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