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Tuesday 29 January 2019

Reviews: Thunder, Wretched Fate, Eyes Of The Living, Maniac (Paul H & Sean)

Thunder: Please Remain Seated (BMG) [Paul H]

If you’ve ever seen Thunder, you’ll have to have been made of stone not to have enjoyed them. Their show last summer at Caerphilly Castle (supported by the magnificent Hand Of Dimes) was one of the gigs of the year and showcased their strengths and qualities perfectly. They may well attract the Steelhouse and Planet Rock crowd but there is something about Danny Bowes’ dad dancing, Luke Morley’s unassuming rock star style or the unflappable drumming of Harry James that make their appeal as welcoming to hardcore metalheads as it is to your mum and dad. Of course, it’s their music that attracts such a vast variety of fans so Please Remain Seated is something of a risk. Taking a bunch of your own songs and revamping them in a semi-acoustic style threatens to split the hardcore fan base.

Thankfully, this album works beautifully. Recorded in five days, there is a genuine ‘warts and all’ feel about it, with some chatter and unintended sound effects included from across the sessions. Whilst Thunder have always had ballads and slower songs, Please Remain Seated takes some of the rockier tracks like Girl’s Going Out Of Her Head and revises them; this one for example has a swing style. It works. Just Another Suicide and Blown Away are two of the stand out tracks on an album which is unlikely to do anything but increase the band’s popularity still further. Calm controlled and crafted, this is an album that also allows Luke Morley to show just what a superb guitarist he is. They may joke about their age but with a nine-date all-seated UK tour due to start next week this may be Messrs Morley, Bowes, Matthews, James and Childs most mature performance yet. 8/10

Wretched Fate: Fleshletting (Redefining Darkness Records) [Sean]

Ah, 2019. You’ve not excited long and already there’s mighty evil afoot. Fresh your first inhale may have been, a rank odour now fills your lungs, supplanting youthful vigour with staggered coughing and retching fits. The shadow of death dogs your every step, drawing closer with each passing second, accompanied by the sound of filthy gutturals and grinding riffs with all four knobs dialled to 11. Yes, you know of what I speak. Fucking Swedeath! Lengthy preamble out of the way, we come to our first rotten slab of Scandinavian slaughter with Fleshletting, the debut monstrosity from newcomers Wretched Fate. And what a debut it is! I'm not saying this out of shameless adoration of all things HM-2 related, but I’ll be a damned if Fleshletting ain’t a hell if an impressive debut. Get your axe boys, things are about to get blood(bath)y……

Opening track, Wretched Fate, quickly establish itself at breakneck tempo, all tremolo riffs and blasts with reckless abandon. You know the drill folks, though Wretched Fate take care to insert flashes of technicality amongst the razor sharp riffing. Savage opener, though nothing too surprising. Altars Of Misery somehow manages marry symphonic elements into the butchery, usually anathema to this sort of things. And yet it works! Fear Expulsion strays a step further, embracing all manner of angular riffing and greater sense of melody, it’s haunting choirs truly making for an expansive listening experience. Once again, another slight curveball amongst the killing. Taker Of Souls is back to genre basic but delivered with much intensity, though it’s a more Germanic muscle than the traditional Stockholm being flexed here, somewhat reminiscent of Vomitory. This is comes again on Heading For A Beheading, veering between d-beat groove and furious blasting. Epitaph is a more measured beast, slowing the tempo to a crawl as layers of soaring guitars inviting a more epic flavour to set in. Split Tongue Illumination draws the bloodshed to a close, bringing those choirs back once more and showcasing bands shameless love for horror. A fitting end, indeed.

I love this sort of stuff, I really do and Wretched Fate clearly love it too. Sure, Fleshletting isn’t original but neither is it cookie cutter. There’s plenty of meat ’n’ spuds to satisfy genre purist, but there are also instances where the band introduce subtle notes of experimentation, tweaking the formula just enough to elevate the carnage into something beyond Bloodbath worship. Swedeath doesn’t usually allows for much experimentation, after all, if it ain’t broke then why fix it? For the most part, Wretched Fate don’t BUT they do far more than simply ape the sound carved by their forebears. By injecting their own identity into the carnage, “Fleshletting” becomes a monstrous debut that will be on repeat till my neck gives out, my arteries harden and my flesh become sustenance for the crows. The Swedish Saw is the fucking law! 8/10

Eyes Of The Living: War On Dead - More Dead (Pavement Records) [Paul H]

A four-piece thrash outfit from Philadelphia, Eyes Of The Living make no bones about their style. This is their second album, following on from 2017’s War On Dead, and it is another rich and confident performance. Thick riffs, driving beats and some neat guitar work combine with a vocal style which reminds me of the Aussie thrashers 4ARM. The four members of the band are no newcomers to the metal scene, having served their dues in the 1990s US underground metal scene. Tim Swisher on vocals and guitar leads to charge, with Chris Moore on bass, guitarist Mike Straiton and drummer Cliff Fritts the able lieutenants. 

The biggest problem with this album is the length. Clocking in at 61 minutes, there is a sense of repetition by the time you hit Pull The Trigger, one of many similar tracks on an album that rocks hard and is an enjoyable listen. Maybe I’m being a little harsh here, but I can’t help thinking that 45 minutes of the hard hitters such as Run For Your Life and Hell On Earth would have allowed the attention to remain focused just a little more. 6/10

Maniac: Ruthless (Self Released) [Paul H]

Toulon based Maniac deliver some of the filthiest hardcore blackened death metal I’ve heard for a long time. Pulsing and throbbing, full of groove and some thick riffage, and backed by the most guttural vocals this side of Corpsegrinder. With a lineup change in 2017, the outfit that formed in 2005 may not be the same as that which delivered the first two albums, but there is still plenty to sink your canines into here. The curved ball arrives in the middle of the release, the instrumental almost electronica infused start to Modus Operandi which then erupts into more violent filth. When a band state that their influences are murder, suffering, insanity and death they are either complete fucktards or a death metal band. I’m plumping for the latter and the band, made up of Naythan on vocals, Ludo on guitar, bassist Laurent and drummer Alex, certainly make a pornographic noise. If this was on the top shelf, it would come in a plain jacket. 7/10

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