, so it must be soemthing about drummers.

Like with Portnoy's projects this album too has hints of Queen, The Beatles and of course Pink Floyd (what prog band doesn't). You Never Happened is a more direct rocker as Devil's Suites brings some Toto level shimmer, mainly due to the smooth vocal style of Mike Karasoulis, who is ably backed by Margarita Papadimitriou and Anna T. TaRba, the girls bringing some harmony vocals, for those tracks perfect for Miami night cruising. I could go on ad-nauseum about the styles on this record but really all you need to know is that there's an ideal balance between sunny AOR rocking and progressive mastery as the rest of the band; Alex Flouros (guitars), Giannis Nigdelis (guitars), Chris Kollias (bass) and Manos Gavalas (keyboards), are all as virtuosic as their band leader. Clearly picked for their prowess they are equally adept to rock tracks such as Grave Danger as they are with the dramatic double ballad of If It Wasn't For You/Anyone, Anymore. Now these two tracks do kill a little of the atmosphere but Anyone, Anymore is still a brooding number, with down-tuned guitars it's the second longest song on the record but better for it. Cipher is an enigma of an album, full of musical dexterity and great songwriting, for some it may peter out towards the end, though they will miss Happy the blistering funk rocker that sits at the end of the record, along with an alternative version of If You Saw Me Dead. An accomplished, progressive rock album. 8/10


Cursed Sun: Vendetta (Sudden Strike Records)

It's probably fate that I was listening to this EP from Cursed Sun on the anniversary of Dimebag's death as it's got the same power groove that Pantera had in the early days, as thick riffs beatdown while the lead guitar flourishes fire up in the background on Replicant, as well as face melting solo towards the end. There's also the aggression of Lamb Of God due to the barked vocals and pit ready riffage that comes across on these four tracks. Vendetta is the bands fifth EP following on from four previous EPs and a full length album, Cursed Son are one of the longest running bands on the Northern Irish metal scene, they've been carrying the flame since 2007 which is no easy feat in the current disposable music market where the underground is all but ignored by major publications. Still they have battled on with very aggressive style of metal that brings thrash, death and groove together, but it's nothing haphazard here the songs are written by an experience band built for live arenas, with progressive flourishes that lead to changes of pace especially on Crawlspace which slows in its middle section adding some melody to the metallic assault, while Fallen City has a stripped back beginning and big breakdown to it. The strength of this EP is probably why Cursed Sun are still surviving 10 years plus into their career, let's have some South Wales shows please guys! 8/10

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Sacred Reich (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Sacred Reich, Night Demon, Eradikator KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton

Following the chaos and intensity of Municipal Waste the night before was always going to be a challenge. Luckily this bill certainly provided similar value and entertainment. Hauling our still aching arses across from the second city to the heart of the Black Country on a freezing cold day we holed up in a welcome (and warm) hostelry to recover and prepare for the next round on our thrash mini break. Despite the failure to meet up with Jarvis Leatherby (Lead singer, Night Demon) as planned for an interview, we were in place on the barrier well before the opening band of the evening hit the stage.

The Steel Mill Is an interesting venue. Kenneth (KK) Downing, former guitarist with Judas Priest if you’ve been under a rock, has invested some finances into the venue, creating a premier rock and metal venue in the industrial heartland of the Midlands. A Grade II listed building, the venue is located on the site of the Star Motor Company, run by Edward Lisle at the turn of the twentieth century. Look closely and you’ll see steel columns supporting parts of the original A frame roof. A bar and merchandise area are located separate to the main hall, a concrete floored arena holding, according to Ticketweb, 3000 punters. I’d hate to be in there with over 500 to be honest so I’ll consider that slightly inaccurate. Nevertheless, it has an industrial feel which is in keeping with the location and the venue’s history.

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw Birmingham’s Eradikator (6) and I was excited to see how the band had developed since that encounter at Hard Rock Metal in the Birmingham O2 third venue back in a chilly February 2017. Their latest release Obscura earned a very deserved and favourable review back in July this year with a change in their style which retained the thrash elements of their earlier work but with an added progressive edge. Sadly, the band’s 30-minute set was plagued with challenge. Drummer John MacNevin was clearly quite unwell, struggling after a couple of tracks and having to leave the stage at one point to use his asthma inhalers. That, combined with Liam Priest suffering technical nightmares with his pedal board throughout the set meant that Eradikator experienced a bit of a ‘mare and whilst bassist and singer Pat Cox declared that the crowd had been “awesome” at the end it was a relief for punters and the band alike when everything stopped. The band appeared on edge throughout, the absence of any evidence of enjoyment palpable and the small crowd, feeding off the band’s discomfort were in general rather silent. A bit of reflection would probably be useful.

Wolverhampton on a freezing damp Wednesday night is far removed from Ventura, California but that didn’t stop traditional metal trio Night Demon (8) from bringing the full show. A huge red banner proudly proclaimed their name at the back of the stage as the band’s intro tape started the set. For the next 40 minutes front duo Jarvis Leatherby (vox and bass) and guitarist Armand John Anthony simply tore around the stage, shredding with abandon and delivering a highly energetic up tempo set which drew from their three studio releases. Leatherby is an old stager, currently bassist with the legendary Cirith Ungol and his mere presence was enough to command respect. Anthony shreds for fun, his hyperactive racing across the stage captivating but the guy can play too. Meanwhile drummer Dusty Squires maintained a brutal artillery of double bass drumming which gave this three piece a mighty tone. The Chalice saw the arrival of Rocky, the band’s mascot, a skeletal figure cloaked and carrying a smoking chalice, much to the audience’s bemusement. Earlier we’d also been treated to a blast of Overkill which warmed the crowd. Closing with their anthem Night Demon this was a stellar set from a band who can only give 100%. Oh, and they were brain meltingly heavy as well.

The Boys Are Back In Town heralded the dimming of the house lights and the arrival of the revitalised thrash legends Sacred Reich (10). August saw their first release in 23 years with Awakening and despite the small audience the Americans showed exactly how to deliver a master class. 70 minutes, 15 songs and an exercise of simple quality. I had the pleasure of interviewing frontman Phil Rind in late July and the guy was a joy to chat with. Here he could not stop beaming, his joy at being able to do this evident. Anecdotes, stories and general positive vibes exude from the guy and rub off on all. How can you stay in that work rage with such a bubbly character grinning at you?

Alongside Rind, veteran guitarist Wiley Arnett showed his chops with some fluid and impressive work whilst new rhythm guitarist Joey Raziwill held the engine tight, his youth masked by a confidence and stage presence which looks good for the future. Early tracks included Divide & Conquer, one of five from Awakening and a thick American Way which got the old school roaring. Rind was comfortable asking younger fans questions and confirming that the craziness in the main pit was from a group of Cypriot metalheads who had been raging at Municipal Waste the night before. Meanwhile the incredible Dave McClain nailed everything down with his blistering drumming. Rind’s vocal performance was as impressive as it was on record, the fluid, relaxed style earning a lot of new fans.

All too quickly this masterclass was ending, with a thumping Killing Machine, Death Squad from Ignorance and then of course, Surf Nicaragua which finished off a remarkable set in style. Some of us had waited years for this. It was worth every minute of it and I will be front and centre when the band hit Bloodstock 2020.

Reviews: Sodom, Stormwarrior, Oni, Birdeatsbaby (Reviews By Paul Hutchings)

Sodom: Out Of The Front-Line Trench (SPV/Steamhammer)

It’s been three years since 2016’s Destruction Day, an album that pleased me in its consistency and classic thrash approach. Sodom now return with their refreshed and revised line-up, including guitarist Frank ‘Blackfire’ Gosdzik who is back for his first album since 1989’s Agent Orange. Alongside him, guitarist Yorck Segatz and Asphyx drummer Stefan Husky" Hüskens make their debut. It’s Tom Angelripper who remains the glue in Sodom though, his blistering bass and guttural roar shortly to enter their fourth decade and he still sounds as energised as ever. Genesis 19 kicks of the five-track EP, and it’s a bruising beast which unsurprisingly takes no prisoners. New songs Down On Your Knees and the haunting but annihilating title track follow the traditional blueprint and unsurprisingly smash hard. A reworked and blistering Agent Orange reminds you that Sodom remain one of thrash metal’s all-time classic bands whilst rounding things off, a live version of Bombenhagel from the band’s 2018 hometown show in Gelsenkirchen. Sodom continue relentlessly, Angelripper never resting in his quest to drive the band forward and for that we should be grateful. Their new album in 2020 could just be the biggest in the band’s stunning history. 7/10

Stormwarrior: Norsemen (Massacre Records)

It’s highly unlikely that Stormwarrior could be anything else but a power metal band. Formed in 1998, Norsemen is their sixth album from the Germans and once more it follows a Viking theme. It’s a bit like Amon Amarth but on warp speed ten. Every track is played at the most blistering pace, the high harmonies reminiscent of fellow countrymen Blind Guardian. The band initially drew their influences from 80s outfits Helloween and Running Wild, but I’d suggest that Norsemen can outrun either of those bands, such is the speed and energy on display here. Founder member Lars Ramcke’s vocals are a little irritating, but that’s more a personal preference than anything critical. His guitar playing however, alongside current fellow guitarist Björn Daigger is as fluid and impressive as any top power metal shredder today.

The water-tight rhythm section of Jörg Uken (drums) and Yenz Leonhardt on bass propel everything forward at astonishing pace. The opening introduction To the Shores Where We Belong provides a classic lead into Norsemen (We Are), an anthemic rip-roaring opening which soon segues into a perfect power metal track in Storm Of The North. The album continues to impress with Shield Wall drawing instant comparisons with Amon Amarth’s song of the same name. Focusing on the same topic, it gives another take on the defensive weapon which served the Vikings so well in their conquests. It’s also delivered at scorching pace. I’m not power metal’s biggest fan but I enjoyed this album immensely. Its crazy pace, the technical ability and the overall heaviness make it one that all metal fans should really give a go. 8/10

Oni: Alone (Metal Blade Records)

2016’s Ironshore saw Rich rave about the Canadian progressive outfit. In fact, he deemed it a “modern metal masterpiece”. Former writer Lee was almost as effusive at their support slot for Devil You Know a year later. Well, three years on Oni are back with their new EP Alone. It combines progressive metal with the Djent and metalcore genes and whilst I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near the music that I would choose to listen to, there is certainly enough here to maintain the interest. The title track is dominated by the staccato bass chug of Chase Bryant and the clean vocals of Jake Oni. Rift isn’t as instant, the jagged rough singing contrasting with the cleaner vocals; again, not my favourite style and one that seems to be very much in vogue these days.

The intricate guitar work impresses, whilst the fleeting Xylosynth work adds depth. However, track four Breathe Again really gets all the antenna twitching. It’s a massive tune that kicks off with roaring guttural vocals, soaring guitar work and that bass sound to the fore before racing away at pace. With the Xylosynth at full bore and fully engaged in the mix and clean vocals that at times echo early Chester Bennington. At 24 minutes in length, this isn’t an EP that overstays its welcome but is crammed full of quality. It may not have got me quivering as much as Rich, but I cannot dispute that Oni are an interesting and powerful band who have produced a solid second release. 7/10

Birdeatsbaby: The World Conspires (Dr Music Records)

This is a fabulous release. Bursting with energy, emotion and carefully crafted melancholic soft melodies. There are changes of direction and style in every song. Although they were new to me, this is their fifth album from the Brighton outfit and provides the listener with 67 minutes of dark progressive rock which interlaces with a myriad of other influences. There are strings that soar, powerful drumming and even bludgeoning riffs which juxtapose neatly with less aggressive songs. Painkiller has an Eastern feel but is viciously heavy at times; there is a steampunk feel to Kill No One The electronic style of Zero Fortythree slowly builds, with the enchanting vocals of Mishkin Fitzgerald supported by Hanna Maria and Garry Mitchell. The emotion is clear in Box Of Razor Blades. References to dark cabaret are understood, and captivating tracks such as Lady Grey and Dido’s Lament (with guest vocals by Feline Lang) keep you entranced. Birdeatsbaby comprises Mishkin Fitzgerald: vocals, piano, accordion, synthesizer, Hana Maria: violin, cello, vocals, harp, barrel organ, Garry Mitchell: bass, guitar, vocals, double bass, Rhodes organ and Anna Mylee: drums and percussion. This album benefits from a crisp production from the legendary John Fryer (Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, HIM). The World Conspires is an album that should entice and ensnare fans of ambient atmospheric progressive rock. 8/10

Monday, 9 December 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Municipal Waste (Live Review By Rich Oliver)

Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Enforcer & Skeletal Remains, The Asylum, Birmingham

With the year coming to an end and the last tours hitting the UK for 2019, a few of us headed up to the homeland of heavy metal the Midlands for a couple of thrashtastic shows, the first of which was in the birthplace of metal, Birmingham. Hosting this gig was the fantastic venue The Asylum which I had never been to before and it was a cracking place with great sound and clear views. We managed to get a good vantage point by the bar and were treated to four fantastic bands which although each slightly different in style all complimented each other well. Each band I would have quite happily paid to see headlining their own shows so to get all four on one bill was brilliant and applause must go to the booking agents who put together this fantastic tour.

With it being a Tuesday night, the venue was only slightly full when Skeletal Remains (8) hit the stage. These Californian death thrashers only had a short set so wasted no time in absolutely pummelling the audience with a mix of crushing thrash and brutal Florida style death metal. Bone fracturing heavy renditions of songs such as Devouring Mortality and Internal Detestation warmed the audience up for the continual onslaught to come.

Next up were Enforcer (9) who whilst being based in more traditional heavy metal played with enough speed, ferocity and aggression that no one could say that they did not belong there. A few of the hardcore thrashers did not look too impressed but most of the crowd were absolutely loving it with the Swedish band’s trad metal on speed style. The only new song played was Die With The Devil but the rest of the set was made up of the older and faster songs such as Undying Evil, Mesmerised By Fire and Take Me Out Of This Nightmare. I have been a fan of Enforcer for many years and this was my first time seeing them live and I absolutely loved every second of it. According to my mates I was with I had a shit eating grin on my face for the entire set.

With the crowd loosened up and with a good quantity of booze down their necks the intensity kicked up a notch for the main support Toxic Holocaust (9), whose blunt and crust punk influenced style of thrash got the crowd moving and the circle pit erupting. Despite being a three-piece, Toxic Holocaust play with a ridiculous amount of volume and intensity and their set was riff after riff and riff with my neck threatening to give out part way through their set. The set was mainly made up of older material with cuts such as Nuke The Cross, The Lord Of The Wasteland, Acid Fuzz, Bitch and War Is Hell ensuring there were some sore necks the next morning.

Bringing the night to a close and the intensity and craziness to a ridiculous level were party thrashers Municipal Waste (9). It’s safe to say that as soon as they hit the stage the crowd absolutely erupted, and it took less than 30 seconds for the first crowd surfers to come flying over the barrier. People were climbing on top of the bar and flying off, the circle pit did not stop until the band finished and a guy even walked into the middle of it with a waste bin at some point. It’s no surprise that things got crazy as Municipal Waste are a feral force of energy live and that energy feeds directly into the crowd. Hell, even my old arse dived into the pit for a short while. The band opened with Unleash The Bastards and it was nonstop from there on with You’re Cut Off, Beer Pressure, Headbanger Face Rip, Breathe Grease, Wrong Answer, Sadistic Magician and Born To Party amongst others. It was also nice to hear Substitute Creature off the bands mostly forgotten debut Waste‘Em All. The band put in such a ridiculously tight performance even though they did not keep still on stage at all. I’ve only ever previously seen Municipal Waste at big outdoor festival shows so to see them in a small sweaty venue was amazing as the arena is where they truly shine.

All in all, this was one of the best shows I’ve been to this year. Every single band smashed it and the energy and intensity made this show such ridiculous fun. Thrash is certainly still king.

Reviews: Church Of The Cosmic, Silent Call, Gévaudan, Archaeologist (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Church Of The Cosmic Skull: Everybody's Going To Die (Self Released)

The third album from Church Of The Cosmic Skull, who are collective that observe The 7 Objects, check out their website the Inner Sanctum to be received by their warm embrace into the cosmic family. Now much like the universe itself the nothing stays the same and since their previous album Sister Amy has departed the collective but the Electric viola of Brother Joseph has been brought in for this third collection of audio recordings. What hasn't changed is the band's blend of prog/pop/glam/rock, part Queen, part The Beatles and with big swathes of space rock and a lot of soundscapes borrowed from Jeff Lynne's ELO, COTCS are band who have always intrigued and entertained me on record but I was disappointed on my sole viewing of them live, however with this third album entering in my orbit it would be remiss not to spin it a few times around my axis and give my opinion.

Fantasy opens with some Brain May guitar playing from Brother Bill, who's soulful, sometimes spoken vocals are an integral part of the band as are the harmonies of Sister Caroline and
Sister Joanne which are often fleshed out to five part harmonisation by Brother Samuel and Brother Michael who along with Bill's fuzzy, Lizzy-like guitar playing is the main instrument of this band layering tracks like Don't You Believe In Magic with both boogieing piano and organ stabs. He is also the major contributor to the title track which talks about death in an upbeat way, without being judgemental as they are "feeling alright" in embracing the darkness which is at the outer reaches of this album. It's followed by Do What You Want (With Love In Your Heart) which has some fleet fingered guitar playing and piano runs on top of a rampaging rhythm section from Brother Laurence (drums) and Brother Samuel (bass).

This record has the most amount of tracks the band have put on a record and along with them with being the most eclectic I'd also say they are some of the best, it's almost like the band have really nailed down their sound, balancing the rockier sound with the pop and psych sounds brilliantly. It's a joyous celebration of the free loving late 60's into the progressive 70's, from the doomy The Hunt to the jazzy Seven these are the Church opening their doors to a wider congregation, which bodes well for their shows in February billed as An Evening With. Yes Everybody's Going To Die but when you have music that doesn't matter, all is love! 8/10

Silent Call: Windows (Rockshots Records)

This is the fourth album from Swedish progressive metal act Silent Call, their first since 2014, and first with new singer Göran Nyström who replaces founding member Andi Kravljača. It is also dear reader their final studio album, it was recorded in 2016 and produced Richard Hinks of Aeon Zen (which features Kravljača on vocals). It seems as if Silent Call are going to go out they are going out swinging with another album of melancholic, emotional progressive metal, something they have been doing since their inception. Opening with Faceless the swansong of Silent Call's career gives you the first taste of Nyström's vocals from the off as the piano-led intro moves into some tough riffs. It's a melodic enough start that brings to mind Symphony X, while Soulshaker has some electro-dance synths and more hard rock edge to it with more power metal touches of Evergrey come in on Imprisoned In Flesh and Clouded HorizonWindows is very strong way of seeing out Silent Call's career, for any progressive metal fans who like it a bit darker then they have always been a band who can be name checked along with those mentioned here so, this album is more bittersuite than even they can muster. 7/10

Gévaudan: Iter (Self Released)

Iter is the debut full length of Hertfordshire doom band Gévaudan. The 5 track album (don't worry the songs are nice and long) tells stories of the interactions between gods and mortals along with the wider themes of the passage into, through and out of existence. Nice heady topics ready for some very heavy metal. Dawntreader starts with Adam Pirmohamed's vocals almost whispered while backed by Bruce Hamilton's solitary guitar, it's an anguished scream and the rhythm section of Andy Salt (bass) and David Himbury (drums) bring the crushing doom riffs as the stripped back opening returns. It's a melancholic opening to the album and one that is very strictly modern doom emotional and raw it leads into the more traditional realms of Maelstrom which has fuzzy doom riffs the drag their way through it's 7 minute plus run time, The Great Heathen Army is more on epic doom track Cathedral would be proud of, with some mind melting psych in the solo. Pirmohamed's voice ideally suited for the bands fusion of new and old as his dramatic delivery is bewitching. The album closes with two longest tracks, the 11 minute Saints Of Blood simmers with more psychedelic passages before boiling over into the heavier sounds where there is even some harsh vocals. The final number is Duskwalker 15 minutes plus of atmospheric doom metal that closes this fantastic doom record, it's miserable, downcast, gloomy and at time monumental in it's scope Iter is a must for any doom metal fans. 8/10

Archaeologist: Winter's Wake (Self Released)

Ok we don't usually review singles but when that single is one 12 minute song in two parts we do get a little interested. Now Archaeologist was founded as the side project of Kyle Schaefer, after number of instrumental releases, including the well received debut OdysseysWinter's Wake is the first that takes a vocals approach in conjunction with the band's progressive mastery, Schaefer has teamed up with guitarist Sean Johnson, drummer Ryan Johnson and bassist George Lallian to make this EP their most accomplished music yet, they've even managed to recruit special guests Scott Carstairs (Fallujah) and Wes Thrailkill (prog-fusion guitarist) to provide some six string assistance on part 1 and 2 respectively. So what is it actually like? Well Part 1 starts with some tapped floating clean guitar playing as Schaefer shows off his melodic vocal, which hasn't been heard on previous releases, he's a great singer with that Haken edge to his voice that moves into screams as well. There's a djent style to this, it's thoroughly modern with palm muted grooves coming in on the soaring choruses, Part 2 is a bit livelier with some heavy prog metal riffs and that stunning solo in the middle taking your breath away. Lively, progressive and heavy Winter's Wake is the next chapter in Archaeologist's evolution. 7/10

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Review: No Man (Large Review By Alex Swift)

No Man: Love You To Bits (Caroline International)

To indulge in genre debates for a moment, I Love You To Bits is not a rock album, by any stretch of the imagination. In many ways, its disco, trip-hop and synth-pop tendencies are divorced from that world entirely. Perhaps the only reason I’m covering No Man here is their two members, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness, deserve significant admiration for their contributions to the world of rock and metal. Still, I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by not considering the minefield of influences which made the musicians we celebrate who they are today. Also, make no mistake, while No-Man may be pop, they’re not playing by the traditional rulebook, instead opting to present a dark, multifaceted view of love and relationships, melded by the erratic yet socially conscious imaginations of our collaborators.

In describing the record Bowness has called it ''The least prog thing we’ve ever done in terms of the music but the most prog thing we’ve ever done in terms of capturing the spirit of what that music did’. He’s not wrong in that analysis. The throbbing beats, changeable melodic phrases and elusive dances which compose Love You To Bits, embody the revolutionary nature of early dance acts, while still being a unique creation by a modern act.

You can tell its progressive by the fact that the entire album is made up of two songs, in five movements each. The first – the self-titled love you to Bits, begins on a surreal, almost otherworldly nature, as the swirling synthesizers and pulsating drums escalate in hypnotism. ‘What are you thinking? What are you dreaming? I’d like to know what’s on your mind. Who are you holding? How are you coping? Did you move on or stay behind’ elucidates that this record is not, as the name initially suggests, a document of a happy marriage. Obsessions. Jealousy and anxiety are all held up to the microscope here, aided by the ceaseless and entrancing compositions of Wilson. Bit 2 slows the lead melody to a slow and haunting weep.

This transitions beautifully into Bit 3 where a harsh – if still insanely danceable guitar riff – loops persuasively, as dissected samples swell and subdue in the background, lending excellently to that sense of doubt embroiled in feelings of unrequited love. Bit 4 reintroduces the trippy nature of the duo’s ambience, the instrumentals, lyrics and electronics blurring into an amorphous musical hallucinogenic which slowly worms its way throughout your senses, before spilling over into a maddened and enraged guitar solo. The final bit draws us back into the lead rhythms and hook, with darkly altered lyrics to reflect the consequences of our protagonist’s lust. ‘I love you, until I can’t love at all’

Next up is Love You To Pieces and considering the ever blackening nature of the first track, the listener has no cause to believe that this will be any more cheerful. While, to some that may seem like a detraction, remember this is Wilson and Bowness we’re considering. They thrive off sadness like a bee thrives off pollen. Indeed, carrying on the themes, the anthem expounds on the shard remnants of the narrator's so-called ‘love’. A droning, whirring melodic phrase plays out here, while dissonant effects, many of them distantly reminiscent of earlier ones, now glare and dazzle. ‘Hopelessly waiting, while feelings were fading, the way it always seemed to me. I found my survival in dreams of escaping, a sticky love, just left me weak’ ring out the first words we hear on Piece 1. From there, the suite takes on a harsh, exacting and mechanical nature. The disco ball representing the albums image, while still echoing the style of the music, now feels strangely dystopian as keyboards, bass and distortion screams and reverberates vexingly. Piece 3 and Piece 4 feels strangely mocking in its bright glittering melodies, contrasted against ceaselessly haunting wordplay.

The album ends on a blissful yet melancholic note, proving a contemplative finish to a work coloured in detail and complexity. As I’ve said before contrast will forever be a strength of these players, and as long as their sadness in the world to contemplate, they will forever continue to meld it into something beautiful. 8/10

Friday, 6 December 2019

Review: Kill, Krusk, Duskwalker, Celesti Alliance (Zach & Matt)

Kill: Devil Mass (Amor Fati Productions) [Zach Williams]

I have a theory that the main reason the Tories are so intent on leaving the European union is that they fear British black metal just isn’t up to the standards of our European counterparts (to clarify, I like British black metal – the Tories are the bad guys here). If that's the case then Devil Mass – the latest offering from Swedish black metaller’s Kill – must have left them scared shitless. Devil Mass is six tracks of grim, esoteric black metal. The opening track Initiation is a swell of screaming feedback that relishes in letting you know what the album has in store for you before ending in an abrupt, deathlike silence (who said black metal can’t be funny?). The opening bass line of Renunciation is just about the doomiest thing I've heard all year, the laughing at the end of A Black Covenant is truly terrifying and the middle of Wilderness Feast sounds like a blackened Iron Maiden which is something I can truly get behind. There is a lot to like about this album (besides the fact it would make Boris Johnson wee his pants). 9/10

Kursk: S/T (WormholeDeath Records) [Matt Bladen]

Now this is a bit of alright! Suffolk's Kursk are a four piece riff machine that sit in the NWOBHM school of music with nods to the originators of Sabbath. Their self titled debut kicks off with some properly great riffing from Jack Mitchell and Tom Baker, as they trade off throughout the 6 minute run time of the first track, shifting between numerous styles from thrash to doom, things do get a little more traditional on Claw Of The Hammer which is a battle metal song led by Luke Drew's bass and Zoran Fisher's percussion. Now I will say that the vocals here a little Marmite Tom has a very deep vocal and he bellows more than sings most of the time, still there's nothing wrong with that but some may find it a little bit different to the other classic metal singers out there.

However this album is very much about the instrumental passages with some nifty twin axe attack and a hearty gallop on King Of Storms. These songs have been around for a while before the formation of the band which came about after they though their previous band wasn't heavy enough. Kursk are heavy, they have written some very interesting metal music that draws from it's influences and is chock full of guitar prowess. If you like bands like Absolva, Primitai or even Fury these Brit metal newbies will hopefully be gracing your stereo soon. 7/10

Duskwalker: All They Know Is Fear (Self Released) [Zach Williams]

I love metal and horror films. It seems like a cheap and easy way to skirt round developing an actual personality but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Give me my riffs chuggy. Give me my Evil Dead. If you, dear reader, are of a similar disposition then may I recommend All They Know Is Fear – the latest album from self-proclaimed ‘horror/ sci-Fi themed beasts’ Duskwalker. It opens with the kind of classic horror synth you’d expect from a John Carpenter movie before making way for what the album is truly about. Thrashy death metal goodness. The riffs are abundant, the drums are relentless and the vocals are just plain grim. There is a certain stomp to The Crawling Tongue that was stuck in my head for days; it is the perfect blend of hooky and heavy. Domus Volant Noctuae is a genuinely beautiful piece of guitar work. This album is confident, in your face and evidently a labour of love. 8/10

Celesti Alliance: Hybrid Generation (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

More traditional metal here as Celesti Alliance cite their influences Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept and Helloween, which you'd expect them to be a 80's styled speed metal that moves into thrash and power metal, with a distinct British/Teutonic sound. So you'll get blast beats, supersonic guitar rundowns/twin guitar harmonies, punchy synths and vocals that reach the stratosphere. Hybrid Generation is their debut album following from two EP's, here they have tried to vary things a bit more but they do tend to sit comfortably in that 80's metal sound with riffs that will get you moving in perfect synchronicity with those who are also listening to it. Now Shadow Children is that variation as it's got a Dio vibe to it due to the keyboard opening, it retains the 80's sound in the production as things get a bit melodic on Broken Memories while Solitude is dramatic and full of synths though it does drag on. The second part of this album brings more modern sounds to it and it closes with the 10 minute epic title track that shows the band at their impressive best with this space age metal opera. Celesti Alliance have released an admirable debut album harking back to a bygone era. 7/10 

Spotlight/VFTBOTR: Interview With Tobi Morelli Of Archspire & Review Of Tech Trek Tour (Dr Claire Hanley & Charlie Rogers)

Dr Claire and Charlie caught up with Archspire guitarist, Tobi Morelli, as the Tech Trek Tour rolled into Bristol.

Interview

MoM: You’re set to play Relentless Mutation in its entirety on the European Tech Trek Tour but do you have any plans for new material?

Tobi: We’ve been working on the next record this past year, while still trying to tour a little bit to, y’know, be able to pay the bills. But we’re pretty much writing full time, Monday to Friday. We’re giving ourselves until Fall 2020 before heading to the studio, and the tentative plan is to have the record out in 2021. Still pushing the boundaries of speed - some of the new tracks we’re working on even exceed the last record. I’m starting to play with an 8-string, so that’s been a challenge. It’s an intense process.

MoM: Archspire take the genre of technical death metal to a whole new level - what makes you want to play so damn fast?

Tobi: Well, why not? Less isn’t more - more is more! The music we like to play is fast, technical, and brutal. We’re not just doing it for the sake of it. We always want to progress and challenge ourselves. How much faster could we go? How else can we push ourselves? Where is the breaking point?

MoM: Which bands are flying the flag for extreme metal right now?

Tobi: That’s a tough one. Actually, the older I get the less metal I’m listening to, which probably sounds like a lame thing to say. Collectively, one of our favourite bands is Soreption, they were on the bill with us and Revocation last year. They’re from Sweden and have a really modern tech death sound. Kinda like Decapitated and Cannibal Corpse.

MoM: If you could design your dream line-up, which bands would you take on tour with you?

Tobi: I mean, Cannibal Corpse would be sweet. Dying Fetus would be rad. I don’t think that would ever happen but they’d be two bands we’d love to tour with. Cattle Decapitation would be sick, they’re buddies of ours too. They would all open up for us, of course. Fastest band gets to headline!

MoM: How do you define achievement and what’s important to you as a band?

Tobi: It’s all about small stepping stones. Playing tech death was always the goal and to be a full-time touring band. That’s what we wanted to do with our lives. To put all our efforts into this art. Starting out small, we wanted to make an album so we needed to get the music written. Then, playing shows and branching out as quickly as possible. Being self-sufficient and not waiting for shit to happen. You just gotta meet people and start networking. We learned so much from just seeing what other bands were doing and taking notes, basically. Touring with Decapitated, Aborted, and Fleshgod Apocalypse in 2011 was a huge learning experience.Getting to see what professional bands do. That was a big boost for us in terms of what we needed to do. The opportunity came up and we knew we needed to do it. Just get on that tour bus! You’ve got to take any opportunity you can get. Do something that makes you stand out and makes people notice; like our merch. We learned a lot from Aborted, who also work with Coki Greenway; they have people lining up as soon as the doors open. Huge prints, lots of colour. Most of the ideas come from brain storming around Oli’s lyrics. We didn’t originally want to do all the gore but it sells – you guys love brutal, gory shirts!

MoM: What have been your career highlights so far?

Tobi: I’d say being in a touring tech death band is pretty niche, and being able to do that for a living for the last two years. We also got nominated for a Juno award, which is like a Canadian Grammy, for Relentless Mutation back in 2018, which was an awesome recognition.

MoM: Having a PhD in Neuroscience, you’re more likely to find me giving lectures than interviewing bands. Flipping things around, if you were going to study for a PhD, what subject would you choose?

Tobi: If it can still be music related, it’d be cool to be a film composer. Making music for films is definitely something I’d go back to school for. A buddy I grew up with did his PhD in Music Theory, and wrote his thesis on Meshuggah’s I. Now, he teaches a class on extreme music in Montreal. It sounds like it’s totally made up but he’s teaching kids about death metal.

Review

Tech Trek Europe - Archspire, Beneath The Massacre, Vulvodynia & Inferni, Exchange, Bristol

Opening proceedings were Inferi (8); a State-side, tech-death band on their UK debut. A band destined for success, they held the audience captive from the start to the finish of their intricate and dynamic set. Somewhat out of place on such a tech-driven line-up, South African Slam-Gods Vulvodynia (3) divided the audience. They got the die-hard fans of the genre moving but failed to engage the majority with their stomping riffs . We were expecting big things from Beneath The Massacre’s (6) return but were sadly disappointed by their lacklustre and visually uninspiring performance. Solid material with a few tech-gems but all few and far between. On the contrary, Archspire (9) greeted us with all the energy you’d expect from the Canadian speed demons; executing the Relentless Mutation album with flawless precision, plus Rapid Elemental Dissolve, Lucid Collective Somnambulation, and Scream Feeding from their earlier records. The between-song banter with the crowd was also on-point, showing just how animated and engaging the band are. Our only criticism was the length of the set, which with no encore, left us wanting more.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Reviews: Fleshcrawl, Moon Chamber, Burning Witches, SxWxP (Matt & RIch)

Fleshcrawl: Into The Catacombs Of Flesh (Apostasy Records) [Rich Oliver]

It’s almost the end of the year but 2019 is still serving up some top quality albums and one of the latest is the ninth album from German death metal veterans Fleshcrawl. If you are a death metal maniac then Fleshcrawl are a band who need no introduction yet despite being around since 1991 and releasing several fantastic albums such as Descend Into The Absurd and Made Of Flesh I don’t feel they are a band who have gotten the recognition they quite rightly deserve. It doesn’t seem to bother Fleshcrawl though as despite Into The Catacombs being the first album from the band in 12 years they pick up straight from where they left off with 39 minutes of gnarly old school death metal.

Into The Catacombs Of Flesh is 12 songs of filthy death metal putridity with sharp riffs, plenty of groove, tight rhythms, guttural roars and a guitar tone dirtier than a portaloo at the end of a festival. The songs range from the fast and flesh ripping such as Chained Impalement and the title track, mid paced numbers with plenty of dirty groove such as Grave Monger and Ossurary Rituals and songs which have leanings into melodeath such as Obliteration Bizarre and Among Death And Desolation. Into The Catacombs Of Death is another formidable entry in the Fleshcrawl discography and is essential listening if you like your old school death metal. This is a fantastic return for Fleshcrawl showing that nearly 30 years later that the old school bands still do it the best. 8/10

Moon Chamber: Lore Of The Land (No Remorse Records) [Matt Bladen]

What do you get if you form a band with Marta Gabriel, singer of Crystal Viper and Rob Bendelow founder and guitarist of British rock stalwarts Saracen? Well you get a band influenced by 70's/80's hard rock an drenched in English folklore and history (something Bendelow is particularly au fait with). Opening with the De Temporum Ratione, the prog gets amped up from the outset as Bendelow guitar passages bring open power chords when linked with drummer Andy Green (Pagan Altar) and Marta on bass (though Rob's son Richard is now the bands bassist) it's the organs of Saracen's Paul Bradder that are especially prevalent giving the track an element of Rainbow as it explodes into a guitar solo finale. It's a strong way to open the record unfortunately the poppy Only is much weaker, happily When Stakes Are High gets better and has a NWOBHM gallop along with lyrics about witches, it gets the pace going showing Gabriel's vocals to their full.

I must say here that Rob's guitar playing is brilliant throughout (it's part of the reason I actually quite like Saracen), Ravenmaster maintains the NWOBHM sound as We'll Find A Way layers folky acoustics with romantic lyricism, it's a brilliant ballad that breaks up the album as it sits in the middle of the record. Leading to folkier tunes such as The Nine Ladies which has some excellent fiddle as it moves into the dramatic The Goddess And The Green Man, which is built around Gabriel's vocal histrionics and a strutting riff. I'll level with you, when I listened to this album first I didn't really think much of it, maybe it was a bad day, maybe it was the copious amount of death metal I'd immersed myself in, I don't know. But after another listen it hooked me, this isn't some band from the "good old days" reconvening for one last gasp, this is one of the originators of the genre (who are still recording and touring) teaming up with members from bands influenced by it for some classy hard rock that has some big hooks, fist pumping riffs, clever lyrics and a cover of Saracen's Crusader, Lore Of The Land is an accomplished debut for this band that I hope are more than a one off. 8/10

Burning Witches: Wings Of Steel (Nuclear Blast) [Rich Oliver]

Wings Of Steel is the latest release from Swiss heavy metallers Burning Witches. Released as an EP this is really a glorified single with one new song and three bonus live songs. The new song itself is the title track which opens this release and is an enjoyable piece of storming heavy metal with a big wedge of power metal influence in there as well. The pace is fast, the riffs are aggressive, the drumming is relentless and all presided over by then melodic yet snarling vocals of singer Laura Guldemond. It’s a great song to be fair and a good teaser of what is to come on the upcoming third album from Burning Witches. The rest of the EP is made up of three live songs recorded at Wacken Open Air earlier this year and whilst they are decent recordings they lack a bit of energy and are somewhat inferior to the studio recordings. They are by no means terrible but they lack a wow factor. This EP is decent enough for fans of the band but somewhat redundant for anyone else as it is essentially a glorified single. 6/10

SxWxP: Trans Am Jams (Self Released)

From Louisville, KY come groovesters SxWxP, founded by singer/guitarist Dave “Sailor” Bryant formerly of My Own Victim and Surviving Thalia. He's formed a new band and has obviously listened to a lot of Down and Alabama Thunderpussy in the interim as this album is full of NOLA grooves, Rising Tides purrs like a V8, as Bryant's vocals move between soulful and shouted as Closing Time brings some Pantera guitar riffs, though it never really moves away from this style. It's as American as apple pie, riffs to make you nod your head and some searing solos that are reminiscent of Dimebag of Zakk Wylde, especially on I Tried, Drink Till I Die is a bit more of change with some doomier riffs after the acoustic opening. SxWxP have made a heavy metal album that has jumped in the gap left by both Abbott brothers, if you like this kind of Southern Groove metal then you'll be cranking up these Trans Am Jams as loud as possible. 6/10

Reviews: Goatchrist, Kaoteon, Down In One, Horned Almighty (Paul S, Rich & Paul H)

Goatchrist: Pythagoras (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Goatchrist is a one man project based in Wakefield in the north of England, Dominator Xul’Ahabra being the one man in question. Goatchrist have been in existence since 2014, and Pythagoras is the bands first album. However, Dominator has not been idle in those 5 years, he has produced 2 EP’s, 5 Singles and Goatchrist has appeared on several compilations. Goatchrist’s musical style is rooted in Black Metal but is very experimental, so the material is sometimes quite a long way from an orthodox Black Metal sound. Lyrically the album is about Greek philosopher Pythagoras, one of the first Greek philosophers, you will probably remember him from maths classes. He has mainly been remembered for geometry, in particular triangles; but as with a lot of early philosophers Pythagoras worked in a lot of different areas. Pythagoras also discovered that there was a relationship between musical intervals and numerical ratios, this discovery led to the belief that the study of mathematics was the key to understanding the structure and order of the universe. Personally I love the fact that this album has highly intelligent and interesting lyrical themes.

The album kicks off with an instrumental called The Initiation Of Pythagoras by Thoth Hermes Tresmegistus, which is short and features Horns and Drums. Next comes Worlds, which is black metal with classical melodies. The track is a little reminiscent of Japanese Band Sigh, in particular their album In Somniphobia. The track is multi-layered, featuring guitars, keyboards and what sounds to me like a Mellotron. The song gets a little bit jazzy in the second half, with the addition of piano and saxophone. The Tetractys opens with a Harpsichord, before going into some fairly bouncy, mid-paced neo-classical metal. As the song progresses it gets more aggressive and heavier, with a chanting section. Pythagorean Solids opens with very aggressive, thrashy riffs that drive the track forward, before the feel of the track changes when (what sounds to me like) a Hammond Organ is added. This gives the track a feel that is similar to Solefald’s album Neonism, which also mixes black metal with big organs (Solefald have had several different styles over their career, Neonism has a very particular sound), the song also has a spoken word section, which is very effective.

Introduction To Numbers is a short instrumental featuring piano and bongos, and, as the title suggests acts as an introduction to the next track. Numbers opens with probably the most ‘Black Metal’ part of the album; fast blast beats with aggressive tremolo picked riffs over the top. After this battering the track slows down and feels relaxed and jazzy, before the tempo goes up again and again, it’s reminiscent of Sigh. The track has a very strong, classical style melody, and near the end we get another spoken word section, this time about Monads. Harmony Of The Spheres is a simple instrumental featuring beautiful swells of sound, which to my ears sound like they originated from various Tibetan Singing Bowls. Metempsychosis opens with a bass line before guitar and keyboards come in, making this a mid-tempo’d slightly bouncy bit of Black Metal. The track gets bigger and more dynamic as it goes along, until in the last third when the tempo goes up, a fast piano line is added and the track runs to the end as a tout, driving piece of Black Metal.

The album comes to an end with The Death Of Pythagoras, which feels more like a New Wave track, with maybe a little bit of Killing Joke in there as well. The Death Of Pythagoras also boasts a hidden track; after a couple of minutes of silence we get a short Electronica track to round everything off. Pythagoras is a fantastic piece of work. The problem with experimental music, is that sometimes experiments don’t work. This experiment however has been very successful. The fact that I have compared this album to Sigh’s In Somniphobia, one of the best experimental Black metal albums ever made, should highlight just how good this album is. There are a couple of issues with the sound, but as this was recorded by one person in a home studio, that is very forgivable. This is a fantastic first album, the song writing shows a lot of maturity and incredible creativity. If this is what he can do as a first album, in a home studio; who knows what masterpieces he can come up with, with a little more experience and a professional studio. Pythagoras is highly intelligent, beautifully creative, and deeply evocative album. I look forward to hearing what Goatchrist come up with next. 8/10 

Kaoteon: Kaoteon (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

It’s mad to think that 2019 is almost over and even madder that we are already getting albums for release in 2020 through to review. So here it is the first review of a 2020 release from me and thankfully it is a very good one. It is the self titled third album of Lebanese blackened death metallers Kaoteon. The band have recently relocated to the Netherlands and joining frontman Walid Wolflust and guitarist Anthony Kaoteon on this album are none other than bassist Linus Klausenitzer from Obscura and drummer extraordinaire Adrian Erlandsson of At The Gates.

What we have on Kaoteon is a striking and well balanced mix of black metal and death metal with equal footing on viciousness and atmosphere. The album very much leans into the melodic side of things with strong memorable melodies in each song. All these ingredients combined make an album that is frenzied yet with an epic feel. It very much reminded me of a more death metal leaning Abbath or Dark Fortress. There is incredibly strong guitar work throughout whilst the superstar rhythm section is nothing but spectacular as you would expect and the vocals vary from violent screams to guttural growls.
The songs range from fast and ferocious to more mid placed and melodic. The songs are all very well crafted with the strong melodic guitar lines used to great effect throughout the album from relentless opener Wolves Of Chaos to the epic closer Acheronta Movebo. Having not heard the previous two Kaoteon albums I have nothing to compare it to but this is a fantastic release for those who like extreme music but with rich melodies. 8/10

Down In One: One For The Road (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Meaty, muscular riffs. Gravel throated roaring vocals. Tight rhythm section. Anthemic songs which grab you by the collar and force you to bang your head. Welcome to One For The Road, debut album from Nottingham four-piece Down In One. It’s gnarly, it’s full of stoner goodness in the robust style of London biker kings Orange Goblin and it’s quite fabulous. Gon Pan’s throaty vocals fit the crunching riffage to a tee, especially on the beefier songs such as Lost Demons and Mad Gun. The guitar work of James Allsop is neat, some cutting edges adding to the thick, heaviness that this band deliver. It’s an album to party hard to, something which appears to be part of the band’s mission statement. Grab One For The Road and see for yourself. 7/10

Horned Almighty: To Fathom The Masters Grand Design (Scarlet Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Album number six by the Danish black metal outfit. I’m not familiar with much of their catalogue so working on this as a one-off album provided the chance to take it at face value. I was impressed. The driving rhythms, soaring tremolo riffing and atmospheric elements alongside the guttural voice of S combined to great effect. There’s plenty of melody underpinning the songs but the heaviness and malevolent approach rarely fades. Tracks such as Antagonism Eternal ooze with intricate patterns whilst the explosive Violent Cosmology which opens the release is aptly named. With most of the tracks of enough length to build and develop, there is plenty to embrace and immerse yourself in. Powerful passages should satisfy the old school black metal fan whilst there is enough variety to appeal to those less familiar with the band. A demonic close to the year. 8/10