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Wednesday 30 January 2019

Reviews: Rival Sons, Hecate, Enthroned, State Of Ember, Hath (Paul H & Sean)

Rival Sons: Feral Roots (Atlantic Records) [Paul H]

2016’s Hollow Bones was the album that really catapulted Rival Sons to headline status. A phenomenal force live, I’ve been fortunate enough to see them a few times, most recently a couple of years ago with a weekend stealing show at Steelhouse Festival. With their sixth album, Feral Roots, the band has moved up another level and provided some of the most gloriously delicious retro sounding rock that you’ll hear in 2019. Scott Holiday once again demonstrates his quality with some stellar guitar work, soaring skywards to the stratosphere on more than one occasion but certainly excelling on the psychedelic All Directions, the gritty title track and the stunning Imperial Joy.

Anchored by the reliable duo of Mike Miley and Dave Bente throughout, Holiday and vocalist Jay Buchanan are free to duel it out in classic Page/Plant style. Buchanan is, in my view, one of the greatest frontmen in hard rock today, and Feral Roots allows him free reign to demonstrate his incredible range and versatility. The End Of Forever is case in point, as he hits the higher echelons with ease; balanced by a soulful performance on Shooting Stars where the band are accompanied by a gospel choir to stunning effect.

A band that have toured as support to numerous bands; I recall seeing them open for Judas Priest in Newport whilst they also were the main support for Sabbath on The End tour in 2017, are no longer in need of such slots. Feral Roots is a slick, professional and top-quality album. If you like hard rock, you need this in your life. 9/10

Hecate Enthroned: Embrace Of The Godless Aeon (M-Theory Audio) [Sean]

Before I became enamoured with all things HM-2, there was my first love; symphonic black metal. The the amalgamation of the grim and grandiose blew my teenage mind, how the two contrasting yet emotive elements synergised into works of evocative majesty. Whilst it may have also spawned some rather cringe inducing moments, there is thankfully more quality outweighing the cartoonish. From Norway’s Emperor to Australia’s Nazxul, a sudden surge of potent power was emerging from across the globe in the 90’s, and on our own shores too. Which brings us to the Welsh born stalwarts Hecate Enthroned, who along with Bal-Sagoth and of course, Cradle Of Filth, have been proudly flying their blackened banner of British BM for over 20 years. Returning once more with Embrace Of The Godless Aeon, Hecate Enthroned are set to conduct a veritable symphony of destruction. Are you sitting comfortably?

Ascension gradually builds atmosphere, leading into the fiery expulsion of Revelations In Autumn Flame and am immediately assailed by blastbeats, shrieks and somewhat overbearing synths. Whilst the symphonic elements occupy a bit too much of the dynamic space, I can’t deny the sheer power on display. Blunted the axes may be, Hecate Enthroned still succeed in conjuring a vast swarm of theatrical sorcery, the slight shifts to major briefly allow the guitars to shine. Temples That Breathe is more of the same, ferocity balanced with pomposity. I notice that the guitars lean towards providing more of an accompaniment than riffs, though they still provide adequate muscle in propelling this inferno orchestra onwards (THOUGH THEY COULD BE LOUDER!). Goddess Of Dark Misfits is a wonderfully melodramatic piece of campy theatre, bolstered by the prodigious vocal talent of one Sarah Jezebel Deva.

However hard I try to hold onto what little trve sensibilities I have left, they’re swept away by this concert of infernal carnality. Whisper Of The Mountain Ossuary is a more depressive number, though the synths start to irritate me some halfway through. Enthrallment doesn’t truly grab until the band strip down to haunting acoustics, embracing it’s inner suicidal vibes before The Shuddering Giants blasts into life. Silent Conversations With The Stars meanders ever so slightly, though the power contained within is undeniable. Erebus And Terror is quite simply spellbinding. Layers build as a bell chimes out in the darkness, both band and Deva wielding ethereal energies in maelstrom of malefic might. A powerful and cinematic closer.

I’ll admit, I’m rather picky regarding the integration between the metallic and the symphonic. Too often, the elements jar and the whole thing can turn into an awkward pantomime of silliness. I still dislike the inclusion of grand piano in black metal, don’t ask why, it’s just always come across as gimmicky and often poorly implemented. Here though? I don’t mind. A small concession to make, if it means enjoying an otherwise fine display of orchestral black metal and Embrace Of The Godless Aeon is just that. Sure, things deflate a touch after the halfway mark, but one cannot deny the power of the compositions and the individuals that crafted them. Every blast, every throat shredding scream and riff contribute to much larger piece of art, sure to satisfy all with a taste for the opulent and oppressive. To summarise, Embrace… is solid offering and you’d be lying out your arse if you didn’t make some connection with Hecate Enthroned’s brand of blackened wizardry. 8/10

State Of Ember: Broken Horizons (Self Released) [Paul H]

I shuddered when I received this to review. It had the alt-rock tag on it. But I was pleasantly surprised from start to finish. A punchy 19 minute six-track release, full of snarling punk attitude but with a hard rock edge, and superbly performed. The band formed in Worcestershire in 2016 and released an EP in 2017, Clouded Views. With their song Denial part of the soundtrack to a PS4 game (this is something that appeals to young persons apparently) the band, Chris Tamburro (vocals/guitar), bassist Mike Landreth and drummer Chelsea McCammon have clearly taken full opportunity to maximise the momentum. From the blistering Reasons through to Fear Of Falling with its fuzzed-up bass sound via the hyperactive opener Time & Time, there is nothing here to find fault with. Short, sharp and in your face, this is a three-piece with a big sound who have the kind of energy that these days I can only dream about. It’s a real joy to be proved wrong and State Of Ember did exactly that. 8/10

Hath: Of Rot And Ruin (Willowtip Records) [Paul H]

Hath are a four piece from New Jersey comprising Peter Brown (guitars), drummer AJ Viana, Frank Albanese on guitar and vocals and Greg Nottis on bass and vocals. Having released an EP Hive in 2015, the band has now completed it’s debut long player. Of Rot And Ruin is badged as death metal but present with many of the attributes of a black metal outfit. The soaring vocals which compliment the guttural spewage which pours forth, the tremolo picking and the blast beat drumming all point towards the blacker side. Anyway, regardless of what label we stick on them, Hath are a very impressive outfit and Of Rot And Ruin a sweet piece of meat. The opening salvo is as intense a battery as you will, Usurpation and Currents crushing all that are foolish enough to stand in their path.

The band blast through several brutal tracks before moving to a slower but monstrously heavy Withered, which ebbs and flows, searing speed mixed with slower, doom laden passages which still slay all. And then we arrive at Worlds Within, which starts with some of the most intense death metal on the album but morphs into some beautifully crafted acoustic instrumental work which whilst being at odds with most of the album fits perfectly. Think Opeth slowly jamming freestyle in the middle of their heavier stuff and you’ll get the picture. Of course, it doesn’t last, and we are soon off and running with those riffs of severity, bludgeoning drumming and sinister growls. Acoustic calm provides further respite on Kindling, at 2:32 the shortest track on this interesting release whilst penultimate track Accursed mixes things up again with a combination of brain pulverising riffage and calmer melody. At 57 minutes you must give this a few listens to get really involved but it is certainly worth the investment. 8/10

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