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Sunday 6 January 2019

Reviews: Nailed To Obscurity, Swallow The Sun, Wille & The Bandits, Steel Engraved (By Matt, Paul H & Rich)

Nailed To Obscurity: Black Frost (Nuclear Blast) [Matt]

I'll level with you I hadn't heard of German death/doom merchants Nailed To Obscurity until I saw them play at Bloodstock last year, they did impress with their thundering heavy doom cut with death metal vocals. So I couldn't turn up the chance to review their latest album when it hit MoM Towers, mainly to see if they could replicate what they do live on record. The band hail from the Esens in Lower Saxony the town has a population of 7,000 and they are looking to leave their mark on the metal world with this fourth album (their first for Nuclear Blast). The war drums of the title track set things of with a building intro that brings in bass for repetition while a guitar slide brings the morose vocals it's in this one track you can hear what Nailed To Obscurity are about as a band.

With shades of Katatonia and Opeth (frontman Raimund Ennenga is so much like Akerfeldt it hurts) they are a melodic, doomy death metal band who have added a different touch to this record than on their previous one which took off at a much more savage pace all dual leads and blast beats, here the riffs swirl with melancholy, the songs brood and build into much more mature pieces. According to guitarist Jan-Ole Lamberti (one half the founding six stringers with Volker Dieken) say that "Our main goal was to do something different. I think Black Frost sounds like Nailed To Obscurity there are a lot of similarities but it’s different." If the more moody, ambient, dramatic style of metal is your bag then I'd suggest grabbing a copy of Black Frost from your local retailer, it's the perfect album to get you through the January blues. 8/10

Swallow The Sun: When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light (Century Media) [Paul H]

2015’s triple album Songs From the North was well worth the effort in the end but you had to work for the rewards, particularly after the much lauded Emerald Forest And The Blackbird. The eighth long player from the Finns is now with us and When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light is likely to be one of the albums of year. Crammed with their trademark melancholic doom but lit by some beautiful melody, this album continues the band’s evolution. The opening chords of the title track immediately confirm that Swallow The Sun have traversed deep into their painstakingly explored sound of the past fifteen years.

The Crimson Crown and Firelights maintain the journey. It is fuelled by personal loss, with its origins deeply entwined with Trees Of Eternity's Broken Mirror (with the much missed late Aleah Stanbridge). Mikklo Kotamaki’s perfect dark vocals are enhanced by harmonies and melodies which flow and pour through the album. Percussion and tender guitar support Clouds On Your Side before the song ignites into a fireball; Delicate strings augment closing track Never Left. At times crushingly heavy, at times ethereal and fragile, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light has been meticulously and lovingly created. It is already deserving of a place in 2019’s higher placings. 9/10

Wille & The Bandits: Paths (Fat Toad Records) [Matt]

One play of Wille & The Bandits' fifth studio album Paths and you would be forgiven for thinking this is a band from the American West Coast, the use of 60's and 70's sounds with blues, hard rock, Americana, electronic music, funk soul etc all comes from that region and Wille & The Bandits bring all of these sounds into this album. However they are not American, nope in fact this rootsy trio hail from Cornwall but they have been plying their trade for good while now to much acclaim from critics, they were voted ones to watch at Glastonbury by The Guardian, and musicians alike the slide playing of Wille Edwards has been hailed by Joe Bonamassa. Joey Bones is also one of the high profile artists they have shared the stage with, others being Deep Purple, Status Quo, Warren Haynes and Jon Butler Trio (who the band take a lot of their sound from).

Wille describes Paths like so "I feel that we have finally managed to capture the various soundscapes and unusual instrumentation of our sound on an album without losing the raw live energy". One look at the credits and you can see this Wille handles the vocals along with electric/acoustic guitars, lap steel, dobro and Weissenborn, Matt Brooks takes all manner of bass an cello/strings while Andrew Naumann plays every percussion instrument going. It's a real cornucopia of sounds from the bottle neck blues of One Way, to finger picked ballad Four Million Days, the hip-hop influenced Keep It On The Down-Low and the tribal Find My Way.

The songs deal with a number of issues but the overarching lyrical influence is how the government have failed to protect us and the environment, on the swaggering Make Love and Southern rocking of Retribution, however it also deals with Wille becoming a father on Watch You Grow and depression on How Long which is a tribute to Chris Cornell and obvious vocal influence. It's a thoroughly retro feelling record that uses modern production techniques to bring a larger sonic palette, because of this it works on two levels, it's immediately accessible but the true talent here is audible after repeated listens, a few weeks in and 2019 has one of it's most musically eclectic releases so far. 8/10

Steel Engraved: Steel Engraved (ROAR - Rock Of Angels Records) [Rich]

Steel Engraved are a heavy metal band from Germany with this self titled album being the third by the band. Steel Engraved have a classic heavy metal sound but influences from contemporary metal and European power metal are quite prevalent in their sound. I found this a fairly tedious album - there are moments of great promise that unfortunately come to nothing. There’s very little excitement or energy in the music with the band sounding like they are phoning it in half the time. Most of the songs go by and leave no lasting impression whatsoever.

The moments where this album does shine are the more power metal influenced songs such as Nightwarriors and Rebellion which have a bit more energy to them. Unfortunately these songs are in the minority and the majority of the album simply sounds tired and uninspired. It’s a shame that this album so failed to grab my attention as the band definitely have the capability to be a great heavy metal act. I haven’t heard the previous albums so don’t know if this is a third album slump but the band definitely need more energy and enthusiasm in their sound. 5/10

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