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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

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

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