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Thursday 28 February 2019

Reviews: Candlemass, Earth Messiah, Delain, Latitudes (Paul H & Matt)

Candlemass: The Door To Doom (Napalm Records) [Paul H]

Someone posted on the Bloodstock Metal Forum recently; ‘I’ve heard of this band called Candlemass. Are they any good?’ Well, when the steam had finally stopped, I reflected with a wry smile that there are many good reasons why being close to half a century in age has its merits. And one of the biggest is that in 1986 I was able to purchase Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. Arguably the most important doom metal album ever recorded, the history of this album is fascinating, but I shall restrain myself to the fact that vocalist Johan Längquist was never a full-time member of Candlemass at the time that he added his vocals to the album, but a mere guest musician. His ‘return’ therefore to the band in 2018 is something of a misnomer but let’s not split hairs. The voice of Solitude, Demon’s Gate and Bewitched has returned after 32 years. Praise the horned demon!

Now, whilst this is brilliant news to the old school Candlemass soaks like me, you must have some empathy for Mats Leven, who has held the microphone for the past six years and who really delivered for the band. However, it is another fact that Levin never recorded a full-length release in the studio with the band, restricted to two EPs, the fine Death Thy Lover and The House Of Doom (Previous album Psalms For The Dead being released in 2012 with Robert Lowe’s fine set of pipes gracing that release). Whatever you feel, Längquist is back and it’s time to open The Door To Doom and enter the world of witches, demons and faintly shimmering candles.

The first thing to report is that this album fucking rules. Slab breaking heaviness cascades throughout the whole album, glacial sized riffs crash like avalanches, Längquist is on inspired form and Leif Edling’s massive bass lines are back. Ah yes, Leif Edling, the main man behind the band, and a total legend. The return of the Swedes has made me incredibly happy this year and Edling’s music and lyrics, for it is he who writes all, once more swells my heart with joy, despite the darkness and blackness that enveloped me on first listen. Opener Splendour Demon Majesty is colossal. Shrill pitched guitars give way to gargantuan riffs and thumping drums, before at 1:10 the band explode with one of the riffs of the year. This song bludgeons its way forward, heavier than a blue whale driving a steam roller, crushing all in its wake, but with hooks galore to ensnare you and trap you. It’s a trap that I’m happy to be held in. Längquist is imperious, his soaring vocals haven’t aged since EDM in 1986 whilst the sheer power of this track is simply breathtaking. I was reaching for my asthma inhaler half way through, it is such a blistering start.

We move onto Under The Ocean, and a short acoustic intro which sees Längquist flexing the pipes before the calm is buried deep as the rest of the band detonate in devastating manner, guitarists Lars Johansson and Matts ‘Mappe’ Björkman, both massively long serving band members destroying all with their colossal playing. Astorolus – The Great Octopus is next, Jan Lindh’s drum intro paving the way for the third leviathan on this album, and one which metal fans should all get to their knees for, because yes, it is the godfather of metal and doom, Tony Iommi, who delivers two smoking hot solos amidst a wave of devastating, crushing doom metal. It’s suffocating in its intensity and heaviness. The pace may slow for the shortest track on the album, the beautifully melancholic Bridge Of The Blind, with its echoing sting sections and simple acoustic guitar work, but it remains a dark and sinister piece.

Onto the second half of the album and more slab breaking riffs. Candlemass may have not released an album for six years but their 12th release more than makes up for that absence. Death’s Wheel demands attention with its marching beat and thick down tuned guitar work, the abstract time changes so reminiscent of the band in the 1980s, something that made them such innovative leaders in the doom field. Whilst The Door To Doom doesn’t have the same sledgehammer impact that Epicus and it’s follow up Nightfall had all those years ago, it sits comfortably alongside those legendary releases and that is no mean feat. I’m not oversold on Black Trinity, with its mid-song break down but that pause does allow for even more bone splintering riffs; this is a huge stomping tune which moves at the lumbering pace of a mammoth.

A true doom ridden song. House Of Doom is familiar territory, of course, but there is still no substitute to the funeral dirge that is added by the organ and the cut throat riff which relentlessly drives the song forward. It’s a crashing, smoking beast of a track and tolling bell leads neatly to the closing piece, The Omega Circle, which wraps up one of the albums of 2019. There was, for several years, a fear that Edling and Candlemass would never record a full-length album again. To hear the legends back doing what they do best is simply joyous. 9/10

Earth Messiah: Ouroboros (Argonauta Records) [Paul H]

I’ve had this on heavy rotation for the past couple of weeks. Heavy stoner rock is a pleasure to me, the likes of Clutch and Orange Goblin in particular rarely disappoint, either on record or in the live arena. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, and formed in 2017 by Mathias Helgesson (Unhealth, Ex Lawgiver) and Patrik Orrmén (ex Fuzztrated, ex Rhubarb Blues Band), Earth Messiah are a no -nonsense trio who play hard, fast stoner rock just as you should like it. Fuzzy, filthy guitar work, dirty low growling bass, cymbals smashing all over the place and vocals that can only ever belong to a leather cut bearded biker – yes, this is good shit. After the title track segues into the feisty Escape From Reality, things get slow and heavy with Attention, a beast of a track that is a real thumper. Orrmmén’s pounding drums feature throughout, the soundtrack to the album firmly cemented in place. Bass is delivered with thunderous style by Marcus Hedkvist and this album just gels from start to finish. Even the final track, Father Of Fire rages with an intensity that pushes the band to the limits and dare I suggest it, has shades of the punk fused style of latter-day Venom, Cronos style! Earthy, gritty and absolutely fuzzed to the eyeballs, this how stoner rock should be. Listen and enjoy. 8/10

Delain: Hunter's Moon (Napalm Records) [Matt]

Delain have been doing these 'preludes' for their last couple of albums and they have always been a canny way of figuring out where the band are going on the next chapter of their journey as a band. Having just released a live album these new studio tracks have a much broader scope than before, Masters Of Destiny is brilliant, hugely orchestral, with a massive chorus and Charlotte using her entire range, it harks back to their first symphonically charged album but also adds that gravitas that bands such as Epica and Nightwish have to their music.With much of their previous albums written by Wessels and Martijn Westerholt here the guitarists have a chance to add their own styles to the Delain musical adventure. This Silence Is Mine was written by Wessels and Timo Somers, who also provides screams on the crunching title track and Art Kills was written by Wessels and Merel Bechtold. Both these songs are interesting as they don't follow the Delain proviso so much This Silence Is Mine has thick djent riff to it, while Bechtold's track is a pumping EDM banger with yet more death vocals, probably due to her involvement with Purest Of Pain and MaYan. the rest of the EP is a mini live album featuring lots of guests and some of their more recent tracks played live (there's even a DVD). With yet more strings to their bow Delain look to once again to metamorphosize into a band with a familiar but different sound. Consider my appetite whet. 7/10

Latitudes: Part Island (Dembur Morti Productions) [Matt]

A resonant single acoustic guitar opens this 5 track album., the production, from Chris Fielding, makes it feel as if it's in your room (tip listen on headphones), then the beautiful vocals come in before the track starts to layer pianos and atmospherics. It's a resolutely sad way to sad the album but Underlie then really opens up into the some discordant tremolo picking and a thunderingly heavy groove as those clean lilting vocals are lost in the heaviness but sit almost like a previous layer now obscured by this wall of noise. A particularly interesting way to start a record but then when you're a band that say you influences are as wide as Neurosis, King Crimson and Rush then this album from Hertfordshire 5 piece was never going to take a straight line.

With such a jarring opening the jazz infected shoegazing of Moorland Is The Sea is a little more welcoming with the steady off-time beat and hypnotic guitars giving way to yet more black metal riffage and some Muse-like synths, as the haunting vocals yet again sift in and out of the blender of styles like a snake in the long grass. Apparently this is the first time the band have put the vocals in the foreground of every track and it works as you can appreciate the complexity of using the vocals as yet another instrument rather than a focal point. As Moorland Is The Sea collapses into what can only be described as euphoric doom you really start to get bewitched by this album which is 44 minutes, so fairly weighty, each track clocking in at a minimum of 5 minutes the longest though is the imposing 10 minute title track that ends the record. Part Island is a hefty piece to indulge in without full commitment, musically it's as dense as darkmatter, bringing together multiple 'outsider' genres into one swirling maelstrom of musical accomplishment. Stick with it, it's a rewarding listen, though I still can't hear the Rush influence at all. 8/10

Reviews: O.R.k, Mystifier, Left For Red, Protomythos (Paul H)

O.R.k: Ramagehead (Kscope Records)

A bit of a progressive rock smorgasbord with this release, the band’s first for Kscope. O.R.k include award-winning composer/vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari, King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto and Porcupine Tree's Colin Edwin as well as a special guest vocal appearance from System Of A Down's Serj Tankian. Ramagehead is the band’s third album, following on from 2017’s Soul Of An Octopus. The band are confirmed for support to The Pineapple Thief during their forthcoming March UK tour and based on this album, that evening should be fabulous. Adding guitar to this album by the band is Marta Sui Tubi's Carmelo Pipitone. Delightfully complex, crisp and expertly delivered, this is a succinct and direct album, with a steel lining holding it all together. Opener Kneel To Nothing echoes shades of Korn, the angst driven elements rather than the pounding danceable bass lines, but there is certainly a buzz on this track that confirms the prog giants here also know how to rock. There is heavy riffing throughout the album, such as the intensive and ferocious Signals Erased which is a raging hard rock track.

Beyond Sight calms things completely, a semi-acoustic track that is as measured and composed as Signals Erased is not, with Fornasari’s performance stunning. With the band’s background, their multi-layered sound should not be a surprise and yet this album maintains an air of intrigue and mystery which captivates the listener. Black Blooms features Tankian, his distinctive voice debuting with a piano before harmonised vocals support him in a Steven Wilson style approach. Indeed, with Edwin and Gavin Harrison both on the forthcoming tour, it would be a surprise if there are not some obscure references for the geeks such as the Ed in the audience to pick up on. Cello and acoustic style take centre stage on Time Corroded whilst there is some delicious guitar work on Down The Road, another melancholic and emotionally drenched track with massive Steven Wilson style joint harmonies taking centre stage. Some Other Rainbows Part I echoes elements of the Von Hertzen Brothers at their proggiest before the Opeth style Strangled Words leads to final track Some Other Rainbow Part 2 which features some delightful strings as the song climaxes.

Whilst the heaviness may at times be a surprise, given the band’s pedigree, Ramagehead reflects the band’s experiences and talent. Their live sets are reputed to be powerful and engaging and that is certainly captured here. With dark and heavy riffing, mesmeric atmospheres and lyrics that reveal the band's bewilderment brought about by our modern world, there is certainly much to discover and explore. As Colin Edwin explained: “Ramagehead is a not a concept album as such, but there is certainly an identifiable theme, in that we attempt to express the everyday bewilderment bought about by the uncertain times we are living in, and the constant confusing information overload that we are all subjected to in today's post-fact environment”. Recorded during 2018 at LefMusicStudio (Italy), The Wormhole (USA) and Nightspace (UK), O.R.k has delivered an enchanting, compelling and stunning third album which will appeal to a wide range of listeners. This is a highly recommended album and their inclusion on The Pineapple Thief tour will ensure an early full house. 9/10

Mystifier: Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia (Season Of Mist Underground Activists)

New to me, Brazilian act Mystifier was formed by lead guitarist and bassist Beelzeebubth, drummer Lucifuge Rofocale, guitarist Behemoth, and vocalist Meugninousouan in Salvador, Bahia in 1989. With a history of three decades behind them, the band are veterans of their scene. With a debut album Wicca released in 1992, the band has a dedicated following and several albums under their belts along with numerous line-up changes, recent support to Rotting Christ on the Bloodshed Rituals European tour provided extra exposure and the band is now offering up their latest album, Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia. A massively dark slab of ancient black metal, full of chaotic riffage, some of the most guttural and evil vocals I’ve heard for a long time and drenched in the evil atmosphere that one would expect from an old school outfit.

Some of the tracks have the most fabulous titles, including the demonic Witching Lycanthropic Moon and Six Towers Of Belial's Path, both of which are ferociously brutal; combining the eerie black metal components with those of the more bludgeoning death metal genre. In fact, this album lurches terrifyingly between both genres with little regard, smashing down boundaries and steam rolling all in its path. Al Nakba (666 Days Of War) is a classic example, pulverising and demolishing riffs, blistering machine gun fire drumming and satanically possessed vocals all combine. The final track, Chiesa Dei Bambini Molestati, (Church Of Molested Children) ensures a sombre finish and politically focuses once more on the shame and infestation of child abuse within the Catholic Church which the Vatican appears unable or unwilling to address. This is an album that doesn’t care about poseurs. Take a hit, brace yourself and enjoy some brutal but impressive old school ancient black metal. 8/10

Left For Red: Human Complex (Self Released)

I must be honest, this album is one of the big curved balls of the year so far (and no, I’m not talking about Dan Carter’s gait!). The Midland metal outfit, who’ve been around for ten years now, have dropped their latest album Human Complex and it is a real interesting listen. At times it veers towards alt-rock, at other moments it takes a stoner style and then a more traditional heavy metal approach resurfaces back into the mix. Take Slaves To Causality, which has a massive Down flavoured riff, but alt-rock soaring vocals and a hook that catches you right in the gut. Opener Dancing With Misery reeks of melancholic emotion; a strange slow-paced track to kick off the album but very much in keeping with the overall theme of the album; the concept of human arrogance and the impact this has on each other.

Any concern that this is going to be one limp wristed album is dispelled with the raging riffs of Switchblade Romance, a thunderous beast of a track with a soaring chorus which sticks instantly and memorably, and the sand blast of penultimate track Tame The Tides. The Circus reeks of nu-metal but works and although I’m not over fussed on the closing track, the ballad effect Sunrise Brings Serenity, this does allow vocalist LC Decoy to display the quality of his vocal performance. Ably supported by the other four members of Left For Red, Aaron Foy (Guitar), Philip Smith (Guitar), Daniel Carter (Bass) and Rob Hadley (Drums), the Stourbridge outfit has delivered an album which is intriguing, well-crafted and with a stubborn refusal to be pigeon holed or to wear any label. 8/10

Protomythos: Heavy Crown (Self Released)

A solo project which has come from the multi-instrumentalist Tom Trevish, Heavy Crown has been several years in the making. With the Israeli born but London based Trevish exploring his musical project ever since 2013’s In Human Sight, Heavy Crown is a complex mix of progressive rock which contains several lengthy tracks which contribute to a 52-minute running time, quite a length for eight tracks. Soothing keyboards underpin the tracks, which allows the heavy riffs to cut in insistently. Trevish also give superb vocals, which haunt and cast emotional shadows on each track.

Melody is plentiful but there is a twist to this release, with depth, light and darkness throughout. Nowhere is this more apparent that on Bury Your Head, a seven-minute track that evolves organically as it progresses, with more than a nod to Opeth and Devin Townsend in places, the latter unsurprising given Trevish’s admiration of the Canadian. Classy in all the right places, Heavy Crown is a delight to experience. 8/10

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Metal 2 The Masses London Heat 12 Live Rundown by Gareth

Metal 2 The Masses London Heat 12

Arriving at the shockingly early time of 5 pm to the hallowed Big Red on Holloway Road, one of my personal favorite pubs in London (Street Fighter 2 Cabinets and an AC/DC pinball machine along with an excellent menu/Juke Box) not that any of those things would matter today for we were here to compete in the Metal 2 The Masses competition to win a chance to play at Bloodstock Open Air... Heat Twelve.

We arrived and dumped our gear in one of the booths and did the things that bands tend to do before gigs; vague small talk, awkwardly try to describe how each other's band sounds, talk about gear, try not to get too drunk before it's your turn to play. My bandmates and I started on our usual ritual of a pre-gig Shandy (so again, as to not get too smashed before going onstage) and we were off!

The first band on were the excellent and excellently named Lung Fluid, a delightfully noisy three-piece band bringing punk energy and influence to an overall Alt-Metal sound. The three-piece set-up really did this band some favors; a single blistering rhythm guitarist, leaving ample room for some big fat bass chords and drumming that I'd like to describe as "loud and smash-y" made for a great punchy sound.

Next up in the line-up was my band, the self-described "World's one, and only 'Thrash Cabaret' band" The Fascinators, now as my integrity as a journalist prevents me from reviewing my own band, I shall instead compile a few critiques and comments from the night;

-"Great to be on the same bill as you lot. Really enjoyed your set" - Bass player of Lung Fluid.

-"Your music reminds me of early 80's Thrash" - Not gonna lie, quite happy about that one.

-"You guys Slap" - I've been assured that "Slap" in this context means "good."

-"You're being very distracting" - Myself, to the provocatively dancing members of the audience.

Next up we had Phobetor, a bit more of a straight forward metal band, but nonetheless a very tight and technical one with some really interesting musical ideas. With a dual vocal arrangement from both their lead vocalist and bass player, Phobetor managed to not fall into the typical stereotype of having one vocalist provide the clean vocals and have the other bring the noise, this was a double vocal assault and it really added to the band's overall heaviness. The best band of the evening in this reviewer's humble opinion.

Finally closing the show was Seven Main Sins, the Death/Black Metallers who have been together for over a decade now and it really shows, this is a band of professionals. Brutal riffing and guttural vocals crushed over blast beats and the occasional orchestral backing tape, I know this use of tapes is disliked by many, (purists perhaps?) but for me created an engrossing atmosphere and the end results created what I can only describe as a Death Metal Symphony.

Out of everyone on the bill, Seven Main Sins was the band that I could most easily imagine seeing onstage at Bloodstock, which makes perfect sense as to why they got through to the next round, along with the equally excellent Phobetor, the two bands shall continue to compete in future rounds of the competition. This reviewer (and M2TM runner up) wishes both bands the best of luck in the future. Both easily deserve the opportunity.

My personal favorites of the night were Phobetor and Lung Fluid.

Reviews: Louise Lemon, Horizon Ignited, Thornbridge, Athanasia (Paul H)

Louise Lemon: A Broken Heart Is an Open Heart (Icons Creating Evil Art Records)

Seen most recently supporting Solstafir, Swedish singer Louise Lemon’s second album A Broken Heart Is An Open Heart is an emotionally charged rollercoaster. The Swede possesses a stunning voice, and combines it with simple piano, organ and guitar reverb and echo that recall artists as diverse as Stevie Nicks, Anna Calvi and Joni Mitchell. The tracks are short but superbly crafted, the haunting melancholy lingering. With production by Randall Dunn, who has worked with Sunn O))), Myrkur/Chelsea Wolfe amongst others, this is a sweetly sculpted album, which demands your attention. Whether lying in a darkened room, or sat captivated in the concert hall, Lemon is an amazing talent who is likely to become a much bigger star in future years. Montana, the harrowing Not Enough and the bleak Swimming In Sadness are amongst ten tracks of absolute quality. A delightful change from the raging guttural vocals and soul piercing guitars we are accustomed to, A Broken Heart... is an album that should remain on your playlist for the rest of the year. When all around are screaming, retire to this release and allow the calm tranquil performance soothe your battered soul. Superb. 9/10

Horizon Ignited: After The Storm (Self Released)

This is the debut release from the Finnish five-piece who have been crafting their art for several years before finalising their debut album After The Storm. Deeply rooted in melodic death metal, the band merge metal core elements with more melodic sections to deliver a traditional melodic death sound in the shape of In Flames, Trivium, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork and the like. The clean vocals of Okko Solaterä have a Jonas Renkse flavour to them whilst his gruff gravel type roar is at times reminiscent of Johan Hegg. After The Storm is a solidly played album which covers all the bases expected of the genre. It’s typically gritty with the melodic line that surges through the middle. My biggest issue with it is that despite several plays, and I did enjoy it, there was little that stood out as memorable for me. Tracks often morphed into one, and I struggled to distinguish between the opening three tracks. Burning Man contained a bit more, some Machine Head style scaling providing interest whilst Solaterä’s vocals matched the duel guitars of Vili Vottonen and Johannes Mäkinen well. Throughout the album there is quality in the musicianship, with some variation on tracks like Flesh which explodes after a mellow start. After the Storm is certainly not a bad album in anyway. But like so many others, whether it can distinguish itself amongst the mob is the big question. 6/10

Thornbridge: Theatrical Masterpiece (Massacre Records)

Formed in 2008, Thornbridge is yet another power metal band from Germany, who unsurprisingly sing of fantasy, mysticism and secret worlds. This is their sophomore release and follows 2016’s debut What Will Prevail. As with many, many power metal bands, it’s standard fare. Drums going at full pelt, duel guitars climbing to soaring heights and harmonious vocals that encourage audience participation. But there is something a little bit special about these guys, who seem to have really grasped the essence of decent power metal. The guitar harmonies of Jörg Naneder and Patrick Rogalski are impressively tight, the drumming is spot on, Patrick Burghard’s driving bass knits everything together and Jörg Naneder’s vocals echo the quality of Blind Guardian maestro Hansi Kursch.

Theatrical Masterpiece is an album that grows with every play, and tracks such as Keeper Of The Royal Heart, Revelation and the folk tinged Demon In Your Heart all scream “proper power metal”. As someone who loves Blind Guardian but struggles with many of the other bands who flood the scene, Thornbridge are a breath of fresh air. Sure, it isn’t original, but it is delivered with a flourish and a confidence which is often missing. I found myself humming the tracks long after the album had finished. Always a good sign. If you like your power metal, I highly recommend Theatrical Masterpiece; it may be the most appropriately named album of the year. 8/10

Athanasia -The Order Of The Silver Compass (Rock Of Angels Records)

This is described as an amalgamation of melodic and extreme metal, containing enough punch and fight to appeal to casual listeners and more extreme fans. Whilst I wouldn’t argue that there is a lot of interesting music in this full-length release by the Los Angeles-based metal trio, I’m not convinced that it has the wide appeal that the press release suggests. Athanasia features Caleb Bingham, a former member of Five Finger Death Punch, bassist Brandon Miller and former Murderdolls drummer Jason West. With a real mixed bag of tracks, the 35 minutes certainly flies by as the band race through eight tracks, questioning the moral fabric of man amidst complex narratives tackling power, corruption and greed. Tracks such as The Bohemian, Spoils Of War and Mechanised Assault certainly have some grit about them, hard driving metal in the vein of Soilwork and the old In Flames, veering wildly between melody and death metal with an enticingly appealing sound.

However, it is tempered by some of the lighter tracks on the album, such as The Cyclops Lord with its soaring harmonies and clean vocals at odds with the harder, gutsy melodic death that the band deliver with some style. Bingham has been hawking his wares around for several years, playing in FFDP between 2005-07 and then with Swedish death metal act Zonaria from 2010-2014. It was after he left Zonaria that he began to put the effort back into Athanasia. It’s a passionate release, polished and well produced. Having picked a genre that is so overcrowded makes it challenging to stand out amongst the crowd. I’m not sure that Athanasia will do this but this is by no means a poor album. 6/10

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Metal To The Masses South Wales 2019 Heat 3 Preview

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses South Wales 2019 – Heat 3 Preview

No let-up in the pace as we speed towards Heat 3 at Fuel on St David’s Day, 1st March. With several other gigs also taking place It will be interesting to see if we continue to get the solid turn outs that the early heats have attracted. Only three of the bands have taken the opportunity to engage with us in interviews for this round but that’s all good with us. Let’s kick it off with the Rhondda Valleys metalcore buddies Beyond Sorrow.

Beyond Sorrow

As usual, we start with the history of the band. “The band formed back in 2011 as four-piece cover band playing the likes of Bullet for My Valentine to AC/DC songs. Over the years there has been a few line-up changes, where the rhythm guitarist had stepped down from being on vocals, to bring on the mighty vocalist that we have to this day. We have been an original five-piece band since late 2016. Who is in this mighty line-up? “That would be John Christo on Vocals, Aaron Williams on Lead Guitar, Samuel Sweeting on Rhythm Guitar (and most likely the first to be eaten in a survival situation), Shaun Culleton on Bass Guitar and Max James on the Drums”. Some handy tips there should there be a survival situation in Fuel. Hang on? Isn’t always? I’ll bring my knife and fork just in case.

Enough already. What about Beyond Sorrow’s sound? “Loud with a fresh take on metalcore, whilst giving a hint of numerous metal sub-genres, from thrash to death metal”. After that answer you could probably predict the band’s main influences but let’s give it a go anyway. “Our main influences are Parkway Drive, Thy Art Is Murder, As I Lay Dying, While She Sleeps, Trivium and Lamb Of God. A good blend of all these bands is what drives the music we make and reminds us of what we want to achieve as a band”. Okay, hands up who plumped for Nightwish and Marillion?

The question we always ask, and which has proved quite astonishing so far. What would happen to our lawn if you moved in next door? “In all honesty, the grass would start cutting itself. Simple as that”. Is that self-mutilation at the sound of Beyond Sorrow or a very organised and well controlled lawn? We probably will never know and that might be right. Onwards and upwards.

What prompted the band to apply for M2TM? “We’ve always dreamt of performing on the Bloodstock stage to thousands of people, the rush of adrenaline as the audience reacts and interacts to our music is something we hugely desire. Getting into the semi-finals in 2017 has only made us want it more”. Monstrous riffs, headbanging, big energy, off stage shenanigans, sing alongs, and a lot of growls. So, what can we expect at Fuel on St David’s Day? “It’s gonna be a heavy one”. Fair play/ Short, sweet and to the point.

What about highlights for the band? “Since playing originals we’ve performed at The Muni in Pontypridd, supported a band all the way from Hollywood, got into the semi-finals of M2TM in 2017 and have played multiple venues around the UK”.

As we head towards the end, has the band been to Bloodstock? “It’s nothing but good times. To be around people who are into the same music as you, all there for one purpose- to listen to Heavy Metal. Everyone looks after one another, and the staff have always been helpful through any condition. How can you say no to heavy metal, beer, food and good people?” Amen brother.

And finally, tell us something we need to know. “The one thing that comes to mind is that John as music background with opera music. Has the vocal of an angel... Lucifer to be specific”.

That was a mightily entertaining interview. Let’s move away from the metalcore to those youngsters from Caerphilly, Excurisa, a band that Mrs H thoroughly enjoyed when they supported the heft of Idlewar in November 2018 (but don’t take Mrs H’s word, get down to Fuel and see for yourself).


Let’s start with some background. Give us a potted history of the band. “Formed by school friends Sam & A'Dan, who got fed up of trying to find music they liked in modern bands, Excursia started formally in 2016, but the line-up was not fully established until 2018. The aim of Excursia is to make metal music that they want to hear. If others like it too, fantastic!” Who is the current line-up? “Sam - Lead guitarist and only member of the band with no sense of humour. A'Dan - Guitarist and main meme man. We think he got Sam's sense of humour as well as his own when it was distributed by the metal gods. Lewis - Vocals and big pharma representative. Callum - Bass guitar and train timetable regurgitator (Callum is also not 13 years old. He is 13 and a half). Matt - Drums and being from Hereford, but we don't mention that. Much.” Well, exactly. Why would you?

How would you describe the band’s sound? “Loud. Classic/thrash metal, with a tinge of modernism. In other words, shit!” Okay, I’m pretty sure that is self-depreciation folks so don’t write it on the voting slips.

Who are the main influences for the band? “Pantera, Trivium, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Post Malone, Sleep, Spongebob Squarepants”. Ah, good old Spongebob. Who isn’t influenced by him?

The big question. Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? “It would dye it's blades black and check itself into rehab”.

What prompted Excurisa to apply for the M2TM competition? “No idea. We weren't sober at the time, but it seemed like a good idea. Plus, who wouldn't want to play on the same bill as Anthrax?!????” Indeed. Well, maybe Armoured Saint? Let’s move on. What can we expect from you at Fuel? “Loudness, technical difficulties (it's a plague I tell you! A plague!!!), fun (as long as the tech issues aren't too nasty), and a lot of melodic heavy metal and shouting. ;-)”. No technical difficulties pleeaassseee! We don’t have time.

There is a strong line-up this year and the competition will be fierce. It’s great to have a healthy Welsh Metal scene. Playing this event always seems to raise the game. Tell us a few highlights for the band since you started. “Winning a spot at Byline festival and having John Cleese as our warm-up act, supporting Mentallica in one of the last gigs held at Pontypridd Muni, getting to play with some of the most talented bands in Wales and beyond, and ribbing Lewis for being the first member of the band to get his very own stalker!” A stalker and John Cleese. Chapters 1 & 2 of the book already written there. Probably with colouring to go with it.

Have you been to Bloodstock before? “Not yet”. Well, time to sort it out lads. And finally, tell us something unusual about each band member that you feel needs to be shared with the rest of the metal community. “Sam has spider legs for fingers, Callum wishes he was a train, but only if he can run on blue-top milk, Lewis is an ex-almost-pro boxer, A'Dan was a county level champion swimmer, and Matt's real name is Blake Anderson”.

These interviews are becoming more entertaining by the minute. Let’s move on the one-man technical machine that is Sounds Of Insane Music. Known to all in the South Wales scene, here’s what Elliot had to say.

Sounds Of Insane Music

“Sounds Of Insane Music started out of a want to be gigging. Hence why it’s a one-man band. Was either find members then gig or gig and get reputation then find members along the way” So it shouldn’t be a problem to introduce us to the members of SOIM? “Just me (Elliot Cadmore) on guitar and vocals live and rest is off backing tracks I recorded and mixed myself that I play off my laptop.” I don’t care what anyone says, this man is brave as fuck!

How would you describe the band’s sound? “A mixture of majority of the sub genres of metal with bit more weight on the extreme metal and progressive side”. Who are the main influences for the band? “This is a toughy. But at its core its bands/artists like Death, Emperor, Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, Animals As Leaders, Slayer, Slipknot and Queen”. That’s a mixed bag right there. Okay, here’s the lawn question. Lemmy once said “if we moved in next door your grass would die”. If you moved in next door, what would happen to my lawn? “The grass would become sentient and start shouting 'what the fuck is that noise'”.

What prompted you to apply for the M2TM competition? “I've entered it the previous two years and after sorting out a rumour about M2TM and one-man bands I decided to apply”. What can we expect from you at Fuel? “Mix of types of metal, crazy person with pointy guitar dropping into the audience and potentially falling on stage”. Stand by to pick Elliot up folks. You know the rules.

There is a strong line-up this year and the competition will be fierce. It’s great to have a healthy Welsh Metal scene. Playing this event always seems to raise the game. Tell us a few highlights for the band since you started. “Few highlights I've had with Sounds is opening for Psychostick in my first year of gigging. Playing my first M2TM heat same day as the Womanby Street march. And in all honesty any gig I've done with close mates”.

Have you been to Bloodstock before? If so, tell us some of your experiences; why is it such a great festival? “Been going bloodstock annually now since 2012. Amazing festival for metal music lovers as there's something for everyone. Great atmosphere there, feels comfortable there due to its smaller size”. That my friends, is the correct answer.

And finally, tell us something unusual about each band member that you feel needs to be shared with the rest of the metal community. “Well the laptop has an ego some nights and won't do as it is told. For me it's that when was in primary school, I was told I'd never be able to do music because of my small hands and not knowing notes on a piano”. So, a big fuck you to Elliot’s music teacher but don’t stare at his hands when he’s playing. That isn’t fair.

As well as these three fabulous bands, there is the mystery of newly formed Grym, the Swansea based groove outfit who will be travelling East in search of glory. Whatever the result, Heat 3 is a tight bastard to call and it promises to be another storming evening of full force metal. See you there!

Reviews: In Flames, Tora Tora, The Royal, Tempel (Rich)

In Flames: I, The Mask (Nuclear Blast)

This is gonna be a tough one to review as like many I was a massive fan of In Flames citing their early albums as defining classics of the melodic death metal genre but have fallen massively out of favour with the band and the direction they have taken on their last few albums. Their last album Battles was an all time low for the band and I had all but given up on them but there is always that slight glimmer of hope that the band will reclaim some of their former glory on new recordings. So here we are with album number 13 and it’s been a rocky few years for the band with the loss of several members. For this album we have new bassist Bryce Paul Newman and drummer Tanner Wayne joining the band and the hope is in the inclusion of some new blood will have the bound sounding recharged and revitalised and thankfully that is certainly true on I, The Mask with some of the most energetic and enjoyable material the band have put out for years. There are riffs, melodies and gorgeous guitar solos that channel the In Flames of yesteryears with songs such as Voices, Burn and Deep Inside getting big grins from me.

These throwbacks to their classic sound sit comfortably alongside the shifts in their sound and style the band have become known for in their latter years but this time round everything kind of just works sounding natural and in no way forced. The one aspect of the album I really could not get along with were the vocals. I’ve never been a fan of the clean vocals of Anders Friden finding them way too much on the whiney side which is unfortunate as there is a far greater emphasis on his clean vocals on I, The Mask with his trademark harsh vocals making a few fleeting appearances throughout. This did dampen my initial enthusiasm as I do find his clean vocals very jarring. I, The Mask will continue to polarise the In Flames fanbase but it is definitely the best album they have done in years and easily the strongest since Come Clarity. The band continue to forge ahead down their path but also manage to pay tribute to their melodic death metal past. There are some bonafide bangers on the album but there’s also a lot of undesirable material and those unfortunate vocals. I have to accept that the old In Flames I love is dead and gone but I, The Mask shows that there is still some cause for hope. 7/10

Tora Tora: Bastards Of Beale (Avalon Label)

Bastards Of Beale is the comeback album by Memphis hard rockers Tora Tora and their first album of original material since 1992. Tora Tora were one of those bands who came to prominence at the tail end of the 1980’s and after a couple of successful releases were one of many bands chucked by their label in favour of the popular grunge and alternative rock bands at the time. What you get on Bastards Of Beale is very blues inspired hard rock but with very much a classic rock sound at its beating heart. Influences from bands such as Free and Led Zeppelin can be heard throughout the album. Songs such as Everbright, Rose Of Jericho and the title track have bags of hard rock swagger with the dirty bluesy guitar riffs matched with the crooning and soulful vocals of frontman Anthony Corder.

You also get dabblings in melodic hard rock with Silence The Sirens and a twang of country with Son Of A Prodigal Son. The original line up of the band performs on the album and despite the long interval between albums you can hear they still have definite chemistry. Whilst there are some hard rocking gems on the album a lot of the songs do tend to blend into one with the band generally sticking to a tried and tested formula during the album apart from the variations mentioned above. Tora Tora have released a very decent comeback album and I’m sure old school fans of the band will be overjoyed with this release. On the whole I enjoyed but it was just a little too straightforward for my ever growing complex taste. 7/10

The Royal: Deathwatch (Long Branch Records)

Deathwatch is album number three from Dutch metalcore band The Royal. Metalcore isn’t particularly a genre I like (bar a few exceptions) but according to the band themselves The Royal aren’t your run of the mill metalcore band and perform the darker side of the genre. This is a very apt description of the sound of this album and on the whole it’s a sound that works and that I found quite agreeable. Deathwatch does still have all the standard tropes of metalcore - chuggy riffs, breakdowns and barked hardcore style vocals though these generic traits are offset by what The Royal add to the metalcore formula which is a heavy use of atmospheric keyboards and a key melodic sensibility in the guitar playing with some fantastically dark and forlorn melodic turns and leads. Even the vocals (which are usually the most disagreeable aspect of metalcore for me) by frontman Semuel Pisarahu are passionate and fraught with real emotion and he has to be commended on his performance throughout Deathwatch which never gets too overbearing.

 There’s a heavy influence from melodic death metal bands throughout especially with the more melodic aspects of the album but in the more heavy moments I can definitely hear influence from bands such as The Black Dahlia Murder. The Royal have a very interesting take on metalcore which whilst not winning me over entirely did impress me. Tracks such as Soul Sleeper, Lone Wolf and the title track were definite highlights and I hope The Royal continue to explore the darker and more melodic aspects of their sound as this is where it really worked for me. 7/10

Tempel: Tempel (Jansen Records)

Tempel is the new band formed by Kvelertak drummer Kjetil Gjermundr alongside his two brothers Espen Gjermundr (guitars) and Inge Gjermundr (bass and vocals) and longtime friend Andreas Espolin Johnsen (guitars) with this self titled album being the debut by the band. Tempel is an interesting sounding band and much like Kvelertak it is is mixing pots of varying sounds and styles with nods to classic rock, old school metal, hardcore punk as well as progressive sludge bands such as Mastodon, Baroness and Kylesa. There are some barnstorming riff-fests such as Wolves and Afterlife, a bit of a black metal influence on the furious Forest Cemetery but on the whole this is a far less urgent and in your face sounding band though with a darker tone and somber feel throughout especially on songs such as Confusion and Torches. The melodies in both the guitar work and the vocals both ably bring about the solemn feel. Despite the mish mash of styles and influences Tempel have written a brilliant bunch of songs which are well structured, flow well and stick around in your head for hours afterwards. This is a class debut album and one that I feel will be making some waves in 2019. 8/10

Monday 25 February 2019

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses Heat 2 Review (By Paul H)

Metal To The Masses Heat 2, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 22nd February 2019

Ah, Cardiff the night before THE match. An air of anticipation, the pubs buzzing with those who are in town early, mixing with the regular Friday night cornucopia of Welsh life. And tucked away from the maddening crowd of toploaders and happy hour drunks, the beating heart of the Capital’s music scene. Wind your way past The City Arms, the den of the real ale drinker and the only remaining traditional boozer, skirt past the continually expanding success story of Tiny Rebel and its bewildering array of craft ales, hurry past the evil Wetherspoons The Gatekeeper and you spy it. Fuel Rock Club. The venue for the only battle that mattered on this weekend. Heat 2 of the Bloodstock Metal To The Masses qualifying event and the chance, oh the glorious chance to secure a place in the latter rounds for a place on the New Blood Stage at Catton Hall in August.

The previous week at Fuel witnessed one of the greatest nights in the Welsh competition’s history as Blind Divide slugged it out with the might of Sepulchre, King Kraken and Urfe in a fight to the death (well, not quite but it was rather dramatic anyway). A different feel and style to heat 2 followed but with no less passion or intensity.

With the draw made, Sydney Fate (6) had the challenge of opening the event. Late additions to the event, I’d recently reviewed their EP Sound Alive which was a piece of crafted metalcore so I knew the band’s style. With the room not that full, the band made a ragged start, and it was difficult to work out who was part of the band for a little while. Singer Bailey Edwards introduced the band then jumped off stage, leaving the dual guitarists, drummer and bassist to hit the notes, before second vocalist Adam Rapado dressed in a splendid purple 1980s shell style puffa commenced the screaming. As Bailey re-joined the fray, both vocalists utilised the space in front of the stage, with energetic movement and clear enjoyment. 

I was a bit confused about the foray to the back of the room that bassist Scott Butterworth during the opening song and at this stage the band were a little disjointed and uncoordinated. The enthusiasm that Sydney Fate bring is impressive but they need to work on the cohesive approach. Too much chatter between songs slowed momentum and whilst there is opportunity to plug all your social media sources, it’s the music which speaks loudest. By halfway through the set the band had picked up and were grooving well as a unit but by then they had lost a few in the room, the level of conversation increasing after the front few rows. A brave move to close with a ballad style track was a curious decision, Bailey and once guitarist in the spotlight whilst the rest of the band exited. There is plenty of potential in Sydney Fate but they do need to work on their approach.

A slightly more structured approach from the four-piece that is Good Morning Vietnam (6) next, whose melodic but aggression filled metal picked up where Sydney Fate left off. Once more the allure of space in front of the stage was an opportunity to get close and personal and vocalist Glenn took advantage to also encourage more movement from the crowd. GMV took their 30 minutes and embraced the opportunity, their late entry status not proving a hindrance in anyway. Musically their brand of groove metal is a little generic, but the band pushed hard and raised some healthy applause. Vocalist Glenn mixes Cookie Monster growls with clean, sweet lines whilst Mike on guitar and new man Ash kept the riffs coming. If there was a criticism from me, it would be that the band’s sound is a little thin, and a second guitarist would really help to beef up their sound.

Shorn of drummer Matt Toner due to man-flu, newly formed but oh so experienced State Of Deceit (7) were reliant on recorded drum tracks to keep them on full beam. This allowed them to drive forward with their own brand of melodic thrashcore, frontman Pete Scammell with a roar that could be heard at the other end of town. Pete was flanked by the duel guitarists Jon Russell and Matt Wilson. State Of Deceit possess a quality that the previous bands are still working towards, and it was a shame that with Toner absent, the band were unable to flow as well as they would have liked. It didn’t stop Scammell making regular forays into the crowd, surging all the way through the back as he continued to deliver his sonic roar. This at times left focus on the two guitarists and whilst the music was the best of the evening so far, the visuals that some of us actually want was lost. I like to see bands working together, providing a show which allows for something to watch. When Scammell was on stage, the band worked much better. It was a case of next time for me, as I want to see the full outfit perform. Crap timing for the band, but this just wasn’t their night.

Having prowled around the room like caged tigers waiting their turn, it was no surprise that the gnarly punk hardcore of Stitched Up (7) exploded onto the stage and proceeded to hit hard. I’m not a big fan of this type of snarling delivery, but Stitched Up proved to be an entertaining outfit. Vocalist Mike sings his heart out, shouting and spitting the lyrics, ably supported by guitarist mark who added the essential shouty backing vocals. Musically, the band follow the NYHC style of Agnostic Front etc but add some groove to the breakdowns. They put the effort into their set, potentially going off a bit too hard as they appeared to need a bit of a breather in the middle part before pushing even harder for the finish line. With a good bit of action now in front of the stage, Stitched Up were a welcome addition to the night, with a different style adding to the wider metal flavour.

Usually the ugliest of bridesmaids, the draw was kind to the black metal perrmafrosted three piece Black Pyre (8) who for once were finishing off the musical part of the evening, the band blasted through their 30 minute with a set similar to that seen when opening the same venue mere days before for Desecration. The corpse painted trio don’t play the most technical of black metal, much of their set reliant on repetitive tremolo riffing and frenetic blast beats but they have improved immensely since I first saw them and they provided a welcome relief from the metalcore chaos that had preceded them. With a healthy crowd fully engaged, the usual invisible grapefruits were enhanced by the early arrival on stage of a real grapefruit. Kudos to the band for injected the humour into their set. Finishing with The Summoning from their newly released EP, Black Pyre had enough about them on the night to later on be crowned as winners of the heat, with double the number of votes as their nearest challengers.

Grabbing the wildcard was Stitched Up, who go into the pot for a possible place in the semi-finals. Another very solid turnout for the heat was incredibly pleasing, with all bands showing why the scene in South Wales is so good at present. With Alyn ably assisted by Matt on the door in the absence of Tim, the evening flowed smoothly. Heat 3 follows hard on the heels on 1st March. If you haven’t been to a heat yet, then get to Fuel soon to catch the cream of the South Wales metal scene. You won't be disappointed.

Reviews: John Diva & The Rockets Of Love, The Fuzz Dogz, 8mm, Stone Blue Electric (Gareth)

John Diva And The Rockets Of Love: Mama Said Rock Is Dead (Steamhammer)

People tend to assume I'm a bit of a miserable git as I don't normally like anything that isn't multi-genre weirdness or soaked in feedback, but I do also have a secret (not so secret) love for 80s hair and sleaze metal. So from the get-go, I was so on board when I started listening to the fabulously named John Diva And The Rockets Of Love's album Mama Said Rock Is Dead. Opening track Whiplash harkens back to the good old days where guitar riffs ripped, choruses were big and hooky and a somewhat self-indulgent guitar solo was welcome with open arms. Next track Lolita could have easily been a hit in the late-80s, a Van Halen-type groove and a catchy play on the "Labamba" vocal delivery in the chorus "Lo-Lo-Lo-Lo-Lolita," is infectious.
The third track on the album came as quite a surprise but shows the versatility of the commercial appeal of this band. Opting for a more country/Americana influence in Rock And Roll Heaven, the band channel the likes of Kid Rock and Black Stone Cherry. Electric drums and a clear clean acoustic main guitar riff mix well with a massive crushing modern rock sound. The song's chorus is memorable and, with the addition to an audience participation-baiting clap-along section, I found myself singing along gleefully. A nostalgic would-have-been hit in the past followed by a modern rock single was a great way to start this album.

Now the business part of the album is out of the way it's time for John Diva and Co. to show us what they really do best... the 80s. The band started life as an 80s Rock Tribute Show, much like much-loved comedy metal band Steel Panther, unlike Panther however they've decided to write loving tributes to those influences rather than parodying them. The following tracks of the album play out as love letters to the following bands respectively; 1987-era Whitesnake, Slippery When Wet-era Bon Jovi, Hysteria-era Def Leppard. This isn't inherently a bad thing, and it demonstrates a deep love and understanding of the music of said bands.

Fire Eyes contains a gloriously OTT guitar solo, but other than that I felt the album loses steam towards the end. Overall John Diva And Rockets Of Love demonstrate on this album that they can not only sound like their beloved heroes of the 80s but can write songs that wouldn't sound out of place on those bands' setlists, while also still managing to bust out a single in Rock And Roll Heaven that could easily be a commercial hit in this day and age. It may not be high art, but it put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. 8/10

The Fuzz Dogz: Basement Blues Pt.1 (1106302 Records DK)

With a name like The Fuzz Dogz I got exactly what I was expecting and hoping for when I first listened to Basement Blues Pt. 1 and perhaps it was due to it being my day off in combination with the first of the year's real sun hitting my face as opening track Voodoo Heart kicked in I smiled as I was treated to a delicious slice of Sabbath-Esq. heavy, fuzz-toned, stoner rock. The riff is blues-based and the likes of which Butler and Iommi could have very well cranked out back in their heyday. The vocals and melodies are powerful and catchy and within the first few minutes of this album, we are treated to a perfect, middle of the afternoon, sun-soaked festival banger. My comparisons to the 70s don't end there, track two No Good sees a quieter vocal delivery more in the vein of the likes of Budgie and Led Zeppelin in both their quieter passages, but then building to a chorus that feels closer to Corrosion Of Conformity. 

The next couple of tracks display lots of moments that felt a cut above the rest of the stoner rock crowd, particularly in the band's use of vocal harmonies, something I feel most stoner/doom rock could do with more of. However each blues-based jam began to merge into one in my head, that was until... Demons Loose, beginning with a clean almost Spaghetti Western-infused guitar line then morphing into an unusual riff and song structure, the song eventually builds to a climax that sounds how I imagine a descent into madness might feel. The change in pace from the rest of the tracks so far made my ears prick back up just in time for another bombastic Stoner Rock anthem in Crossroads, another retelling of the classic Robert Johnson "selling one's soul to the devil" at the crossroads lyrical theme, the chorus brilliantly paraphrases the Sabbath best of... compilation title "I sold my soul for rock and roll" it may be cheesy as hell on paper but the Fuzz Dogz deliver it with a patented brand of heavy blues riffs, it is infectious and instantly shout-along-able. 

Final track El Fundador feels somewhat unnecessary after the anthemic Crossroads, it feels like a final climax for the album is never delivered. Overall Basement Blues Pt 1. is a solid stoner rock album for fans of either the 70s originators or the more recent wave of doom metal. The high points are very high and the rest is worth a listen on a lazy day off with a couple of drinks... preferably in the sun, shall definitely crank this album back out when it's BBQ weather again. 8/10

8mm: Heart Shaped Hell (ChelseaGirl Records)

Heart Shaped Hell is a 5 song EP/Mini-album from industrial-pop duo 8mm. The group formed of Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist Sean Beaven, who had previously worked with the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Marylyn Manson, and wife, vocalist Juliette Beaven can boast being one of the most licensed bands on film and television, previously having songs of there's featured on critically acclaimed shows such as "Dirty Little Liars", “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Nip/Tuck”, and “Nikita.” So it came as no surprise that while enjoying opening track Self-Inflicted Heartache, I did find myself imagining it playing in the background of a car commercial.

Track Two Super Crush features a grunge-y riff played on both guitar and a fat synth tone, as well as quite a brief but tasty pitch shifting guitar solo adding a new flavour to the expansive repertoire of sounds 8mm have to their disposal. The title track sees the duo bridge into Trip-Hop with soothing electro beats and a hypnotic bass line. If I had to describe this band in genre terms I'd call them Grunge Electro-Pop.

Final song of the EP Move With Me, begins with a noise-scape of moody synthesizers that wouldn't sound too out of place on a Nine Inch Nails album, which makes sense based on Beaven's previous work experiences, the discordant noise builds slowly into a mellow pop track that doesn't quite deliver the song I was expecting from such a slowly built-up introduction. While I did very much enjoy the discordant noise section, the rest of the song, however, just sort of along floats along to a close.

While I did actively enjoy this collection of songs and the duo are clearly very talented, I feel that this music is consumed best while "on in the background" or even "on in the background of a TV show, that's on in the background." 6/10

Stone Blue Electric: Speaking In Volumes (Self Released)

This reviewer has a sort of "Emergency Power" mode that I tend to go into when reviewing something that isn't necessarily to my taste, but at the same time clearly has some form of merit. I ask myself "Who is this for?" and try to put myself in the shoes of this music's key demographic in order to give it a fair review. I felt this way with Helsinki's own Stone Blue Electric, a perfectly competent hard rock band who I feel have chosen to model their sound on Classic American Rock Radio. I got the feeling that I might not be Stone Blue Electric's target audience by the title of the opening track, Generation Snowflake (referring to the derogatory term used to describe overly sensitive and/or politically correct Millennials) seeing as I am likely considered by most to be one of said generation.

However much like Jetboy's overly vague political statement from last week's set of reviews (See link; https://musipediaofmetal.blogspot.com/2019/02/reviews-trollfest-jetboy-thomas-silver.html?m=1&fbclid=IwAR1yL35PoaUIeaElGTlmPjsVwYRI4qTXTGUFlgUfxZWGZd0Fw57TUr8zVYo)
Generation Snowflake doesn't really have much of a statement to make and just feels like the band is using a buzz-phrase in order to make their music seem current. Moving on, however, track 2 GYDIAR really sums up this band's sound quite well, which I have chosen to describe as "Cheap Foos" that is, somewhere on the musical spectrum between Cheap Trick and The Foo Fighters. A great driving rock song that brought to mind the classics of old while showing a definite influence of the Alt-Rock guitar sound and riffs of the likes of Mr. Grohl and Co. 

Later highlights include the excellently catchy Screaming At The Disco, a punchy power pop anthem dealing with the ever-popular lyrical topic of electronic dance and pop music being overly rampant in the mainstream in the place of Rock'n'Roll, and animosity towards that being the case. Not much else on the album grabbed me unfortunately, tracks seemed to fit into two separate categories, either, fairly generic driving rock songs or, slightly cringe-worthy ballad territory (Hey Sue, and closing power ballad Month Of June being prime examples) However, as stated at the beginning of this review, I ask myself "Who is this for?" if not to my tastes. This album I imagine would be perfect for a cross country road trip through middle America (which is impressive considering the band is Finnish) and would not at all sound out of place on Stateside Rock Radio, Stone Blue Electric fill this niche nicely. 6/10

Sunday 24 February 2019

Reviews Backyard Babies, Buckcherry, M.A.D, Autumn (Manus)

Backyard Babies: Silver & Gold (Century Media)

Nässjö, Sweden’s hard rock veterans, Backyard Babies, sound like a well-oiled machine on their eighth studio album. Marking the band’s 30th anniversary, Silver & Gold shows off the sound of an experienced band, and doesn’t feel out-of-touch or give off a sense of trying too hard like the newer music from several bands of their generation. The songs are written like straight up rock & roll tunes that could’ve easily come out decades ago, but it’s clear there is no scene into which Backyard Babies are trying to fit.

It’s the bluesy punk rock guitar riffs that really drive these songs, with singer Nicke Borg’s gravelly voice adding a gritty flavour, even on ballads Laugh Now Cry Later and Yes To All No. The album’s single, Shovin’ Rocks, is the catchiest tune, but the real highlights are the more intense tracks like Bad Seeds and album opener Good Morning Midnight. Almost every song also sounds like it’s meant to be performed live--there’s a rawness in these tracks that would seemingly be better captured onstage than in the studio. For anyone looking for timeless, feelgood rock & roll, Silver & Gold is an album to pick up, and Backyard Babies is a band to try and catch live. 8/10

Buckcherry: Warpaint (Century Media)

Nobody was wrong for being worried when the first single from Buckerry’s Warpaint was a cover, even if their take on the Nine Inch Nails classic, Head Like A Hole, is a solid effort. There are other songs on Warpaint that could’ve qualified as a single. The title track is punchy enough, and Closer could easily be a rock radio hit. But certain songs, such as Right Now and The Alarm sound like they would have benefitted from being given more time and attention to be fully fleshed out. To its credit, the guitar work throughout the record is impressive. Nearly every song is carried by crawling lead riffs, and beyond being catchy, the riffs are all written in a signature style. Buckcherry may not be the first or only band with riffs like these, but they certainly make good use of them.

Somewhat surprisingly, Warpaint’s peak is its rock ballad, Radio Song. It sounds more thoughtful than the rest of the record, and has a chorus that could have been pulled from somewhere in Elton John’s back catalogue. Unfortunately, the songs that stand out, like the country-infused No Regrets and The Hunger, actually take away some of the album’s cohesiveness. Warpaint is a decent record, but eight albums in, Buckcherry still sounds like a band trying to find its own musical identity. 6/10

Manente/Alonzo/Du Bose: M.A.D. (Self Released)

While Manente/Alonzo/Du Bose (M.A.D.) as a group is in its infancy, its three members had worked together and collaborated before deciding to come together to churn out an old-school heavy metal record, and it shows. The chemistry between Matheus Manente, Jesus Alonzo and Jon Du Bose shines throughout their debut album, making newly-written songs sound tight and well-rehearsed. The songwriting is a strong point as well. The horror-tinged tracks are reminiscent of the 1980s occult rock scene, complete with operatic vocals and soaring guitar solos. After its chilling intro, Twelve Gates, M.A.D. wastes no time getting to the substance that defines the record. The one-two punch of Reinventing Life and Shades Of I should be enough to immediately turn the classic metal fanbase on its ear, before giving way to slower and creepier songs Portals and Thief Propane

Eventually, though, the latter travels back into the fast-paced territory the album marks as its place. Much of the album’s lyrical content is derived from stories of insane people, including scientists and priests, but the Brazilian music and blues-inspired Yemanja tells a personal story of a Brazilian navigating Louisiana. Like all the others, it’s a well-written song, but neither its musical style nor lyricism really fits in with the rest of the album. Overall, M.A.D.’s debut record boasts an impressive array of traditional heavy metal elements and distinct musicianship. M.A.D. is a group that has the potential to go further, with this record setting a high bar. 8/10

Autumn: Stacking Smoke (Painted Bass Records)

After a five-year hiatus, Stacking Smoke is a strong return for Dutch symphonic metal septet Autumn. The atmospheric compositions are carried by Marjan Welman’s powerful voice and complemented by full-sounding production. This is particularly important on tracks like The Phantom Limb and Old Fuel, which pair melodic vocal and guitar melodies with heavy drums and could only really work if the listener is immersed in the songs. Complex songs like Blackout also benefit from the production quality. With three guitar parts, keyboards, bass leads, and even some strings, there’s a lot going on at certain points in the album. 

Without being properly blended, the abundance of instrumentation could have made the songs sound convoluted. Stacking Smoke as a whole shows unfaltering mastery of Autumn’s melodic elements, but the heavier riffage on Stacked Smoke and Thursday might leave listeners wanting more of that side of the band. Still, there is much to be heard in the down-tempo songs like Cyanide Sky 2 and Where The River Ends. Tracks eight through eleven are taken up by four-part epic Forging Tempests. It’s clearly meant to be the climax of the record, and definitely serves as such. It could probably even be an EP on its own, but it works just as well as four separate tracks on an album with songs that fit together like these ones do. 7/10

Saturday 23 February 2019

Reviews: Iron Savior, Syrence, Sydney Fate, Rock Goddess (Paul H)

Iron Savior: Kill Or Get Killed (AFM Records)

I’m sitting in the living room with the track Roaring Thunder blasting out of the stereo. Mrs H walks past. “That’s cheesy,” she commented. “Are they German?” And that, my friends, is how the tuned ear of a woman who can spot German power metal at 100 paces responds to album number ten from Hamburg’s power metal legends Iron Savior. Founded back in 1996 by Piet Sielck, the band has delivered consistently good power metal ever since. Kill Or Get Killed is a concept album inspired by the novel Pandora’s Star, a sci-fi story about the destruction of humanity by an alien civilization written by Peter F Hamilton. 

It follows the traditional pattern, with the duel guitars of Sielck and Joachim “Piesel” Küstner intertwining to impressive effect, the combined backing vocals typical fare for the soaring choruses. However, I can’t forgive the band for stealing the opening lines of Saxon’s Never Surrender on From Dust And Rubble so blatantly. -1 point. Characteristic hooks litter this album, harmonised choirs on each track and underneath it all Jan S. Eckert (bass) and Patrick Klose (drums) delivering a very tight rhythm section. Stand Up And Fight is almost Grand Magus in its delivery whilst it’s all pretty good stuff if you like this genre; perfectly delivered and well written and Sielck has the voice to carry this as well. Another German band who stick to their guns; they know what they like, and this is it. Better than many power metal outfits around today. 7/10

Syrence: Freedom In Fire (Fastball Records)

I’ve always admired the German approach to heavy metal. Thousands of bands, numerous styles and some classic outfits who are world class in quality and status. Think Kreator, Sodom, Helloween, Primal Fear, Accept, Blind Guardian and Rammstein. It starts to become an impressive list. Scratch below the surface and what the German metal fans really love is the classic heavy metal style of Priest, Saxon, Iced Earth and so on. Syrence spent their first few years as Epic Fail before changing their name in 2011. The band deliver heavy metal in the classic style, albeit without as much ‘classic’ as some bands. 

The title track opens the album in fine style, a raw NWOBHM style track which rampages all over. It drops a bit by the time Fozzy’s Song (an ode to Chris Jericho?) arrives, a more routine metal by numbers style. The inevitable ballad arrives on track six, Symphony, which really isn’t that impressive. There are several very average tracks on this debut release, and whilst it is solidly played the album slowly drops away. Evil Force is a plodding affair, an awful chorus reminiscent of the limp music Accept put out around the Metal Heart era whilst Kings Of Speed unfortunately isn’t a Hawkwind cover but another straight down the line heavy rock song. I admire the band’s determination; a debut album 11 years in the making shouldn’t be too knocked hard. It’s just all a bit run of the mill. 5/10

Sydney Fate: Sound Alive (Self Released)

South Wales metalcore outfit Sydney Fate are relatively new on the scene but popped out this neat little five track EP at the tail end of 2018. Most of the detail about the band can be found in their recent Metal To The Masses interview so check out the detail there. The acoustic intro of Violet Sky segues into the thumping opener Sweet Anticipation, a blistering track with the contrasting vocals styles of Bailey Edwards and Adam Rapado, who brings the Elmo to Cookie Monster delivery with full force. A calmer, more balanced track follows, Sound Alive switching between an almost ballad style delivery before seismic eruptions urge you to bang your head. With numerous influences evident throughout this EP, there is something for most metal fans here. It’s melodic, but with a bit more about it than many of the shouty metalcore style bands who have flooded the market in recent years. 

There is certainly the BFMV and Trivium sound in the mix but plenty more to search for as well. Falling Forward is a gutsy, riff melting song, with some sweet harmonies but plenty of opportunity for Rapado to let loose with his animalistic roars (this guy must need throat lozenges by the end of this track). And whilst I’ve mentioned the vocals, let’s not forget what underpins the whole band, and that’s a tight metal outfit; powerful riffs from Edwards and Owen Whittaker, whilst Scott Butterworth’s bass lines intrinsically link with the powerhouse drumming of Kristian Collins. Final track Home is a bit of an anthem, one that should get the crowd moving but with an underlying message which may bring a lump to the throat. I’m not the biggest fan of this genre by a mile but Sound Alive is a superbly produced and composed debut EP which deserves wide airplay and maximum exposure. 8/10

Rock Goddess: This Time (Bite You To Death Records)

I was less than impressed with 2017’s EP It’s More Than Rock And Roll, the first offering from the reformed London trio Rock Goddess. This Time sees the recording debut of new bassist Jenny Lane, who replaced long-time member Tracey Lamb in 2018. The band hold a cult status which I often consider is undeserved. Always seen as a weaker version of Girlschool, the band were often limper than a leaf of lettuce in the 1980s. Until 2017, they haven’t recorded anything under the Rock Goddess name since 1987’s Young And Free, which wasn’t particularly impressive at the time. Their eponymous debut album and follow up Hell Hath No Fury were welcomed at the time, partly because there were so few female hard rock outfits. This Time continues where the 2017 EP left off, with a nine-track 35-minute collection of reasonable heavy metal tracks. 

The band sound is composed and controlled, but there is little depth to the songs. Are You Ready? signals the band’s return, Obsession contains some neat hooks and Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right allows Jody Turner to open her snarling delivery. By track four, Calling To Space, there is already repetition in the style and delivery. Lyrically average at best, This Time is tighter and more polished than previous releases and at times is enjoyable but overall those who are satisfied by this level of music are those who deserve your pity. I bet they go down a storm at HRH. The musical equivalent of a pint of Carling. 5/10

Reviews: Eric Gales, Asphodelus, Nil Desperandum, Ceremony Of Silence (By Paul H)

Eric Gales: The Bookends (Provogue Records)

Also known as Raw Dawg, Eric Gales is an American Blues-Rock guitarist who plays some of the most smolderingly good blues I’ve heard in many a year. A child prodigy, Gales has released copious amounts of material during his career starting with 1991’s The Eric Gales Band. The Bookends his latest offering. Perhaps the standout track on this fabulous album is Southpaw Serenade, an eight minute meander through the multiple offerings that Gales draws together his heritage of rock and blues formed from his influences of Hendrix and Carlos Santana amongst many others. This is his 19th album, as well as being featured on numerous other albums. Sublime musicianship throughout the album, variations in pace and a storming cover of With A Little Help From My Friends all contribute to a real feel good relaxed vibe from a guitarist who makes the simple things sound so easy. Penultimate track, the instrumental Resolution shows a harder edge to his playing, all delivered against a calm and mellow backing track. This is an album that was a real joy to listen to from start to finish and if you like your blues guitarists with a harder edge then it’s really worth checking this out. 8/10

Asphodelus: Stygian Dreams (Terror From Hell Records)

This is the debut release from Finnish band Asphodelus, a young three piece who have been kicking around demos and an EP since 2016. Vocalist, bassist and guitarist J. Fippu possesses a roar that would surely echo around the bowels of hell itself and that will tell you that the band follow the black doom metal path. Promo shots find the band in black leather and corpse paint, although their music isn’t necessarily as intense in focus as other black metal outfits. This isn’t to say it’s not good, far from it. With a production that is pleasing raw and echoes the first wave of Scandinavian black metal of the early 1990s, the band crash and sprawl their way through the album with impressive confidence. Echoing atmospherics haunt the music, with the routine bass and drums allowing some effective guitar work on tracks like Scent Of Venus, whilst they are not afraid to introduce synth effects on other tracks, such as the epic The Hourglass Infernal. Old school sound from a band that weren’t even born when the early legends were at their peak. It’s strange how the world turns. 6/10

Nil Desperandum: Dark Tides (Self Released)

This is an interesting release. Nil Desperandum hail from Nottingham. A four-piece whose influences include Coheed And Cambria, Rush and RATM, Dark Tides is their first release, and although it was released late in 2018 it has only just come to our attention. It is a fine debut. Cohesive, intelligent and with a sweet indie edge to their music, it’s a breath of fresh air amongst much of the standard fare we hear too often. Front-woman Melissa has a crystal clear voice, her vocals adding quality. After the self-titled intro, it’s opening track Walk This World Alone which immediately grabs the attention. At just over seven minutes, it’s a bold statement but it works well. Slipping Away continues the alt-rock feel, layered guitar work enhance the solid central engine of drummer Kiefer and bassist Phil. The atmospheric Absence paves the way for the final two tracks, The Void and the nine-minute Vertigo, a really quality song, which builds superbly, allowing guitarist Fee to let loose towards the end of the track. It is certainly an album worth a listen. 7/10

Ceremony Of Silence: Outis (Willowtip Records)

This is the debut album from the Slovakian duo known as Ceremony Of Silence. Full of downtuned dissonance and a frenzy of blistering songs that sever arteries through the airwaves, Outis is a blisteringly ferocious debut. With the lyrical content following the mystical path of a man who is confronting his innermost self and his direct experience of the ultimate perennial wisdom, it’s got some heft behind it in terms of content. Immerse yourself into the album and it will pay dividends. Opener Invocation Of The Silent Eye introduces you to the intense direction, blistering blast beats, growling sinister vocals and lacerating guitar work that is at times about as disharmonious as an angry bear woken early from hibernation.

Trance Of Void simmers with resentment, the rapid fire drumming and screaming riffs bursting the inner ear canal. Relentless in assault, the machine gun attack is one thing, but this album simply crawls with evil like an infected maggot ridden wound. By the time you get to track five, the malevolent Black Sea Of Drought there is simply jagged holes in the chest where the outer rib cage and covering skin should be. It is brutal, it is intimidating and simply impossible to resist. A veritable battery of death metal, there is only one way to avoid the impact, and that is to join the ride. 8/10

Friday 22 February 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Haken

Haken, Vola & Bent Knee, The Fleece Bristol

For a Sunday in February this was quite an eventful gig as it happened. I'd seen two of the three bands before and the shows were exciting but always quite reserved as is the nature of prog. However tonight's gig was sold ou, however as seems to be a theme with shows in Bristol, the venue seemed to have sold 50 or so more tickets than the venue can hold, couple with that the two soundesks that took up a good portion of the back of the room, it meant that one particularly over-zealous security guard spent much of the evening telling people to move forward into an already crushed room just to leave access to the toilets clear. Now I'm not going to comment on the health and safety ramifications of this (it is my dayjob after all) however being herded like cattle (or perhaps sheep) did detract a little from the overall show.

Still it was about the music and onstage first were the only Americans on the bill, Bostonian four piece Bent Knee (8) who set about drawing the attention of the packed house immediately with probably the oddest set of the entire evening, featuring Ben Levin (guitar), Chris Baum (violin), Courtney Swain (vocals, keys), Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth (drums) and Jessica Kion (bass) their music is a off-kilter mish mash of styles sounding a little like Bjork, singing Ella Fitzgerald while fronting The Mars Volta as they play Kate Bush style art rock, the diminutive Courtney is a vocal powerhouse, she has a wide range that's augmented by a mighty fine reverbed mic, she adds the otherworldly synths while the rhythm section neatly supplies odd time signature grooves. Levin's guitar playing is wild and freeform as is Baum's violin, it made for a wildly original, kooky set of music that doesn't really follow any borders, They arrived on the stage to bemusement of many but when they closed out their set with the fantastic Holy Ghost everyone was firmly onside.

With the quirkiness of Bent Knee enveloping the room, it was time for the Danish modern prog masters Vola (8) who were playing a lot of this run as a three piece. They were missing keyboardist Martin Werner who was dealing with other issues so would only be playing select dates, however with all of his synths loaded onto backing tapes the show continued as once again Asger Mygind leading from the front, the singer/guitarist is the main visual feature of the band, like a happy Mikael Akerfeldt his booming vocal handling, commanding the bands emotionally charged and intelligent modern progressive metal, he even relied more on his harsh vocals this time but these too were impressive as he and the other two instrumental members riffed like utter bastards getting the whole room nodding to Smartfriend, Owls and Stray The Skies and singing along to Alien Shivers and the dramatic Ruby Pool. Not as imperious as they had been with Monuments but still one of the best touring prog bands on the circuit right now and a great choice of support act.

Still more people arrived, until The Fleece was bursting at the seams, it was uncomfortable until the Rossini's William Tell Overture (by way of Mike Oldfield's version) blared over the PA welcoming UK proggers Haken (8) to the stage who lit a fire as soon as they came on the stage with The Good Doctor from their most recent album Vector, the album they were touring, four came from that album, The Good Doctor, Puzzle Box, Veil and the chugging instrumental Nil By Mouth. However I would say that live these songs didn't really stand out when compared to tracks such as the brilliant Falling Back To Earth from The Mountain or the two songs that came from Affinity especially 1985 which destroyed the place, almost being heralded like a hit single by the crowd, which was strange at prog gig.

But I digress, the set was met by excitement throughout though the cover of Paranoid Android was a little surreal, given that Radiohead had early gigs in the same venue, and that Haken have five albums and an EP yet chose to play a cover over maybe some of their lesser known early material. Still this is a small knit pick as by the time The Architect closed the main set the crowd was at peak excitement. A brief break and then it was just one song in the encore but that was the massive Crystalised a 19 minute conclusion to a set. Haken always impress live and now they've ramped up their performance especially on 1985 which had light up glasses and a keytar. A top night of progressive music, but maybe think about a larger venue to put it in.      

Thursday 21 February 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Dunkelnacht (Live Review By Paul H)

Dunklenacht Creature Sound, Swansea

I’d been really impressed by the French band's latest release, Empires Of Mediocracy so despite the attraction of a night in after two nights at Fuel I headed West to Creature Sound, a music venue in Swansea for another night of heavy music.

It's actually easier for me to get to Bristol than Swansea but a event free drive saw me arrive about 30 minutes after advertised start. Luckily things were running late and so I was there in time to catch the opening act. First up in a sparsely populated room was Metal To The Masses hopeful outfit Rapture's End (5). The local five piece had been drafted in at the last minute and despite their ragged approach they do have some promise. Musically the lightest band on the bill, they put together a reasonable set which at times saw only guitarist Tom and drummer Chris on the stage. Singer Annie decided that being off stage gave her more room to flex the vocal chords as she strode back and fore across the front of the stage. For those who are unaware, the band's sound fuses hard and heavy rock with punk tinged elements. The local support was typically partisan and spurred the band on and If I have one criticism it would be that their songs are a little similar in style and sound. Whilst this was a local show with a relaxed atmosphere, they will need to tighten up their game substantially if they are to progress to the semi finals in Cardiff.

Ylem Darkul (5) had supported Dunkelnacht through their four date tour and their raw black metal fitted the bill. I’d seen the band in Fuel at Winter Eradication where they had failed to impress. A full complement at least allowed them to open up their game but there is still very little to get excited about. I’d have expected them to have been a bit more cohesive but as it was there wasn’t a lot to really hold the attention. Maybe I’m just missing something because the Bristol band worked hard with a small crowd.

Two night's earlier Sepulchre (7) had delivered a rock solid set which had been sufficient to send them through on a wild card at the first heat of the MTTM. Led by Darren Evans, a veritable whirlwind of energy and pure metal style, the band blasted through a short but potent set, which included tracks from both their fine EPs. Betrayed By God and Scriptures Of War were again ferocious and incited minor action within the small but energetic gathering. As in previous viewings, the drumming of Aimee Coppola once again impressed as she held everything together tightly, rightly drawing a huge cheer at the end of the set from Tegaarst Dunkelnacht. Sepulchre stick tightly to the thrash path but do it in such a way you cannot fail to be entertained by them. A good warm up for the main event.

Although running 30 minutes behind the advertised times, as this was a free entry gig you couldn’t really complain. The French band Dunkelnacht (9) were a different class to what had gone on before them. With a decent catalogue of tracks to play from, they kicked off at high speed and for the next 60 minutes delivered a masterclass in blackened death metal. Tighter than Steel Panther’s spandex, the band were on point from start to finish. Triggers were hit on cue, smoke and lighting synchronised perfectly as Tegaarst hammered his double bass set up. The band played as if headlining Wacken, vocalist M.C. Abagor constantly urging more action on the floor. Flanked by guitarist Heimdall and the intensely focused bassist Alkhemohr, M.C Abagor dominated the centre stage with superb presence.

New tracks from Empires Of Mediocracy sounded solid despite their relative freshness and as the set progressed it was impossible not to become more absorbed in the professionalism on display. As the band hit their final song I grabbed a shirt a copy of their latest album before heading out of the door and the drive back East. Despite the poor turnout, which I calculated was about seven punters who didn’t actually belong to one of the bands playing, this was a good evening headlined by a superb outfit who I would love to see again in the near future.

Reviews: Saor, Warlung, Dark Years From Now, YERÛŠELEM (Sean, Mark & Paul S)

Saor: Forgotten Paths (Avantguarde) [Sean]

Wow. I….just give me a moment, I wasn’t expecting my spirit to be sent skyward and so suddenly. Come on Seán, you have a review to type here! Maintain your composure! *clears throat and cracks fingers* If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, never bothering to cast your senses towards the glorious North, then your ignorance is unforgivable. A great force has emerged from its farthest reaches, imbued by the very heritage and natural beauty that birthed it. I speak of Saor, the Scottish Atmospheric/Celtic/Folk Black Metal entity forged by multi instrumentalist, Andy Marshall. Embodying all things evocative and earthy, Saor return with Forgotten Paths, the fourth (heathen) foray into the rugged Scottish wilderness. Put on your warmest garments, feel the bracing air caress your skin and set foot into the furthest you have been from time and home….

Title track, Forgotten Paths, sets us on our journey. Blast beats, which are always welcome, lead us onward, with strong guitar melodies placed tastefully above the furious fray. The pace slows, the melodies intensify and one can soon hear each layer added into the already huge spectrum of sound. Violins, flutes and even a piano add to an already cinematic outburst, captured perfectly by the clear and expansive production. It’s also pleasing to hears Andy’s earth shaking bellows increasingly shine through, it’s prominence greatly enhancing the proceedings. A brief intermission follows, before all manner of melody fires off at once in a stunning crescendo. Was that 10 minutes? Certainly didn’t feel like it! Monadh gradually heaps sombre melody upon melody, maintaining it’s more deliberate pace even after every instrument erupts into life.

Monadh’s main lead runs through most of the track, with varying layers and instrumentation built around it’s core, continuously shifting yet never straying afar or outstaying it’s welcome. The mood soon becomes one of triumph and hope, conjuring images of a lone figure having conquered an insurmountable foe. Another 10 minutes pass with Bron, my mind and spirit elsewhere, soaring above Scotland’s rolling hills and deepest lochs in the grip of Autumn, soon fading to winters touch. Is that a dulcimer I hear? Regardless, I am cascaded by beautiful folk instrumentation (bagpipes, fuck aye!) bolstered by ethereal clean vocals, melting this jaded Celt’s heart in amateur of seconds. Exile closes with the pensive plucking of a lonely harp, finding me casting my minds eye out towards the waves breaking upon the shore, bringing our journey to an end. Wow.

I’ve started with a wow, so I’ll finish with a wow. Hell, such is the majesty of Forgotten Paths, I uttered it repeatedly Owen Wilson style in a deep, drawn out exhale of purest joy. Wow. Such is the immersive power of Forgotten Paths, it transcends any base sensation and strikes not only the mind but the spirit, too. Andy Marshall’s vision is vast and compositional guile, vaster still. Saor effortlessly balance might and melancholy across sprawling musical vistas with nary a misstep. You owe it to yourself to hear Forgotten Paths, to experience what Andy and thus, Soar, have experienced and immediately hit repeat the moment Forgotten Paths fades into silence. After all, silence is deafening. 10/10

Warlung: Immortal Portal (Self Released) [Mark]

Let’s start with the obvious; an absolutely great name for a band, bravo chaps. If you’re wondering if the music lives up to that moniker, in short, it does. This album has a stoner/desert feel, with a lot of classic 70’s thump woven into decent modern production techniques, all self produced, too. Warlung have crossed the boundaries of that stoner vibe with melodic doom cuts to great effect. Opening with Black Horse Pike, the intro is dirty, filtered through a 70’s telephone and short enough to not be an annoyance, this drops into a crisp lead and then Warlung does one of my favourite things, singing the name of the song immediately, the rest of the song goes by in a flash of syncopated kick drums and great vocal melodies. We All Die In The End is a slightly more upbeat song, even though you’d never guess it from the discordant intro, reminiscent of a band who have listened to a fair amount of Black Sabbath and channelled it to good use. The main riff in this song is infectious, it gets in your head and keeps playing long after the track has finished and the outro lead is well crafted, not a shred fest, but tactfully placed notes over a great building rhythm section.

Other highlights - Psychonauts, more minimal than the rest of the album, not much in the way of rhythm guitars in this one, and it’s good because of it. Coal Minors is tremendous and a very good way to close the album, lyrically dark and melodically well structured. Vocal duties are carried out by George Baba and Philip Bennett, who do a very solid job, clean and accomplished throughout this 49 minutes. The rhythm section, Chris and Ethan Tamez is tight and very in sync, keeping the head nodding track after track. Definitely a band I’d want to check out live, a few beers with good friends in a sweaty rock club and I can imagine this being one of those nights out that leaves you a bit blurry the next day. Overall, this album isn’t a world beater, but it isn’t forgettable either, I feel Immortal Portal overstays its welcome just a touch at 49 minutes but overall the listener is left with an enjoyable experience and something that’s likely to get a few more listens throughout the year. 7/10

Dark Years From Now: Dark Years From Now (Self Released) [Paul S]

Dark Years From Now is a 1 man band from Vancouver in Canada. The one man in question is called Dan Potter, who is a multi instrumentalist, this self titled album is his first release. Opening track Forbidden Nexus is a short instrumental that is a little Djent-ish, reminds me of Animals As Leaders or Chimp Spanner. Next up is Heaven And Hell collide which has a technical Death metal feel to it, but in a fairly simple mid-paced way. The vocals are harsh, but in a black metal way rather than a death metal way. The vocals are in a higher register than you would expect for death metal; I suppose if you are a one man band you just have to go with the voice you have.

Red Light Glares is also techy death, but is faster; more obviously death metal. The song has a aggressive feel to it despite the technicality, the song also boasts a slower, heavier part and a very impressive solo. Proxy Whore has a slightly more restrained and measured feel to it, still technical death metal, but there are elements of djent coming in as well. The song again has some very impressive solos and a soft middle section with some very interesting rhythmic passages.

Zubaydah is more technical and djent, the rhythm is fairly staccato, and doesn’t flow like the previous songs, definitely a different feel. Burial Forest is nearly 3 minutes of electronic noise. Pyrophoric has a slower choppier sense to it, similar to Zubaydah, but with a heavier feel and drive. Shot Caller is similar to the song that came before it, the track is an instrumental with some very good solo’s and an interesting middle section. X Or Cyst? Pt 1 is another djent track, that is tight and controlled, the vocals are whispered, which is an interesting way to handle them.

Fall Away is a rather strange song. Not death metal or djent in any way, rather it’s more like an early nineties piece of alternative rock. The vocals are clean (and not very good, sorry), the song feel out of place and is a bit of an oddity. The album closes with the track Riptides Of The Abyss, which is just like Burial Forest, in that it is just electronic noise, but this time it’s for over ten minutes.

Dark Years From Now is an interesting album. It doesn’t totally work, but it’s so packed full of promise that it highlights huge things could be on the way. Personally I prefer the technical death metal style over the Djent, but which ever way Dan wants to push this, he needs to focus what he wants to do. Go for one style, and try to produce a coherent whole. I’d encourage him to work with other people (in particular a vocalist), so he has some ideas from other people to control his creativity. This project needs focus and direction, but the raw talent on display is fantastic, and hints at a future that could be huge, doesn’t quite work yet, but my god, watch this space! 7/10

YERÛŠELEM: The Sublime (Debemur Morti Productions) [Paul S]

YERÛŠELEM is an industrial project from Vindsval and W.D. Feld the current mastermind, and former member of french band Blut Aus Nord. The Sublime is the band's first album. The music on offer here is Industrial that is quite similar to the style found on last years Mirrors For Psychic Warfare album. There are clearly lots of Industrial influences on here, even going back as far as Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. The album does have a few problems, not massive problems, if you are passionate about industrial you’ll find a lot to like. However, the album does lack some complexity, each track has a drumbeat, some dissonant guitar, very echoey vocals, some samples and quite often a simple melody played on guitar. But that's about it. The individual tracks are just that, for 4 - 5 minutes and then they fade out. The feeling that this isn’t going anywhere is present on each track, in fact what this sounds like most to me is 1 very long track that is faded up for a few minutes, faded down for a few seconds, and then faded up again. 

So, the track The Sublime has a slow to mid-paced tempo, with a simple beat and a bit of an eastern feel. Autoimmunity is very similar but a little bit mellower. Eternal is like the other 2 but a little simpler. Sound Over Matter is very quiet, short soundscape (probably the only track that stands out from the rest). Joyless is a bit more aggressively rhythmic with a simple repeated melody. Triiinity has a bit of a hip hop or possibly trip hop beat to it. And so it goes on. The same track 9 times, it’s not a band track, but I’d expect a bit more for my money. This isn’t bad, it just need more work, more complexity, more inventiveness, just more really. The other problem with this album is the fact that the the people who put it together are the same people who made Blut Aus Nord’s masterpiece The Work Which Transforms God. This is an album I recently saw described as uncriticizable. It is as perfect an Industrial Black Metal album as you can get, so this just isn’t good enough, we know they can produce perfection, so less than that feels disappointing. Again, this is a good album, but it could be so much better. Maybe save your money on this, and get The Work Which Transforms God instead, you won’t be disappointed with that! 7/10