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Friday 1 March 2019

Reviews: Cavina, Skeletoon, The Lunar Effect, Sunstain (Liam & Alex)

Cavina: Howls Of Mind (Self Released) [Liam]

If Pantera didn’t split up this is possibly what they would have sounded like. Brothers Eduardo Cavina (lead vocals/bass) and Matteus Cavina (backing vocals/guitar) along with Javier Sanchez on drums have created a new age metal band filled to the brim with riffs and headbanger moments. When the album kicks in with heavy thrash opener High And Low, you’d think this is another standard underground thrash metal band, but you couldn’t be more wrong. You can see they’re taking some big influences from the thrash scene, but they’re more Southern metal to be more specific. This is immediately shown by front man Eduardo Cavina’s powerful voice. It’s a strong start to their debut album and it keeps giving. While second track Weak Flesh does have a catchy small chorus and a good riff to it, it’s nothing compared to personal track favorite What I Am. This song starts with a growing bass riff that’s dirty enough to make anyone’s face curl with delight.

Although the best feature of the song is the guitar riffs that even Dimebag would be proud of, and how it has the ability to make anyone’s head bang. Breaking The Shell then slowly builds by having samples of nostalgic 50’s & Mexican songs before the drums kick in which is impossible not to follow. The following guitar riff is a headbanger of a riff and continues strong throughout. The Last Prayer show’s the band does have a melodic side and how impressively they can utilize it to get you singing along and air guitaring along. While the rest of the album is still ablaze with riffs, album ender Finding My Way shows the more classic rock ‘n roll side of the band with a more Volbeat feel. But make no mistake, the band is heavy as f*ck and  this album is not one to be missed. 7/10

Skeletoon: They Never Say Die (Scarlet Records) [Alex]

Nerd-Metal is a concept not often explored. Don’t get me wrong, metal subculture itself can be considered a geeky sect, progressive and power metal even more so. Yet few bands take typical Dungeons and Dragons, comic books and cartoon fandoms, and make them the blueprint for a metal project. Skeletoon are unique in the sense that they can bring a tidal wave of cliché to their sound, and have it add to their particular brand of dorky, unashamedly silly charm

They Never Say Die is, in many ways, your typical power metal affair. Soaring vocal passages are matched by equally bright lead guitar breaks, while it all forges forward with a dominating sense of dramatics. Lyrically, the theme matches the bombast of the music: Pirates. Stories abound with tales of gold plundered from distant lands and prisoners forced to walk the plank at the hands of swashbuckling captains and hook-handed rogues. Speaking as somebody who is absolutely enchanted by historical themes, I frequently need to remind myself that the entire Skeletoon project is tongue in cheek and not intended to reflect beauty and detail. ‘’I am telling you a story about a pirate who became a legend, and about a bunch of kids ready to risk their own lives for one more chance because they were the ones writing the story’’ sounds the opening monologue. Nothing there makes sense, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, it creates an aesthetic which appeals to their ethos of being wacky and uncool, while parodying the ridiculousness which comes in any subgroup, be that metal or comic books.

Overall, They Never Say Die is an album virulent power metal fans will probably enjoy, if only for its clean-cut execution of the genre. Personally, I would have liked to see Skeletoon go a bit more over the top and truly live up to their reputation as a band who don’t take themselves too seriously. By no means is this a bad record, it’s just not one I see myself returning too, except I get a sudden urge to dorkiness combined with the world of metal. In that respect, Skeletoon fare rather well 6/10

The Lunar Effect: Calm Before The Calm (Kozmik Artifactz) [Alex]

Strongly influenced by classic rock and stoner metal, The Lunar Effect certainly wears their influences like badges of pride. Not there’s anything dishonorable about that. Championing a vintage style of bluesy, rock n roll inspired psychedelia is something a lot of bands do, and while it may not seem particularly original or different, Calm Before The Calm certainly executes these styling well.

Distinctly retro yet also morose and disquieting, Woman opens the album with trudging guitar and bass melodies working in tandem to create a dark, almost hypnotic listening experience. Stare at the Sun follows, flaunting the Zeppelin influence with style, and proving one of the most fun moments across the 8 track mini-album! Call It In pays homage to another influence: Specifically, that of Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi, the shadowy tone and enticing, drawn-out vocals, leaving no doubt as to who founding member and primary writer, Jon Jefford, is paying tribute to. If you need a little more melancholy served with your psychedelia though, then Weaver and Daughter Of Mara satisfy that urge with conviction, proving perfectly melancholic and very, very, Doors led. So much so, that it feels like the ghost of Jim Morrison deserves a writing credit, for posthumously making small blues acts imitate the sound they were pioneering in the 1960s. Perhaps all the inspirations here do, alive or dead.

Joking aside, while it is rare for me to use comparisons in my reviews, I really cannot avoid doing so here, for how noticeable they are. Yet like Rival Sons or The Answer, they tribute their favorite acts well, playing in a way which honors the diverse nature of the classic rock. That might sound like high praise, but –without naming any names – there are some bands that riff off the stereotyped sound associated with one band, and then completely deny the influence later on. The Lunar Effect is by no means innovative, yet they exude honesty 6/10

Sunstain: Thrill And Fever (Recordjet) [Alex]

The production of Thrill And Fever is awful, pushing the vocals into the forefront and the guitars far back. This is made more distracting by the fact that their lead vocalist, Patrick, cannot sing, instead opting for a gurgled and dirty delivery which is presumably meant to owe itself to grunge, but falls massively short of possessing a modicum of charm or attitude. On another note, the guitar riffs are instantly forgettable, feel clunkily constructed, and fuzzed beyond comprehension. Surprisingly then, we do get a few semi-decent lead solos across these four songs. However, when these occur, the rest of the song utterly drops out, making them feel extremely out of place and revealing how little the rhythm section contributes, to what constitutes a core sound.

The reason I don’t mention a single song here, is because there is nothing that is not utterly insufferable, at any moment on this twenty-three minute EP. Far be it from me to give young, bands honing their craft a hard time, but I find it hard to perceive of why Sunstain thought they could muster up a warm first impression with this release. Make no mistake, it appears on Spotify with the tagline ‘a highly energetic display of things to expect’. If Thrill And Fever bears any resemblance of what is to come from this Australian three-piece, then I respectfully ask that they do not spread their unbearable music worldwide. 1/10

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