This has been a long time coming. Darkwater's first two albums were excellent chunks of melodic progressive metal. Where Stories End their previous album was released nine years ago so this one has had a long gestation period but one that has really paid dividends. Produced by the genius Jacob Hansen and delving "into a world of you and me, how we affect the world around us and the struggles we deal with as humans."
These lyrics are delivered embodied by the still stunning vocals of Henrik Båth who croons with soul as the band; Markus Sigfridsson (guitars), Simon Andersson (bass), Magnus Holmberg (keyboards) and Tobias Enbert (drums), play a cinematic style of metal such as Kamelot and Serenity, with a track like Reflection Of A Mind being full of drama as the pianos (Magnus Holmberg) lead along with the drums (Tobias Enbert) and guitars (Markus Sigfridsson & Simon Andersson, these layered compositions are really bolstered by the production of Jacob Hansen making this probably the best sounding Darkwater album ever. When progressive metal is done well it can really impress and Darkwater do it as good as any of the big boys. 8/10
Antarticus: S/T (Green Needle Records)
Antarticus are a trio that hail from the Great White North (Whitehorse Yukon), their debut full length album is bookended by two simmering 80's synth reminiscent of synthwave, Crystal Caravan the intro builds like a Vangelis number. The rest of the album that sits in the middle is full of chunky stoner riffage as this three piece lock in for heavy grooves and jazz improvisations. To my critical ear Antarticus sound like a fusion of The Sword and Mastodon with songs such as Wöld War having a Sabbath-like swagger that grows, like many of their songs, into cascading guitar solos. Holding down the rhythm are Dustin Parsons (drums) and Mack Smith, who not only plays bass, but also sings and gives the synths, while Addam Parsons has some exploratory guitar playing mainly on the psychedelic Cosmic Exile. As Stoneburner's electronics fade into memory like a replicant in the rain, Antarticus is a very strong debut release from these Yukon natives. 7/10
Omicida: Defrauded Reign (Self Released)
I've talked about White Wizzard before, mainly about how the sum of it's parts are actually better than the whole. Omicida is yet another band featuring members of that band (most of whom are now in Monument), their debut EP hinted at a much nastier direction than Monument and Holy Grail (the most well known post WW bands) and on this full length they have really become a tenacious, take no prisoners thrash act. They have changed their line up since then with only drummer Giovanni Durst (WW & Monument) remaining as the rest of the band are fleshed out by vocalist Giovanni Barbieri, guitarists Will Wallner (Will Wallner/Vivian Vain, ex-White Wizzard), Dan Baune (Monument) and bassist Daniel Bate (Benediction, Monument, ex -Absolva).
This is the line up that has this album snarling from the very beginning and I will tell you something if you're already missing Slayer then I'd pick up Defrauded Reign as it's the nearest your going to get, double kicks and down-tuned thrash riffs are met by explosive lead bursts and Barbieri's Araya screams, the subject matter too is akin to Hanneman/King lyrics with tales of horror, murder and politics especially Violent Resolution, Burn The Cross and The Supremacist which explode out of the speakers like they could have come off South Of Heaven (a riff nicked on Unborn) while elsewhere Protect And Serve and State Of Terror have a heavy Testament stomp to them. Full thrash fury from start to finish absolutely intense, dry those tears a new reign has begun. 8/10
Grande Fox: Space Nest (Self Released)
Characterised as space psychedelic stoner heavy rock Thessaloniki act Grande Fox play fuzzy heavy riff rock that Greeks love, don't expect a lot of melody, this is about riffs, thick sludgy riffs in fact and from a band that cite Karma To Burn as an influence it's easy to see why these songs are so discordant with some grizzled vocals over top of distorted riffs that are only matched in their aural power by the mind twisting psych elements, Burned Beard is the best example of this having the space rock force of Hawkwind. At the moment the band are a three piece of Lefteris Zaoskoufis (guitar), Nick Berzamanis (vocals) and Vasilis Theodosiades (guitar) with a session drummer and bassist who must be as mad as the rest of the band to really make sure this album fucks with your mind as much as possible, if QOTSA and Neurosis float your boat then Grande Fox the grab a handful of quaaludes and phase out. 7/10