Thursday 7 February 2019

Reviews: Rhapsody Of Fire, Chalice Of Suffering, Kings Destroy, Ossuarium (Rich & Paul H)

Rhapsody Of Fire: The Eighth Mountain (AFM Records) [Rich]

It’s safe to say that Rhapsody Of Fire have become rather the subject of ridicule in metal circles over the last few years with several tumultuous behind the scenes incidents such as the notorious name change to Rhapsody Of Fire, losing singer Fabio Lione to Angra and then founding member Luca Turilli splitting from the rest of the band and forming Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. It’s been a rocky time for the band and the band have been very much tested but not defeated. Led by founding member and keyboard player Alex Staropoli the band have released their eleventh album The Eighth Mountain. This line up of the band released Legendary Years back in 2017 which was an album of re-recordings but The Eighth Mountain is the first album of original material with this version of the band.

This is a reboot of sorts for the band with this album being the start of a new conceptual saga and the band sound positively invigorated and ready to unleash this new chapter upon us. The classic Rhapsody Of Fire sound is there - huge sweeping symphonic power metal anthems full of pomposity and grandiosity with licks of medieval folk music but there is an extra kick of fury and aggression thrown in the mix as well heard evidently in the furious guitar playing of Roberto De Micheli. Fabio Lione was always going to be a difficult singer to replace being one of the finest in power metal but with Giacomo Voli they have seriously found a worthy replacement. He impressed me with his take on the classic Rhapsody Of Fire material on Legendary Years but he really comes into his own here and shows a dazzling range and jaw dropping power.

The songs throughout the album are nicely varied from the fast and furious, to mid paced power metal anthems, folk driven ballads and of course colossal orchestral epics with the orchestral parts performed by the Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra. As a very nice surprise we even get narration from the late great Christopher Lee in the grand album finale Tale Of A Hero’s Fate. This is a damn fine comeback for the band showing that they are far from a spent force. It doesn’t quite meet the levels of the classic Rhapsody Of Fire albums but it gets damn close. It’s reassuring that the legendary tales will keep on coming from Rhapsody Of Fire. 8/10

Chalice Of Suffering: Lost Eternally (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul H]

The sophomore release from US band Chalice Of Suffering is just crushing in its morbid heaviness. There are riffs bigger than icebergs here. Opening track In The Mist Of Once Was leaves no doubt that this death/doom at its finest. Massive slabs crash down, the guttural howl of John McGovern unearthly and unnatural. Eerie bagpipes courtesy of Kevin Murphy haunt the track. Emancipation Of Pain follows, poignant keys adding a ghostly quality to an already sinister sound, McGovern switching between growls and chilling clean vocals. Overflowing with emotions, bleak in its outlook, this is an album built for the frozen winter time. 

There are elements of melody despite the general overwhelming despair which spews forth. Like a giant megalodon, the album slowly grinds its way forward, a stinging loneliness providing a harrowing undercurrent throughout. Several guest vocalists adding their misery, including Demonstealer of Demonic Resurrection on Miss Me But Let Me Go and Giovanni Antonio Vigliotti of Somnent on Lost Eternally. In terms of death/doom metal, Lost Eternally is immense. Seven tracks weigh in at 62 minutes in length. It is slow, heavy and doleful. Don’t put it on if you want cheering up. A darkened room, flickering candles and a snowy landscape outside will help immeasurably. Embrace and accept the Chalice Of Suffering. 8/10

Kings Destroy: Fantasma Nera (Svart Records) [Paul H]

Hailing from Brooklyn Kings Destroy is an atmospheric grunge doom outfit. This is their fourth album and pretty good it is too. Their first release for four years, this is a mix of many styles, with an underlying accessibility like early Foo Fighters. Barbarossa is case in point; a punchy clean track that is all done in just over three minutes, with a sweet guitar breakdown and a hook that snags deep. There is more than a bit of Alice In Chains tucked away here [Dead Before] as well as some sumptuous Soundgarden style drawl of Seven Billion Drones. Produced by David Bottrill whose credentials include Tool and King Crimson, this album departs in style from the band’s previous releases. It is expertly crafted, retaining a raw edge despite the hard polish on each track. 

“We challenged ourselves to make the best album we could,” said singer Stephen Murphy. “…and we left our guts on the table. When I finished the vocals on this album, I was mentally and physically broken from the effort. I did not sing again for two months after it was recorded. I owed that effort to my bandmates, and they did the same for me.” With an effort like that, it would seem only right to afford the band the courtesy of a listen. You are unlikely to be disappointed if you enjoy some thought-provoking cerebral challenges with a hard rock underbelly. Kings Destroy is Aaron Bumpus (bass), Stephen Murphy (vocals), Carl Porcaro (guitar), Rob Sefcik (drums) and Chris Skowronski (guitar). Give them some love. 7/10

Ossuarium: Living Tomb (20 Buck Spin) [Paul H]

Dark, menacing storm clouds gather overhead. The ground begins to tremble. Giant, mountainous riffs hurtle earthwards and suddenly you are amid Living Tomb, the debut release by the Portland, Oregon outfit Ossuarium. Formed in 2016, this album is impressive from start to finish and immediately provoked references to Vaniaja, the Finnish death metal outfit who weave a web of mystery. A traditional bludgeoning on Blaze Of Bodies is followed by a more complex piece, the seven-minute Vomiting Black Death which builds with demonic intent before bulldozing everything in its path with gargantuan heaviness. 

Soaring devilish guitar work enhances the track which threatens to explode as it drives forward with an intensity rarely heard in today’s death metal scene. More epic soaring work follows with the slow grinding doom edge on Corrosive Hallucinations. More aggression and driving power follow on Writhing In Emptiness, whilst the real death metal accelerator is hit on End Of Life’s Dreams and Visions Pt.1… whilst the enormous Pt.2 closes an intensely punishingly heavy release. In Living Tomb, Ossuarium have produced an album of quality from start to finish. 8/10

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