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Tuesday 30 April 2019

Reviews: Jim Peterik & The World Stage, The Watcher, Tank, Thor (Paul H)

Jim Peterik & World Stage: Winds Of Change (Frontiers Records)

When Jim Peterik, the man who co-wrote Eye Of The Tiger amongst many others, left AOR giants Survivor for the final time in 1996 the first release that followed was 2000’s Jim Peterik And World Stage, a collection of melodic rock songs where he duets with, as he put it “some of my friends”. 19 years later and Peterick has returned to World Stage for the second album, once again featuring some of the heavy weight names in the world of keyboards, melody and dubious lyrical content. Peterik is one of the hardest working musicians in the business, and a glance at his wiki page gives you an indication of the range of artists he has and continues to work with. Winds Of Change is 13 tracks of melodic rock, with each track crafted to the particular vocalist and underpinned by typically smooth musicianship.

The title track features Don Barnes of 38 Special and has a Southern melody throughout; Proof Of Heaven featuring Styx’s Dennis DeYoung is sugary and high pitched whilst Home Fires is a pacey romp with the vocal prowess of Pride Of Lions Toby Hitchcock. Danny Vaughn’s duet with Peterik on The Hand I Was Dealt contains some of the worst lyrics I’ve ever heard, Just For You with REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin is awful but typical of what you’d expect of this genre. Love You All Over The World features the isolated vocal of the late Jimi Jamison, the Survivor singer who died in 2014. Peterik took the vocals and crafted a new track around it, to great effect. With other AOR luminaries such as Night Ranger’s Kelly Keagy and Kevin Chalfant, Loverboy’s Mike Reno and Jason Scheff of Chicago also included, you know exactly what you will get with an album like this. Melodic rock is more predictable than any other genre of rock music, and whether you like it or not, admiration for the quality of such polished crafted work cannot be denied. 8/10

The Watcher: Kaosaura (Self Released)

Little in the way of information about this five-piece from Finland. Kaosaura is their debut album and it’s a fine slab of Scandinavian style black metal. More than a nod to Behemoth in the vocal delivery of Medithateon and a pummelling delivery throughout highlights a range of influences from across the genre. It’s fast, as you’d expect, plenty of the standard tremolo riffing and at times I’d put this more into the death metal camp, such is the intense drumming (minus blast beats), the fiery riffage and the snarling intensity that fuels the ten track album. Rebellion Geometry, Alter Lux and Diva Of Divinity all burn the hairs off your face, such is their ferocity and the band maintain enough melody to distinguish their sound. 7/10

Tank: Re-Ignition (DeadLine Music)

Another release from the Tank stable and this time it is the Tucker/Evans formation that is heading the charge. Four years ago, I was impressed with Tank’s Valley Of Tears which featured ZP Theart on vocals. I was less impressed with Sturmpanzer, the release from Algy Ward’s Tank in 2018. To avoid confusion, Re-Ignition features the Ward-less Tank, with guitarists Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans, long time drummer Bobby Schoffkowski, bassist Randy Van Der Elsen and new vocalist David Readman (Pink Cream 69). Tucker and Evans are not original members, with Tucker joining the original power trio of Ward, Mark and Peter Brabbs on 1983’s This Means War, by which time the band had already released the classic debut Filth Hounds Of Hades and 1982’s Power Of The Hunter. Evans joined Tucker and drummer Graham Crallan in the band in 1984 on Honour & Blood, by which time only Ward was left from the original line-up. The line-up disbanded in 1989 but have been around in various incarnations since 1997. Ward was replaced by Doogie White, the current vocalist of The Michael Schenker group for a period in 2010 with the album War Machine the result. Further line-up changes have continued ever since. Today there is Algy Ward’s Tank and Tank, which is the line-up which features on this review. Phew!

Now that we’ve cleared that up, what is Re-Ignition all about? Well, it is basically a tribute to the early days of Tank, when the band were a seminal part of the NWOBHM movement. It is fair to state that Filth Hounds Of Hades is an essential early metal album to own, and although Tank never fulfilled that promise, the early albums contain some gems. The reworking of 11 tracks from those first four albums is possibly the best introduction to the band’s early (and best) work, and this release injects a thunderous fresh energy into the selected songs. Opener Walking Barefoot Over Glass is as gnarly as it was in 1982; the addition of Sodom’s Tom Angelripper on Power Of The Hunter is inspired, making it an even greater prototype thrash track which thunders along at brutal pace. For most of these tracks the band stick faithfully to the original sound, none more so than (He Fell In Love With a) Stormtrooper from Filth Hounds, although Readman’s powerful voice slightly shades Ward’s gutsy original. Listening to the original version of Shellshock, it’s almost criminal that Tank didn’t achieve more than notoriety, such was their punk-fused rock ‘n’ roll. Inviting Dani Filth to add the vocals on the 2019 version gives this short song even more punch and once again you remember how at one time Tank were very much on a par with Motörhead. Closing this feisty throwback with The War Drags Ever On from Honour and Blood, Re-Ignition is a blinding reminder of some excellent songs from the early 1980s. Play it loud and enjoy. 7/10

Thor: Hammer Of Justice (DeadLine Music)

Less than two years since the former muscle-bound body building champion released the appalling Beyond The Pain Barrier he returns with another desperately poor offering. You must feel some sympathy with Jon David Mikl, whose continuing misguided belief that a) he can sing b) write decent music and c) anyone still gives a shit about his pathetic efforts continues to haunt him and anyone who has the misfortune to listen to this tripe. The opening trio on this album are utterly shocking; Return Of The Thunderhawk is astonishingly bad but it gets worse as the album progresses. With a sound that is solidly stuck in 1981, and a production that suggests the album was recorded in an outside lavatory, Hammer Of Justice is going to take some beating for the worst album of 2019.

I have a degree of pity; if you’ve had the opportunity to watch the 2015 documentary, I Am Thor, then you’ll have felt the same emotions that emerged during This is Anvil. A hopelessly out of touch musician, deluded in his ambition and convinced that his talent deserves better. Unfortunately, when you get to As The Dragon Flies, a mere half way into this album, any pity is replaced by despair that this waster is continuing to churn out such dog shit. Give it up you fool. It’s time to hang up your paper mache anvil and your stupid hot water bottle and leave us alone. I gave Beyond The Pain Barrier 2/10. This surpasses that. Avoid at all costs. 1/10

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses South Wales Semi-Final 1 Preview

Bloodstock Metal To The Masses South Wales Semi-Final 1 Preview

Six heats, 27 bands and some crazy nights. Now we get down to the business end of possibly the closest event in the history of the South Wales competition. With each of the semi-finals boasting line-ups good enough to qualify as the final in their own right, let’s get down and dirty and have a look at what promises to be two highly competitive and emotionally charged nights at Fuel, starting with Semi Final 1

Semi-Final 1 – Fuel Rock Club, Friday 3rd May at 18:00

Semi-Final 1 contains three of the five bands who edged through as wild cards. I say ‘edged’ but some of these bands have been gigging in some shape or form for over a decade and might well have walked into the final in other heats or regions. Anyway, spawned from the permafrosts of South Wales, Asbjorn - Daemonium de Noctis, Dominus de Octopus and Kjottflate - The Mighty Ravendork, collectively known as Black Pyre stormed into the semi final with a resounding win in Heat 2. The band’s grapefruit gripping black metal has improved immeasurably since their early shows and their recent EP The Forbidden Tomes is a work of crafted if simplistic but totally effective black metal. With tracks such as Tones Of The Endless Void and their anthem Summoning in their arsenal, and a whole bunch of fruit wielding maniacs as their support, don’t rule out the three-piece continuing their journey across more desolate South Walian tundra in search of more invisible tropical fruit.

Doing their best to spoil the misery of a Black Pyre party (and there ain’t no party like a Black Pyre party) will be Heat 3 winners Grym. With the crown for their win in the worst interview answers competition already safely in the trophy cabinet, the Swansea outfit threw something of a surprise on the night of their heat, with a cohesive and confident performance that certainly shook things up. Industrial and sleazy, Grym bring something different to the party and their pumped-up effort in the heat duly pushed them into the semis. Whether they will have enough is open to debate but with a small army of support, it’ll be another boisterous face kicking regardless.

So, what about the wild cards. Well, two heavy weight beasts clashed in heat one and are squaring up to do battle again in SF-1. The old school thrash of Swansea four-piece Sepulchre has been delighting crowds for several years. Their slab of Slayer/Megadeth/Morbid Angel infused thrash drew high praise in their heat. Frontman Darren Evans was everywhere, and while his shirt throwing antics appears to demand medical help, the only assistance needed as a result of his guitar playing is swabs to stop those ears bleeding from the auditory assault. With Aimee Coppola unflappable on the kit and bolstered by Dan Yeoman’s rock steady rhythm guitar work, these thrashers have recently completed recording their new album. If they can hit it from the start, tracks like Kill Me will do exactly that and the band could well cement their place in the last four.

The other behemoth that swapped everything but spit with Sepulchre in heat one was King Kraken. With an army of support, the band who only formed in 2018, stomped a big mud hole in Fuel with their no-nonsense balls out heavy rock. In frontman Mark Donoghue the band possess an ace up their sleeve. His full-on stage presence, where he prowls like a caged bear, combined with a ferocious roar could be the difference on the night, whipping the already rabid support into a frenzy. Since the heat the Kraken have been gigging furiously, and they should be sharp and battle ready. With some new tracks to stand alongside Freak and War Machine, this could be a collision not seen since the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin rammed the evil bastard Japanese whaling factory ship The Nisshin Maru in 2013.

He may have broken his ankle skiing recently, but Adam Vaughan and Fallen Temples are ready. Their bluesy swagger belies a steely underbelly which allows Adam, Joe and Joe to kick serious ass when they play. The guys have road miles under their belt and possess a battery of quality songs which hit the spot every time they play. Skilled in their craft, entertaining to watch and with a humbleness that is fully endearing, the only chink in the Temples armour will be their support (though they promise a bus load - Ed). In heat 4 the judges argued hard to put the band through with lower votes than their competitors. Whether a huge crowd of support can be summoned for the semi-final is moot, but regardless if they do or not, Fallen Temples have sufficient quality to turn any neutral their way and I expect them to run every other band close.

Monday 29 April 2019

Reviews: Enforcer, Once Awake, The Machinist, My Wooden Pillow (Rich & Liam)

Enforcer: Zenith (Nuclear Blast) [Rich]

A band that have been extremely consistent with the quality of their releases are Swedish retro metallers Enforcer and with their fifth album Zenith they maintain the high level of quality attained on previous releases. The band play a very 80’s inspired style of heavy metal with influences from NWOBHM, speed metal and hair metal infused into their style meaning that Zenith comes across as a mixed bag of various 80’s metal styles from the straight ahead riff-fest of Die For The Devil, power ballad-esque Regrets, the speed metal attack of Thunder And Hell, the orchestral pomp of Sail On and the anthemic rocker Searching For You. The mix of different styles and strange song order can make for a bit of a conflicting and uneven listen but thankfully the quality of the songs overcomes this. Zenith is another great album from Enforcer showing that when it comes to retro 1980’s style metal these guys are still at the top.  It may have less of the speed and frenzied riffing of previous albums but the anthemic tunes on Zenith speak for themselves. 8/10

Once Awake: Inside The Storm (Reaper Entertainment Europe) [Liam]

Not often you hear Metalcore from Norway, Its mostly death/black metal that come out of there nowadays, so it’s nice to hear something a bit more ‘mellow’, Now the band doesn't bring anything new to the table in terms of the delivery of the music as more bands are trying to sound more Djenty, but Once Awake aren’t trying to sound like other bands, instead just diverting away from the sound of current Metalcore while making their own unique sound. You can hear the influence from Lamb Of God in the vocals and it makes it more gritty and appealing to me. Album opener In The Grasp is a decent opener, but my personal favorite Soul Eater makes me want to start a one-man wall of death against my bedroom wall (Still need to apologize to the neighbors for that one) The album itself is nothing new, but it’s a pretty strong album. 7/10

The Machinist: Confidimus In Morte (Prosthetic Records) [Liam]

When a extreme metal band is hailed from ‘The Four Corners Of NYC’ you know you’re in for a wild ride, and that is precisely what you get here. Uncontrollable chaos that pounds at you and leaves you lusting for more. This album is just a grisly mixture of hardcore, death metal & grindcore, all packed into one meaty slab of an album. Back to front this album is just pure gold. There’s not an ounce wrong with this record and should be a staple for the modern-day underground metal scene. The putrid vocals of Amanda Gjelaj mixed in with the blistering finger work of Josh Gomez is like a lullaby to your ears. To pick a single track from this record would just be wasting time. Why listen to one song when you can play the album front to back and just be in a state of death metal euphoria? The whole effort just oozes orgasmic riff after riff, and the vocals are just mind blowing. If there’s just one album you listen to this year. It’s got to be this one. I’m honestly completely blown away by how amazing this album is. This is one for the record books. Just pure brilliance. Now if you’ll excuse me, I'm going to raid their Big Cartel shop. 10/10

My Wooden Pillow: Hidden (Self Released) [Liam]

Some Metalcore now from the lovely land of Manchester, (Mancunia as my friend calls it), and it’s not what I was expecting at all to be honest. More along the melodic side of Metalcore rather than in your face breakdowns and chugs, it works quite well. Granted it’s more melodic but it’s still as heavy as Metalcore gets with the inhuman growls bellowing from Kamila Schmidt which gets stuck in your head like an earworm burrowing deep inside. There's not really a favorite track, because it rolls in together smoothly, but it’s nothing memorable really which is a shame. In all fairness it’s a good effort but it does lay a bit flat on some areas. I know it’s metalcore, but there are some opportunities for a good guitar solo, but it comes up short without it. There are some good hooks which does deserve some praise, but nonetheless it’s not amazing, but it’s not terrible. It’s decent. 6/10

Reviews: Snowy White, Grief Ritual, Borders, Xaon (Paul H & Mark)

Snowy White: Situation (Soulfood) [Paul H]

British blues guitarist Snowy White is one of the finest guitarists to ever emerge from these shores. Thriving on anonymity, White has a back story to rival most but few would ever know much about the man who was born Terence Charles White in Barnstaple in 1948.  A life long friend of Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, he learnt his trade in the late 1960s and was invited to join Pink Floyd as a live guitarist in 1977. A member of Thin Lizzy between 1980-82, he features on Chinatown and Renegade, White has also been part of Roger Waters band and is still most famous for his mellow 1983 hit Bird Of Paradise.

With an extensive discography behind him, Situation is the latest album with his band The White Flames, who he first recorded with in 1996 on the album No Faith Required. It’s a beautifully crafted album, with White’s trademark Gibson Les Paul Goldtop taking centre stage. His playing has lost none of its fluidity, and the interplay with the band, such as on the extended jam L.A. Skip is delightfully organic. White’s vocals are laid back, rarely strained and although they show the slightest signs of struggle on the observational Can’t Seem To Do Much About It overall he retains the calmness personified back in the 1980s. Max Middleton’s extensive jazz style keyboards and piano sections riff with White throughout the album, whilst Richard Bailey and Walter Laturpeirissa hold down the rhythm with an ease that only seasoned blues professionals can manage.

At times the lyrics are at best mediocre, but it is the playing of that Goldtop that earnt White his reputation and his performance on Situation is a pleasure to listen to. Crazy Situation, a laid-back song that is chilled and relaxed is a classic example, slow and simple but with crystal clear guitar work, whilst Blues In My Reflection summarises White’s feelings perfectly, another duel with Middleton unassuming and non-confrontational. Situation is an album to play after a hard day, relaxing with a glass of wine. Perfectly paced, never over eager to move forward, it is simply an album that is to be enjoyed. 8/10

Grief Ritual: Life Is A Phase (F H E D - Cassette Only) [Mark]

This EP stretches its legs early, Recidivist hitting hard from the first note to the last, shouting and dirty riffs galore, Grief Ritual really know how to open up space, this will be a blast live, the pits will be hectic, I’m sure. Paroxsym then slows the pace, creating unexpected mood and atmosphere after the breakdowns and anger of the opening track, the sound here is melancholy and has a desperate feel, about halfway through a drum break and build up into a more uptempo hardcore moment, probably the lowest point of the EP for me, being pulled out of the washing riffs of the first half of the track. The next three tracks all fit a similar structure to the first two, hard hitting crusty hardcore riffs, open spaces, lots of very well performed shouting vocals. This 13 minute EP has been a personal highlight for me over the last couple of weeks, getting many spins in the car. 8/10

Borders: Purify (Long Branch Records) [Mark]

Borders are from the UK, Lincoln Metal are the way they describe themselves, a mix of genres that sometimes gels really well and sometimes seems to miss the mark as much as it hits, the screaming is a bit raspy, it’s not bad, but it’s definitely an acquired taste, the vocals are well performed and the rap shouting is pretty good if you’re into that sort of thing. There are really heavy riffs and well crafted breakdowns that are sure to go over well live, but I am a little unsure on the chemistry of the genres they are trying to mix into one overarching sound. Damage Everything opens with a riff that is smart and punishing, but the entire section is gone in 30 seconds to be replaced with a breakdown, the riff does come back with some rap/singing over it, which is fine and reminds me a bit of Hacktivist, but I feel like there’s a lack of cohesion, the song is a highlight on the album and has many great parts. Bad Blood is a good example of what Borders can offer as a band, this track seems to blend what they’re about in a way that will have appeal beyond the young metal crowd, the atmospheric lead line that plays over parts of the track is a great addition. Other album highlights are Nothing To Lose, and the closer Walking Dead with its great syncopated kick patterns, overall I do see Borders having an appeal, this album will be enjoyed by some, not so much by me. 5/10

Xaon: Solipsis (Mighty Music) [Mark]

Zayon? X-aon? I don’t know how this band name is pronounced. Monolith opens the album and the singing reminds me so much of Ihsahn that I had to check he wasn’t the singer, it’s not but Rob Carson does a great job, a great range and loads of depth to his styles, the track behind the vocals is a little bit disappointing, the instrumentation is done well but the actual song sounds like a lot of symphonic metal I’ve heard before, which is no bad thing, but it’s not really anything new. The title track opens with probably the most interesting riff on the entire album, a real banger of a groove which is a bit unexpected, the groove sticks around for a while too, I really like that, Solipsis is the first moment on the album that really delivers on what Xaon promise on their website “Dark Metal”, a mix of heavy, melodic, atmospheric, groove and great vocals.

There are some other good moments on this album, Mobius is good after the really terrible intro, with some fantastic patterns and drum fills, Cipher is grandiose and album closer Mask has more of those really well performed vocals. The playing through the entire album is really good, the guitars are absolutely immaculate, the drums do their thing and the bass is well placed in the mix and does what you expect, the synthy symphonic parts are a little too loud at times and at times feel unnecessary. In fairness to Xaon, they won me over a bit with some of the performance on Solipsis, even though I didn’t think this was going to be my thing as the genre isn’t my cup of tea. 7/10

Reviews: Dorylus, Legion, Fortune, Diviner

Dorylus: Without Sin (Self Released)

4-Piece Dorylus come from Stevenage, so what sort of music does that urban sprawl influence? Well it's a pretty impressive mix of death/thrash metal, they state that their influences are Iron Maiden, Slayer, Lamb Of God and Amon Amarth, which means that their heaviness is balanced by more melodic elements. Off the back of their EP The Rapture they obtained a strong following that saw them supporting Sumer, Krysthla and King Leviathan. Opening with the bone crushing Under My Flesh they send their message of being a band who can rip your face off without sacrificing their progressive approach. With the aforementioned influences I'd compare the band to Floridian's Trivium, on Bite The Bullet they have the crushing grooves of the American metalcore sound with the frantic blast beating of death metal, which means the song will get many a pit going, even with a bass break, that fortunately bleeds into some face ripping solos and a breakdown.

The songs here are all pretty hefty both musically and in length with a lot of progressiveness in each song as they change time signatures frequently bringing a bit of the unexpected to a genre in which you often know what is coming next. This album has taken nearly 2 years to create mainly due to vocalist Joe becoming homeless in early 2018 meaning he did a lot of sofa surfing but still managed to record, produce, mix and master this debut album. Dorylus are Joe Lyndon - guitar / lead vocals (though mainly growls), Craig Carmichael - guitar, Edd Littler - bass and Mitch Cartwright - drums and together they make songs that will appeal to fans of Gojira (Lesser Evil), Lamb Of God (Witch Hunter), Slipknot (Mirrors) and any extreme band you care to mention. They say let them Without Sin cast the first stone, well you'll need a trebuchet full of boulders to cleanse the souls of Dorylus, they are an unrelenting machine drawing from their numerous influences for this blistering slice of ferocious metal. 8/10

Legion: Rising (Rock Company)

Often when on a long journey, in fact most recently on the way to BMF 666 Easter Massacre, we discuss about bands not being as prolific as they were in the past. However that's before we knew about UK rock/metal band Legion who have released a massive 10 albums since 2010, which is insane when you really think about it. Now with so many releases you'd think that there has to be a catch, this is usually that the band are not very good however this five piece are good, yes their music is meat and potatoes, straight down the middle heavy rock but from the production to the instrumentation and vocals it's an album that puts them in as a band that play music that can be considered as good as or even better than much of The Planet Rock fodder. Yes I said it Planet Rock this is where Legion sit from a musical standpoint, it features members from Bob Catley's solo band, DiAnno, Jagged Edge and Lionsheart and does sound like a melting patch of all those bands with touches of NWOBHM (Nothin To Me), a bit of solo Ozzy (How Does It Feel) some of the funk of Skin (Full Moon Rising) and much more leaving every song resonating but not sticking forever. 10 albums in and it's probably not up to me to say whether Legion should continue but on the basis of this album I'd happily hear a lot more of this British rock band. 7/10

Fortune: II (Frontiers Records)

In opposition to Legion, 'cult' AOR band Fortune released their debut album in 1985 (though it was recorded in 1978), it is seen by many AOR fans as the best album of that genre of all time! (A hefty claim) after the collapse of their record label the band fell silent coming back in 2006, the proper come back though was in 2016 as the Fortune brothers, Richard (guitar) & Mick (drums), along with original vocalist Larry Greene, bassist Ricky Rat and keyboardist Mark Nilan came back for the Rockingham Festival. However hyperbole is a curious thing, their debut is lauded (apparently) their second record doesn't live up to this hype for me, admittedly it sounds like it was recorded in 1985, but if the band sounded like this in 1985 then I'd be switching over my cassette for something a bit more substantial. It's so light, airy and keyboard heavy that songs like Freedom Road sounding like a Mike & The Mechanics B-Side! II has been a long time in the making but Fortune are one band that should have remained in the mists of AOR past. 5/10

Diviner: Realms Of Time (Ulterium Records)

Greek metal band Diviner reunites current Innerwish drummer Fragiskos Samoilis with original Innerwish singer Yiannis Papanikolaou, the band was formed with Innerwish guitarist Thimios Krikos but he is no longer in the band and doesn't feature on this second album due to conflicting schedules. Diviner can be classed as traditional heavy metal, in the vein of early Blind Guardian due to Yiannis' vocals. With tracks such as the anthemic The Earth, The Moon, The Sun and the trashy Heaven Falls it's got that classic metal sound running throughout with some of the heavier sounds of Iced Earth, Grave Digger, of course Innerwish and countrymen Firewind. Diviner do not sound Greek, they sound like a German metal act and that is to their benefit as it's the Germans that do this sort of fist punching metal the best, Realms Of Time is a great second album from Diviner full of traditional metal anthems that will placate any fans of any of the bands I've mentioned. 7/10

Sunday 28 April 2019

Reviews: Troll, Fall Of Sylla, Spreading The Disease, Pythia (Paul H)

Troll: Legend Master (Shadow Kingdom Records)

With three tracks over ten minutes long and the other two punching through the eight-minute window Portland doom psych stoners Troll invite you to totally immerse yourself in this album. No quick throw away fix here. With vocalist Rainbo possesses one of the most astonishing voices I’ve heard for a long time; soulful and deep, with subtle variations that drift throughout this album, an essential sound for this band. Join The Flight Of The Dragonship, opening with an enchanting down tuned riff over which Rainbo soars during the first third before the pace changes slightly, scales are climbed and we reach a temporary pause before the flight continues; close your eyes and you could indeed be above the clouds. Experience the low, haunting bass and guitar which create a swirling psychedelic experience as Legend Master Book I: Proverbs Of Hell opens with more than a little character. As the vocals kick in drift away into Troll’s world; allow the music to flow and cascade, weave and envelop as it undulates and hugs the contours. After a similar feel to Legend Master Book II: Three Evil Words, enjoy a change of pace as the 12 minute The Door, full of fuzzy bass and psychedelic channelling manoeuvres into position. Plenty of chunky riffs and soaring vocals create another inventive and unusual track. Closing out this delightful album, Building My Temple, complete with gothic shades that add melancholic layers to another meandering yet always focus song. Legend Master is some album. Dare you take the journey? 8/10

Fall Of Scylla: Ouroboros (661128 Records DK2)

Formed in 2012, this five-piece from Denver, Colorado, state their intentions on opening track Suicide. Gnarly, gritty and angry death metal. It changes direction on Filth, which overflows with the hardcore influences of the band.  This is nasty stuff indeed and it switches direction with a technical death metal approach on Lakes Of Glass. There is an intensity here which makes you want to fight as the screaming vocals fight over the competing riffing and machine gun drumming. There is no let up throughout this brutal ten-track beast, tracks like Beast contain both compelling groove and death metal in a wrestle for air amidst an overall visceral maelstrom. Vocalist Leviticus Mariz has a voice that would scare the Devil, such is his range of absolute demonic howls and guttural roars. James Acosta and Derek Woolley are responsible for chainsaw guitar work, and they deliver the damage with gleeful enjoyment. At times, Ouroboros is borderline psychotic, challenging topics which other bands may avoid, such as the rage against sex offenders of Depths, but if you want your music hard, sharp and fucking angry, then you may just wish to give Fall of Scylla a try. 6/10

Spreading The Disease: Mindcell (Dr Johns Surgery Records)

The first thing to note about Spreading The Disease (and I imagine this is written in virtually every review) is that despite the name they sound about as much like Anthrax as Westlife. The Kent outfit have been honing their craft since 2014, with a debut full-length release in 2017. Mindcell is a five track EP which is big on the heavy bass lines that rumble like a freight train. Musically, this is one of the most schizophrenic compilation of songs I’ve heard in my life. One minute there is a calmness, acoustic style and peaceful vocals which explodes into metalcore with full snarling and riffing before morphing then towards clean vocals. The changes of pace are confusing, complex and at times downright confusing. There are elements of thrash, nu-metal and progressive djent style sections in each song. Whilst this is to be applauded, defiance in determining their own sound is certainly in evidence, it doesn’t quite gel and as a result often appears disjointed, scrambled and at times like two songs are playing at the same time. 5/10

Pythia: The Solace Of Ancient Earth (Golden Axe)

Checking back through reviews of London symphonic metallers Pythia on the Musipedia doesn’t make particularly enjoyable reading. Three live reviews, one from Bogiez in 2012 where the band scored a 7/10 and two festival shows which were less than complimentary about the band. The Solace Of Ancient Earth is the first album the band have released since 2014 and in that time, they’ve had a couple of line-up changes, the biggest being the departure of vocalist Emily Ovenden in 2015. Her replacement Sophie Dorman was dire at HRH Metal in 2017, but this is almost a different band from their 2014 album Shadows Of A Broken Past. With Jamie Hunt now on lead guitar and Ash Porter on bass, that makes nearly half the band on their debut on this fourth album. Now, symphonic metal is a strange beast. Loved by many, hated by others, providing a balance is a challenge. Inevitably, what you get is blisteringly fast power metal, soaring keyboards and effects and an operatic female singer who warbles, and hits notes that not even dogs can hear. If you apply that criteria to Pythia, then you’ve got a summary of this band in a nutshell.

Some of the tracks on this album are just insane. Ancient Soul and Hold Of Winter see Dorman struggle to keep pace with the frenetic pace set by drummer Marc Dyos, who is joined by the guitar work of Hunt and Ross White in a race to the finish line. It’s like Dragonforce on speed. It’s only when the tracks hit the chorus that Gorman catches up. Slower paced epic tracks such as Dawn Will Come fare slightly better, with Gorman at least allowed to drop an octave or two, a level where she appears more comfortable. However, the tempo of several songs appears unnecessarily fast, giving an overall impression that beefing up the sound of the band was a necessity rather than an artistic decision. This is a maniacal, chaotic album that starts fast and runs out of control for most of the ride. With the synths smothering rather than enhancing on several tracks, it’s hard to see where Pythia go from here. Not one of the better releases this year. 5/10

Reviews: Ancient Altar, The Well, Rob Cottingham, PUP (Paul S & Alex)

Ancient Altar: Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras (Transcendental Void Records/Black Voodoo Records) [Paul S]

Ancient Altar is a 3 piece based in Los Angeles. The band have been going since 2013 and have released 2 albums; 2014’s Ancient Altar and 2015’s Dead Earth. This EP contains 2 songs, the title of the Ep being more of a description than a title. First track Cosmic Purge starts with the hugest, heaviest and harshest sludge I’ve heard in quite a while. Massive riffs and very nasty vocals. There’s a colossal groove to it as well. There is a similarity with the band Lycus in the first half of the song. There is a middle section where the song goes into a more classic doom feel with clean vocals and a slight psychedelic edge.

The track goes back to massively extreme sludge again, with a nice melody lead. The song comes to an end unbelievable slowly, which is great! Second track Foie Gras opens in a classic doom feeling with clean vocals that feel a little gothic. The opening couple of minutes sound a little Type O Negative, before the song crashes back into harsh sludge. The track has a middle section that is measured, brooding and quieter. The song comes to an end with another massively heavy sludgy section, great fun.This is a great EP. Although the main sound is heavy as anything sludge, the other lighter, more classic elements give this lots of depth and makes it sound unique. In a field that is full of generic acts, Ancient Altar stand out. 8/10

The Well: Death And Consolation (Self Released) [Paul S]

Based in Austin, Texas The Well are a 3 piece who are on to their third album. Death And Consolation is 3 years since Pagan Science and 5 years since Samsara, so what have The Well been up to since then? Well what we get with The Well’s third album is 9 tracks of fairly classic doom, the main point of reference would be Pentagram, but there are plenty of other influences in classic doom, but Pentagram seems to be the closest. This similarity is in the vocals as well as in the music, the main voice sounds like a cross between Bobby Leibling and Jus Oborn from Electric Wizard.

The album kicks off with Saba, a big bouncy doom track. There the Pentagram influences, but mixed with a tempo that wouldn’t be out of place on Cathedral’s Carnival Bizarre. This track is a great, energy packed blast to start the album with, it also boasts a slightly psychedelic chorus and some nice chanted backing vocals. Raven is a taut rockier track with a strong melody and a driving tempo. Death Song is a more measured affair, it feels like classic doom, with a powerful main riff and some nice bluesy elements. The Eyes Of Fingers features a strong simple riff, psychedelic vocals and a great solo. The song has a relentless feel that I really enjoyed. Next up we get Eyes Of A God, which is more of a strait rock song. The main riffs are in a higher register than most of the material on the album, this is a nice driving track, and an enjoyable change of pace. Act II is back to the heavy doom, de-tuned doomy riffs that are just great. The track has a very good, groove laden section to end. Freedom Above has a soft, minimal opening that feels quite brooding, this part is a little reminiscent of Shrinebuilder.

The big guitars come back in for the last third, which feels very unrelenting and powerful. This Is How is a great little song. Simple, groovy doom, lovely. The album comes to an end with Endless Night, which is a huge piece of psychedelic doom, that is great, powerful and driving, and a great way to end the album. Death And Consolation is a fantastic classic doom album. The main template for this album has been around for many years, however, the other elements (psychedelia, hard rock, groove, etc) gives the album another dimension. The material feels fresh and original, despite the band wearing their influences on their collective sleeves. The main reason this album is so good, is down to simple old fashioned things like great songwriting, and impressive musicianship. The quality on offer here is very high, the songs are all very well crafted. Highly recommended to anyone who likes doom, or interesting hard rock. 8/10

Rob Cottingham: Back Behind The Orchard Tree (Self Released) [Alex]

From the research I’ve done on this album, it appears to be a reworking of Cottingham’s 2002 debut, Behind The Orchard Tree. I have mixed feelings about this kind of release. On the one hand, they can bring to life an artist’s intentions, when they may not have initially had the means to fully realize their vision. On the other, they can feel revisionist and show an unwillingness to stand by past mistakes. Still, that doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of the music itself. Quite the opposite rather. Conceptually speaking, the album deals with themes of loss of innocence and growing older, proving relatable and setting a strong emotional standard, for this is a well-trodden road. Back Behind The Orchard Tree gleams with careful songcrafting, complex compositions, and poetic lyricism.

A light lapping of waves, upset by some subtle dissonance and harsh drum patterns sets in, before a distinctively melodic vocal refrain sounds, while looming synths lurk in the background. That contrast of blissfulness with harshness reminds me of Gabriel, or perhaps parts of Pink Floyd's work. Through the contradiction, Cottingham effortlessly expresses the anxieties which come with the pressures of time and obligation. Continuing on this path, Invisible Man deals with the pains of being marginalized from circles or certain ways of life. On its surface, it is a twisted and slightly creepy love song, but the coarse drum beats and swelling instrumentals serve to reveal a much deeper meaning, relating to loneliness and isolation. Phoenix is a delicate acoustic piece, taking a nuanced perspective on reminiscence, its tone being neither despair nor delight. Meanwhile, Catch It If You Can is one of the proggier leaning moments: a variable instrumental, relying on the impressive keyboard and guitar arpeggios to carry the themes of change and unpredictability.

On a less complex and more stripped down note, Hero deals with the subject of depression and uncertainty, told from the perspective of a friend trying to comfort another. Although more multi-layered in style, All We’ve Done describes similar themes, later giving way to an exhilarated lead solo. As far as the original album is concerned, Find Me was the last track. Personally, I think it works excellently to tie all the dispersed themes and motifs together. We begin on a bluesy, morose saxophone solo, before more of that strong, melodic harshness which I mentioned earlier, works its way back into the fold. Lyrically, the song describes feeling abandon and loss, as we are painted a picture of one who has become ‘intoxicated by alcohol and money, no liberation from the ties and ropes’. We are gradually led to a towering crescendo, which shows horns, guitars, and drums, working in tandem to create a rich and vivid sound.

In this version of the album, we finish on Out Of Time, a synth-led the song, with something of a pop/prog idea. Although it is one of the things differentiating the album from the original, I’ve chosen to treat it in the same way as I would treat any bonus track. It is not a particularly necessary addition, and the experience already feels complete, without the addition of another anthem to supplement the themes. That said, Back Behind The Orchard Tree is a beautiful album, exploring a theme which, while oft repeated, is here executed with a lot of care and meaning. 8/10

PUP: Morbid Stuff (Rise Records) [Alex]

Although PUP’s name means Pathetic Use Of Potential, they have certainly been making a name for themselves in recent years. Make no mistake, they are still very much ‘underground cult status’, yet both Morbid Stuff and The Dream Is Over, have garnered some incredibly positive feedback, especially from the blogosphere. So what better time to give my two cents on their acerbic yet dark brand of alternative? First of all, the title doesn’t lie, the ideas behind this album are bleak. Far from being dour though, everything is soaked in a sneeringly sarcastic wit, which mocks our desire to be miserable and pessimistic about everything, not ignoring the irony. Stefan Babcock doesn’t want your pity, he wants you to see comprehend the graveness of his situation and see the funny side anyway. Such is the consistency of the self-deprecation that you never know whether to laugh or cry.

‘I got stuck on death and dying and obsessive thoughts that won’t let up’ Babcock mourns on Morbid Stuff, against instrumentals which are upbeat and reminiscent of glam rock. Kids’ reads like a diatribe where our frontman mocks his lack of ability to be subtle, reciting in on particularly accurate line ‘I’m drifting on a dark and empty sea of nothing, it doesn’t feel bad, and it feels like nothing at all’. Free At Last acts as a full-throttled punk anthem, bluntly lamenting having a lack of direction, the nihilistic lack of sympathy becoming ashamedly hilarious, as we hear the yell ‘You’ve been drinking? Well of course I have’. Although, observant listeners will notice that many of these lines appear addressed at someone else. Exactly who isn’t made clear – a friend? An ex-lover? A fictional embodiment of our (protagonists?) imagination? - Whoever they are, they’re not taken too favourably, as the next song is titled, See You At Your Funeral. Aside from its downbeat title, the theatrical anthem discusses the struggle of balancing optimism and negativity, skipping between moments of joyful desperation: ‘I take up meditation’ to sections of utter nihilism: ‘I hope the world explodes, I hope that we all die, we can watch the highlights in hell. I hope they’re televised’. Constantly, we return to that personal element, as refrains in the vein of ‘you’ll find someone, and you’ll try, but you won’t’, stress the dire effects of experiencing a lack of human association. A more relevant point here is that while Morbid Stuff masks are themes in depreciative humour, it’s a deeply serious piece.

Let’s take a step back for a moment though, and look at the musical directions themselves. For one, as you may well expect, it’s quite a dissonant array of influences. The record champions its low-fi production, as a means to carry the notions of recklessness and confusion, yet assembles ideas from glam, to metal to hardcore punk to convey its messages. Take Scorpion Hill as an example – beginning as a humble acoustic track, we are soon subdued by a wave of melody and rhythm, in a way reminiscent of rock operas. Bloody Mary, Kate, and Ashley takes on something of a dirty dancehall vibe, the darker tone, perfectly complementing the masochism soaked absurdity of the lyrical content. On a different note, Full Blown Meltdown is an exaltation of anger and frustration, emotions which bleed into both the music and wordplay. Whatever influence PUP are exploring, they do so with sincerity and candour!

As I said when I was reviewing the La Dispute album a few weeks ago, misunderstanding depression is not something you want to do in music. Now, taking a comical look at it can be a risk as well, but when done right, it can emphasise the maddening, absurd or even miserable aspects of mental illness. Morbid Stuff achieves this by taking the listener through the strange and outlandish aspects of feeling unimportant, and striving to entertain a positive message. True, it’s a nihilistic album, yet instead of dragging you to hell, it will simply make you gaze straight into its jaws, as it unashamedly declares ‘I’ve been having some pretty dark thoughts, I don’t like them a lot’. 7/10

Reviews: Sermon, Damaged Reich, Gods Forsaken, Helevorn (Paul H)

Sermon: Birth Of The Marvellous (Prosthetic Records)

Mystery surrounds London based Sermon, whose debut release this is. Formed in 2017, little else is available information wise but don’t let that put you off. Birth Of The Marvellous is an intense 40-minute ride that is melancholic, emotional and combines some stunningly creative and poignant musicianship. Vocals that echo Jonas Renkse of Katatonia, a combination of influences that provide a unique listening experience from the opening The Descend through to the concluding epic eight-minute plus The Rise Of Desiderata. The majestic The Drift deviates from progressive elements to raging death metal in the space of seconds, Contrition includes more than a touch of Katatonia to it, along with splashes of fellow Swedes Opeth and huge chunks of aggressive riffing which links with the sound perfectly, whilst Chasm simply drips with atmosphere, its ethereal delicate opening underpinned by an air of malevolence which builds and builds magnificently. This album improves on ever listen. Put simply, buy it, close the curtains, pour a glass of wine and immerse yourself in the Birth Of The Marvellous. This is something special. 9/10

Damaged Reich: Death Becomes Us All (Damaged Realm Media)

Thrashing quintet Damaged Reich hail from Oxfordshire. Formed in 2017 the band were invited to play the Jagermeister Stage at Bloodstock in 2018, quite an achievement so early in their evolution. The band was created by members of other local bands including Dedlok, Empire Divided and Retribution and with a slot at Amplified this year the band are clearly on the rise. So, what does Death Becomes Us All sound like. Well, unsurprisingly, it’s solid thrash in the vein of Exodus, Overkill and the like. Fast paced, slashing riffs, roaring vocals and insanely fast drumming. Yep, it ticks all the boxes necessary.

Whilst Unevil Genius opens the album at 110mph, The Unknown follows at a slower, stomping pace whilst The Truth Was Never Known is one to get those circle pits moving with its groove and chug, with a riff very similar to Slayer’s Mandatory Suicide. Joe Samuels possesses a decent voice, a little restricted in range but his gravel-soaked delivery fits comfortably with the overall old school thrash sound that Damaged Reich achieve with ease. There isn’t a duff track on this release. It smashes hard from start to finish and in Victims Of Their Own Crime the band have an anthem that you can’t resist smashing the head up and down to. The band play Fuel in Cardiff as special guests on 18th May during the Metal To The Masses second semi-final. I’ll be away on holiday, but I urge you to get to the Welsh capital to catch these guys. You won’t regret it. 7/10

Gods Forsaken: Smells Of Death (Soulseller Records)

With a name such as this and an album entitled Smells Of Death you knew this wasn’t going to be a sleaze rock or AOR scented release. Gods Forsaken, described in some quarters as no-nonsense death metal, hail from Sweden and Norway. Formed in 2016, this is their second album following on from 2017’s In A Pitch Black Grave. The title track which opens this album leaves you in no doubt what you are going to get for the next 40 minutes with chainsaw guitars, bludgeoning drumming and a vocal roar that sounds like a bear with a sore throat. It’s absolute carnage and it unsurprisingly doesn’t stop for the entire album. They Crawl is fast and furious, a blur of musical notes thrown into cacophony of death metal which welds together to create a quite terrifyingly intense battering. Of course, when you peel back the flesh of Gods Forsaken, you realise exactly why this is such a viciously intense release.

Vocals are delivered by Caligari, more widely known as the legendary Jonny Pettersson, vocalist and guitarist with Wombbath, Ursine and a whole host of other death metal bands. Alongside Petterson stands lead guitarist Gustav Myrin of Just Before Dawn, Alwin Zuur (bassist with Dutch death doomsters Asphyx amongst others), Schwieck (Anders Biazzi) – guitarist for Just Before Dawn and drummer Mr Harbinger (Bryjar Helguten) who is another member of Just Before Dawn, along with Crypticus, Megascavenger and US/Swedish bruisers The Grotesquery. Smells Of Death contains some incredible servings of death metal, such as the head stoving The Process Of Death and the thrash induced The Dead Laughed. The more this album progressed the more enjoyable it became. If you fancy your death metal that leaves you feeling like your head has been through the shredder, this bad boy is for you. Brutality at its best. 8/10

Helevorn: Aamamata (Self Released)

Gothic doom metal isn’t something you associate with the Balearic Islands, a part of the world usually bathed in bright sunshine and warming temperatures. Yet, Helevorn have been active for over two decades, honing their art and focusing on creating their own brand of doom with a gothic twist. Aamamata is their fourth album and follows 2014’s Compassion Forlorn which by all accounts was a bit good. On first play, this is like much of Paradise Lost’s earlier and recent work, albeit with some more oriental and Eastern influences. Aurora for example, contains both death growls and deep clean vocals, with ethereal female voices adding to the mix; crushingly slow riffs bring the heavy whilst there is ample melody to give the song lift. Opening with A Sail To Sanity, an immediate wall of crunching riffs confronts you, supported by growling vocals and a deep, powerful textured sound with the combination of clean and death vocals works excellently. Blackened Waves contains a sorrowful narrative which adds to the sorrow contained within the song, whilst Forgotten Fields continues the mournful, reflective theme, the drums battering as the song thunders by in classic doom style. 

A combination of textures and flavours adds to this album as it progresses, with the darkness lightened through keyboards and some intricate guitar work. Nostrum Mare (Et Deixo Un Pont De Mar Blava) is the standout track on this album. Using the lyrics of a poem by Catalan writer Miquel Marti I Pol, it focuses on the changing use of the Mediterranean Sea, how it was and what is nowadays. With the poem sung in eight different languages from the band’s cultural area (Greek, Maltese, Spanish, Arabic, Catalan, Italian, French, and Hebrew), Helevorn had friends and fans of the band do the vocals with the melodic vocals completed by Julia Colom. The result is an epic, deep and gothic song which stands as the centrepiece of the album. The mix of gothic overtones to the heavier, oppressive doom elements works for much of the album, although the inevitable repetition means that there is a bit of flagging in enthusiasm towards the final tracks. Regardless of this, Aamamata is a deep, thought-provoking release, with themes of solitude, dreams and history evident throughout. 7/10

Saturday 27 April 2019

Reviews: Corrosive, Black Sheets Of Rain, Heavy As Texas, Monolyth (Manus)

Corrosive: Nourished By Blood (Independent)

Corrosive comes out hitting hard with this fourth release, packing their thick, straight death metal sound with all the compulsory guitar chugs and blast beats, and then some. But it’s the brutal vocals that really solidify this release as something legitimate and not a batch of amateur-sounding imitation songs, regardless of how formulaic the record may be.

After an obligatory creepy minute-and-a-half-long intro, the album delivers track after track of brutal death metal, successfully serving up echoes of the original Florida death metal scene in the 1980s. It’s punchy and raw, its intentions are clear and it’s well-executed, but its just on the border of being a little too generic. Simply put, there isn’t anything on Nourished By Blood that you couldn’t find on another death metal record. Still, it’s got some killer tunes, and its worth a thorough listen. 7/10

Black Sheets Of Rain: In The Eye Of The Storm EP (W.A.R. Productions)

With an intro and five songs, this EP gives us a pretty good idea for what we should expect out of a full-length record from Black Sheets Of Rain. The Super-ish trio, made up of former members of groups including Atomkraft, Toy Dolls and Solomon Groove have taken an old-school approach with the song writing, performance and production on their debut EP. The music has rings of prominent NWOBHM bands, proudly displaying its influences, only it lacks the instant-classic feel much of the music from the scene had.

The guitar work on this EP is its strongest point, with memorable riffs and nice, precise playing throughout. A particular highlight is the solo in Through The Storm, though aside from the solo, that song isn’t quite as others like Still Spark Something and No Rest. When the EP ends, it feels like there should be more. Guess we’ll have to wait for a full-length one of these days. 7/10

Heavy As Texas: Heavy As Texas (Crunchy Western Records)

Well, in Heavy As Texas, we’ve found a Greta Van Fleet to Pantera’s Led Zeppelin. Seriously. This record sounds like a Pantera tribute band playing original songs—only the songs are nowhere near as good as Pantera songs. Then there’s the playing. The guitar sounds like someone copying everything Dimebag did, without the personal flavour and a significant amount less ability. Ditto for the drums, which sound like a drum machine programmed to play Vinnie Paul’s parts. The singer sounds like a guy at karaoke night whose friends always tell him he sounds just like Phil Anselmo. He’s got maybe half as much vocal skill. Maybe if these guys developed their own style, they could be alright. But as long as they’re trying to be Pantera, its clear they’re never going to be anywhere near as good as the real thing, and any attention they attract will be full of comparisons. This record is a band setting itself up for failure. 3/10

Monolyth: A Bitter End/A Brave New World (Independent)

An interesting mix of greasy thrash, old-school death metal and modern heavy metal, Monolyth’s debut record packs a few surprises, but none that fail to work within the songs. While elements of thrash and death are incorporated, the songs are still unconventional, using a warmer, much more NWOBHM sounding guitar tone and more high-up riffs than you’d typically hear in those styles. Some of the choruses are taken straight from 2000s metalcore, but that’s not a bad thing if you’re into that style, along with the older styles this album channels. Betrayed Again is a definite highlight, driven by a series of kicking riffs and a strong and versatile vocal performance. The two title tracks are standouts as well, playing out something like an epic story, and the latter has the best guitar solo on the record. This is a really cool album for someone looking for something a little different, but not so different that there should be an argument over whether it’s really metal or not. 7/10

Reviews: Zeal & Ardor, Augmented, Nocturnal Witch, Gutlocker (Rich, Sean & Paul H)

Zeal & Ardor: Live In London (MVKA) [Rich]

Unless you have been living under a rock it has been impossible not to hear about Zeal & Ardor.  They were easily the most talked about band of last year with their unique and original blend of African American spiritual music, blues, gospel and soul mixed with extreme metal. Their second album Stranger Fruit made it into many top album lists of the 2019 (including my own) and riding off the success of that album the band embarked on a extensive and mostly sold out tour at the tail end of 2019 with Live In London being the recording of the show in the Electric Ballroom.

Live albums can be hit or miss especially when it comes to the quality of the recordings but Live In London is an especially good live album.  It sounds absolutely incredible thanks to the amazing mix by Kurt Ballou and Alan Douches. The songs positively thunder out of the speakers and sound simply massive. The performances are all outstanding as well with every member of the band sounding like they are playing for their lives. There is also a damn fine extensive 22 song setlist for this show with songs taken from both the Devil Is Fine and Stranger Fruit albums but also four brand new songs are performed the stand out of these being the sublime Baphomet. There are furious renditions of Blood In The River, Row Row and Don’t You Dare whilst the more soulful numbers such as Gravedigger’s Chant and Built On Ashes bristle with intensity and emotion.

Live In London is an absolutely superb live release from Zeal & Ardor that truly justifies the huge amounts of hype around the band.  It’s a great starting point for someone who has never heard Zeal & Ardor with all the songs having a humongous sound that can be lacking from the studio versions.  This release proves that despite their unique merging of musical styles that the band are far from a mere gimmick and are proving themselves to be one of the most unique and essential acts in contemporary metal.  Seriously check this out. 9/10

Augmented: Two Worlds (Self Released) [Sean]

Take a wild guess what this is going to be? We’ve got a cyborg on the cover, a purple hue surrounding him and the band is called Augmented? Clearly depressive raw black metal! Tech!? NO WAY! All jokes aside, Augmented are a brand spanking new band (its true, they don’t even have a Bandcamp yet) from Florida, in the good ol USA. With Two Worlds being their first release, my initial assumptions were mostly justified. Chunky ass downtrend guitars? Yep. Lyrics about machine and general science fiction bollocks? Double yep. Weird time singers? Yep, yep, fucking yep! So, fresh of the assembly line, is Two Worlds the killing machine it sets out to be? Analysis required. Review.exe activated!

Two Worlds starts with the usually sample ones would expect, rumbling and distorted setting the scene for the technological dystopia that’s about to follow. What I’m eventually greeted with is ‘Airlock, what can only be described as Meshuggah, sans all the nifty bits. Sure it’s loud and stomps along, but it’s grooves are uninteresting and riffs are ultimately unmemorable. Not exactly the best start, which isn’t improved by the second track Beneath The Earth. I’m sure this wouldn’t sound of place on a wrestling game and it certainly isn’t bad, just very pedestrian. Borecore isn’t a genre but after listening to the first half of Evolution, I’m beginning to think it may be. Things become more interesting in its second half, preparing me for the surprisingly good Helios. You were holding back on me, huh? The added blast beast amongst the low strung antics greatly add a sense of urgency, finally bringing Augmented to life!

A dissonant lead sounds off in the distance, adding some much needed depth and texture. The Songwriting only improves with The Construct, with it’s greater emphasis on mid paced tech, showcasing just how tight and talented this fledgling band are. Calling Of The Storm is another slammer, fusing everything together in cohesive unison. The added melo death riffing is also a nice touch. Terror God has me completely in it’s mechanised grip, which can’t be said for Ascendant. Whilst better than the opening numbers, it still feels like we’ve downgraded and regressed, especially since we’ve just been treated to Augmented’s latent power. It closes on Epoc Of Distortion a 7 minute declaration of Augmented’s mechanised intent.

Yah know what? There’s oodles of potential here. If we sift through the obsolete elements, we get the blueprints of what makes Augmented quite the promising prospect. We get the impression of a young band more than capable of throwing caution to the wind, experimenting, rising to the occasion and delivering a solid slab of tech metal. For what it lacks in cohesion and consistency, Two Worlds does display a remarkable amount of compositional maturity in its progression, ensuring that Augmented move ever closer to their final form. It may not have stared well, but Two Worlds is solid first step towards technological superiority. I, for one, will most certainly be seeing watch. 7/10

Nocturnal Witch: A Thousand Pyres (Evil Spell Records) [Sean]

Man, you now some nasty shit is about to go down if your bands first name is Nocturnal (excluding later day Nocturnal Rites, ofc). Adding Witch to the end is only a bonus, giving me a pretty clear indicator of what’s about to explode out of my speakers. We’re not going to be sampling the most cutting edge of modern metal here, no way Jose. Neither the prettiest or the most progressive, what we have is something ugly, belligerent and unrelenting in its sole desire to rip and tear.  black/thrashers Nocturnal Witch are one such band, charged with satanic might and all the ruinous filth they can muster. Hailing from East Germany, the Teutonic twosome of Tyrant (vocals, guitars) and Baphomet (slutsplitting hellfire, or drums to you and me) have once again risen from the hells fiery heart. Returning with their second album, A Thousand Pyres, will Nocturnal Witch reduce all to ash?

Downfall Of The World is the first attack, blasting and roaring as one would expect. It’s fairly straightforward stuff, rapid blackened tremolo riffs leading the charge under the thunder claps of Baphomets “slutsplitting hellfire” (demonic STD,anyone?). An effective opener, more or less setting the tone for the remainder of the album. Blast, shriek, satan and blast again. A Thousand Pyres leans slightly more the on the tractional black metal, repeating riffs carving their way into your subconscious. Synths make a brief appearance, setting comfortable above the chaotic cacophony. Black Chalice brings us back to the thrash, hurtling along at breakneck pace with little regard for the innocents slain in it’s wake. Scorn And Wrath conjures moments of Blood Fire Death era Bathory, a sense of grandeur working it’s way amongst the steadfast satanic slaughter.

Dark Force is a simplistic number, not deviating from what’s already been offered but not underwhelming either. Eclipsing The Light injects a little more melody into the din of war, whilst Follow The Call briefly returns with the cinematic before hurling back into the maelstrom. It’s hard not to get swept up in the primitive gallop, my foot tapping away as Nocturnal Witch proceed to lay waste to all about them. Final track, Raise The Swords, is the thrashiest number on A Thousand Pyres, complete with all the trimming one would expect and closes this short, sharp shock of an album in suitable fashion.

There was never going to be any points award for originality, was there? Because that was never the fucking point! What we have here is an album with a single aim; kill, maim and fucking burn. Nocturnal Witch ultimately succeed in this, uninhibited and unrestrained in their pursuit of pure blackened filth. Why should they concern themselves with such things as “ingenuity” or “progressive”? I ask you, what need have they of such…alien anathema? Not Nocturnal Witch, not when all you really need is a good riff, tight execution, a belly full of fire and lungs to fucking roar. Whilst it may not offer anything beyond it’s crude desire to blast all Christendom into oblivion, A Thousand Pyres is still an enjoyable romp nonetheless. 7/10

Gutlocker: Cry Havoc! (Self Released) [Paul H]

Although this EP was released way a year ago in April 2018, the Woking sambuca bastards recent set at the BMF 666 Easter Massacre prompted me to search this out and give it a review. Gutlocker play mean and dirty heavy sludge mixed with thrash, groove and doom metal. Formed in 2012, the band are led by Craig McBrearty whose snarling vocals on this are unworldly, evil and blood curdling. How his throat remains intact is beyond me. The filthy groove of third track Stuck, with its staccato time changes provides a crazed contrast to the blistering opening duo of Bitter Memory and No Burden.

If its weighty riffage you want then get a dose of Welcome To Fucktown, which contains one of the most brutal riffs this side of Lamb Of God. Peter Tucker’s controlled but violent guitar work duels with McBrearty’s insane vocals, whilst Ben Rollinson and Dean Walker hold down the engine room. With new material due soon, Gutlocker are a band that can cut it live and in the studio. 8/10

Friday 26 April 2019

Reviews: Levitas, Meytal, All Things Fallen, Kavod

Levitas: Charnel Sky (Self Released)

Long time followers of the blog will know about Levitas, we've covered their shows numerous times and they always impress with their unique hybrid of raw black metal and atmospheric post metal. The band consists of Rhys Williams on guitar and vocals, Helen Kinsella on guitar and vocals, Liam Wolf on bass and vocals and (man of many bands) Sam Heffernan on drums, musically they have always drawn from philosophy, transience and human suffering, to create a sound that does stand as unique on any bill they appear on. Charnel Sky is their latest EP and for a band that have always dealt in crushing doom-laden shoegaze it opens with what can only be described as a rampaging number, Tamam Shud on which the drums gallop in conjunction with frenetic black metal tremolo riffs and guttural vocals.

That is until it changes into a more ethereal chorus with shamanic clean vocals coming in at odds with the harsher screams when breaks down into more instrumental final part. It's pretty much what you'd expect from Levitas who always keep you guessing while spanning the extreme metal soundscapes. The atmospheric side of the band continues on Cycle a lesson in how you can mix heaviness with ambience as the chanting middle explodes into the aggressive final part. Rounding out this EP is Life Ache an amalgamation of all that's come before ending this EP with the musical proficiency that separate Levitas from the myriad of bands in the South Wales/South West scene. For fans of Alcest, Isis and Ulver, Charnel Sky is Levitas showing that they are as impressive on record as they are live. 8/10 

Meytal: The Witness (Light Drop Music)

The Witness is second full length album by YouTube drum sensation Meytal Cohen, who's Duality drum cover you may have seen on numerous Metal pages. She has once again brought a band together, this one sees a change of membership as the vocalist on the previous record has been replaced by Sahaj Ticotin from the band Ra who not only co-wrote most of the record but most of the previous one too. His voice in my opinion is far superior that his predecessor especially on tracks like the chunky Armalite (a song that damns firearms). As you can probably appreciate this record is very much focussed on Cohen's drumming but she is a fantastic sticksmith really driving the modern/alt metal on this record, changing rhythms at a stroke. That's not to say the rest of the band are slouches though as Ticotin supplies rhythm guitars while Travis Montgomery plays most of the leads with bouncy modern metal riffs and lead breaks, the band's bass player is Anel Orantes Pedero who hunkers down the rhythms for the groove laden tracks on this record.

What this album has in droves is melody, it's really hooky blending bulky riffs, some progressive metal time changes (A Dream) and a heap of technical proficiency on a record that has alternative, nu-metal and djent tendencies. The songs here are not game changing but strong enough to keep the attention, with a bit of filler spread throughout, on the other hand the cover of Hotel California is musical Marmite (mainly because it cuts out the best bit) you will either enjoy it or hate it (unlike Ticotin's version of Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic with Ra). With a name like Meytal she is living up to her name though a lot of this record airs on the lighter side towards the end, it's got enough for hardened metalheads to enjoy. 7/10

 All Things Fallen: S/T (Self Released)

All Things Fallen are a new melodic progressive metal band who are heavily reliant on keys for their songs, undercutting them with some thumping heavy metal.They sound a lot like Circus Maximus with the synths working well with the more traditional heavy metal instrumentation, much of the album has been played by Markus Sigfridsson who takes, guitars, bass, backing vocals and those all important keyboards and programming. Along with him are vocalist Erik Tordsson and drummer Leo Margarit who blasts away on Mirages which is where the vocals do settle in after a shaky start on the first track. Erik Tordsson has quite a nasal voice but you do warm to it as the album progresses. The six songs on this album are well composed which makes All Things Fallen a interesting debut for fans of melodic prog metal. 6/10  

Kavod: Wheel Of Time (Self Released)

This EP is made up of three tracks that feature repetitive riffs and random shouts and that's about it, nothing else really happens, as much as it's trying to reach the 'desert rock' scope of Kyuss, they become a boring mess as each one of these songs follows the same pattern from song one and two. Absolution plods along as the vocals fade in and out while Mahatma is probably the only song that really differs from the rest of the album. Ideal background music but nothing more. 5/10

Reviews: The Damned Things, Lord Vicar, Per Wiberg, Siderian (Paul H)

The Damned Things: High Crimes (Nuclear Blast)

It’s taken nearly ten years since the debut album from The Damned Things, Ironiclast. For those who have forgotten, this is a super group that consists Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, Fall Out Boy's Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die and Dan Adriano of Alkaline Trio. With Adriano replacing Josh Newton on bass and Rob Caggiano no longer in the fold, and with a schedule which didn’t allow the band to join together once in the studio, this is an album that has been put together in the high tech age with all parts completed separately in various locations. if memory serves, Ironiclast opened with the catchy Handbook For the Recently Deceased and then faded badly. Well, ten years on and High Crimes opens in similar style with the punk thrash of Cells. A couple of sharp riffed tracks in Something Good and Invincible are average before the Manson stomp of Omen, its industrial chug at least propelling the track forward. I’m not a fan of Buckley’s vocal, but it works well on this release. More in your face aggression on Carry A Brick, but it all becomes a bit repetitive by the time Let Me Be (Your Girl) arrives. Maybe it’s just not my style. It’s well played punchy metal, but there is a lack of cohesion that maybe comes from the way it was put together. 6/10

Lord Vicar: The Black Powder (The Church Within Records)

Formed from the ashes of Reverend Bizarre by guitarist Kimi Karki in 2007, Lord Vicar is one of the heaviest doom bands I think I’ve ever heard. The Black Powder is the Finns fourth full release, following 2016’s Gates Of Flesh and it is a powerful, at times oppressive piece of work. Opening with the 17-minute Sulfur, Charcoal and Saltpeter, a meandering and captivating piece which slowly builds in both intensity and passion, the Finns slow the pace to a haunting conclusion before building Descent with an enormous, crushing riff. This is an album that should be adored by fans of massively heavy, smothering doom although it undoubtedly won’t be one to put on for some easy listening. 

Apart from the fast-paced Impact, which is fast enough to require a neck brace by the end with its jagged pumping sound, most of The Black Powder is slow, powerful and generally gargantuan in proportion. Repeated plays have left me more and more enamoured by this album. Enough power to supply a small town, Lord Vicar, whose line-up is completed by Christian ‘Chritus’ Linderson on vocals, Gareth Millstead on drums and bassist Rich Jones, harness the best of Sabbath, Trouble and Candlemass to name just three and take the sound to another level. The slab splitting Levitation is case in point. If you love enormous, overpowering doom at its best, Lord Vicar will be for you. I think it’s a brilliant album. 9/10

Per Wiberg: Head Without Eyes (Despotz Records)

Who is Per Wiberg I here you ask? Wiberg is a multi-instrumentalist, known for his work on keyboards with Opeth, Candlemass and Spiritual Beggars but also Clutch/The Bakerton Group, Switchblade and Kamachatka amongst others. Head Without Eyes is his debut solo album and as Wiberg states, it’s time to come out of the comfort zone. An album he feels he need to make. “Time for a different kind of heavy”. Well, the man has certainly produced something a little different. With Wiberg playing all instruments apart from the drums (Karl Daniel Liden – Katatonia, Crippled Black Phoenix and Lars Skold – Avatarium, Tiamat), this is a surreal trip through a soundscape which combines elements of Killing Joke, Van Der Graaf Generator, Hawkwind, Swans and even Talk Talk. Dark, sinister and doom filled, with melodic parts at times underpinned by space experimentation.

Pass On The Fear is terrifying, a building tension that slowly fades leaving a level of unease; Get Your Boots On is a totally different beast, with an industrial pulse that echoes Richard Z. Krupse’s Emigrate. The masterpiece on the album is Anywhere The Blood Flows, an eleven minute plus song which has some ethereal backing vocals from Billie Lindahl (Promise And The Monster). Pile Of Nothing is disturbingly threatening, a heavy crashing riff adding to a suffocating doom track which once again features Lindahl soft vocals. The album closes with Fader, Wiberg’s vocals and his mellotron the only instrument for the first three minutes before the album builds slowly but with another almost oppressive intensity into some explosive heavy doom. Head Without Eyes is certainly one of the most interesting and creative albums of 2019, despite its dark and brooding feel. 7/10

Siderian: Origins (Self Released)

Siderian is a five-piece band from Northamptonshire. They play fast and ferocious groove ridden metal with a vicious undercurrent. Formed initially in 2015, the band produced a debut EP before reconvening in 2017 after line-up changes and pushing hard with EP Lizard Method Statement later that year. Now they hit even harder with debut album Origins. This album simply erupted from the speakers and continued to smack me around the face for the entire 41 minutes. Tracks such as With The Tide, Voices and Lizard Method Statement lacerate indiscriminately, whilst the screaming roar of vocalist Dave Pope fits the band’s sound perfectly. Vicious riffs from the duel guitars of James Upton and James Evans overlay a concrete foundation which drummer John Booth and bassist Chris Cox lay down. It may be a little Lamb Of God in style, but when the groove is this filthy, who the fuck cares? A band to watch out for in the future, this is decent stuff. 7/10

Thursday 25 April 2019

Reviews: Chastain, Ramblin Roze, Lazy Bones, The Fallen State (Pascal)

Chastain: 1319 (Self Released)

Chastain’s 1319 album takes tracks from the second era with the original singer  Leather Leone. If you don’t know her, I don’t blame you as it’s pretty hard to keep up with David Chastain’s discography. Between the lengthy hiatuses and numerous projects it’s hard to follow. Personally I got introduced to his work in the 80’s through CJSS on two albums which I really liked at the time. Then I followed him out of loyalty more than anything else. I think the reason why Chastain has never really managed to take off is that while his power/speed/heavy metal is attractive the songs don’t really stick. I bought a few of his albums earlier this year and I realized that I liked more the idea of liking Chastain than his actual work. 1319 is a good album, it's powerful, riff oriented and may appeal to a large section of the metal community besides the old nostalgics of the 80’s.

That said after listening to the album I am incapable of naming one song title which would be better than another one. Don’t get me wrong its cohesive and tight and way above the average. I like the powerful intro of Deep Down In The Darkness, the backing vocals on All Hail Kings and obviously the guitar work from the main man on I Live For Today. I would also give a special mention to the closing track Search Time a heavy tune with a slow tempo but strong riffage. But is this album a must buy? No is the answer and to be honest unless you want to support the US Heavy Metal underground scene. It’s a pity because I would love to finally see Chastain playing in Europe. 6/10

Ramblin’ Roze: EP (Self Released)

Chinese blues hard rock’ n’ roll with a sprinkle of punk for good measure. So before we go any further let’s agree to park our unconscious bias mindset for a minute. The East is not overly well known for producing international acts but when they do export them they are pretty good. Hailing from Beijing, those guys threw Black Sabbath, Exploited, Rory Gallagher and Lynyrd Skynyrd in a pot, stirred the whole thing and are now serving us some strong Wok’ N’ Roll (sorry about that one).

This 5 track EP is more than just a curiosity. Down By The River could have easily featured on an early Judas Priest, the harmonica on Burn It Away is an ideal add on for a feverish hard blues track while Born To Be Your Lover has a strong punkish flavour (GNR Style) which I quite like. Overall a lot of obvious influences transpire thru this short recording effort but you know what? It’s only rock n roll and I like it. 7/10

Lazy Bonez: Kiss Of The Night (EXR Records)

The press pack introduces the band as a classic metal outfit and classic metal it is for Lazy Bonez. The Finnish band has often been described as the ultimate 80’s tribute band. Tommi Salmela is a talented vocalist influenced by the likes of Coverdale, Dio, Gillian etc and his band mates are efficient musicians. Slaves Of The Dark reminds me of Sinner at times, Fire could be a b-side on a Treat single but most of the titles lack in originality and knack to make them memorable. Follow Me the closing mid tempo track could probably be seen as an invitation to explore their music further but I don’t honestly think they will manage to export their craft beyond their provincial Finnish. Only for die hard fans of the genre. 5/10

The Fallen State: A Deadset Endeavour (Last Man Music)

After a couple of EP’s that helped solidifying a decent following in the UK, The Fallen State is finally producing a full length called A Deadset Endeavour. I cannot deny that Ben Stenning has a great voice nor that Jon Price the lead guitarist has that little extra in terms of emotive dexterity however the 10 songs on this album leave me cold. It’s very well produced and American Made the atmospheric title is probably the stronger in terms of artistic intent but it gives me the feeling that the band substance has not materialized on the digital support. Maybe it's a generational thing as it does not speak to me at all, sound wise it’s close to the average pop side of Trapt ( a band who has also gone through the motions lately). 5/10

Reviews: Mavradoxa, Profanation, Celophys, Cirith Gogor (Paul S & Paul H)

Mavradoxa: Nightmarrow (Hypnotic Dirge Records)

Mavradoxa are a four piece based in New York. The band have been together since 2016 and have so far released 2 albums before Nightmarrow; 2016’s Sojourners and 2017’s Lethean Lament. The band play a mix of Atmospheric Black Metal and Post Black Metal. Lyrically the album focuses on Isolation and hopelessness of urban dystopias; it juxtaposes the purity of nature with the poison of urbanity. The album highlights humanities headlong rush towards extinction. The album starts with the track Maple. The song starts with a simple black metal riff, maybe a little reminiscent of Agalloch. The sound is organic and not overly produced, and flows beautifully. The last couple of minutes of the song feature some really great tremolo picked riffs, which end up being layered and harmonised, which is a really innovative way to treat these kind of riffs. The Carrion Shade starts with gang, chanted vocals over dissonant riffs. Before going into a harsh section, nasty riffs with nasty vocals. The second half of the song is a revelation. Those layered riffs are back, and this time there are more layers. More harmonies, more catharsis, more intricate, more hypnotic. I’ve never heard this approach to tremolo picked riffs before. Other bands have hinted that this sort of thing is possible, Mavradoxa have made it a reality.

Nightmarrow has a little bit more of a Post Black Metal feel to it. At times this track reminds me a little of Deafheaven, a very melodic and tuneful Deafheaven. There is a beautifully melancholic section about halfway through that leads us into some exquisite blasting tremolo picked riffs. Just Stunning. Rustling Leaves is a short acoustic interlude. A beautiful, elegant, minimalist respite. Black Crystal Snowfall continues the Post Black Metal feel from Nightmarrow. The main part is a little reminiscent of Alcest or Hermóðr. The album as a whole feels cathartic, and that feeling is a massive part of this song. This song feels like it is coming to a resolution. The song ends with a section of layered tremolo picked riffs; however this time they are shorter, so they repeat quicker. This makes them feel hypnotic, there is almost a Philip Glass quality to how this part feels. This album has so much more depth than a lot of Black Metal, and I feel that it is these intricately layered passages that give the album this sense. The album is brought to an end by the instrumental Umbra. A beautiful, cathartic piece that soothes the listener, and it feels like the album is slowly drifting away into the distance, exquisite.

Nightmarrow is a stunning piece of work. A genuinely original piece of work in a genre that is packed full of generic bands. I have to admit, before this album arrived in my dropbox folder I had not heard of this band. After listening to this album, I am incredibly grateful to my editor for sending this album my way. This is one of the most original black metal albums I have heard in many years. I’ve felt as excited about it as I was the first time I heard black metal. It is beautiful, nasty, hypnotising, cathartic, aggressive, blasting and sublime. I would highly recommend this album to anyone with any kind of interest in black metal, or if you’ve never listened to black metal, then this would be an amazing place to start. Right, now it’s time to hit Bandcamp and buy up everything they have recorded before this! Genuinely amazing Black Metal. 9/10

Profanation: Into Cascades Of Blood And Burning Soil (Hostile Media)

Profanation have been going since 1997, the Saxony based band have produced four albums before Into Cascades Of Blood And Burning Soil. The band classify themselves as Death / Grind, however, on their Facebook page they have stated that Into Cascades Of Blood And Burning Soil, is their “Most Death Metal album” and who am I to argue with the band. This is clearly a death metal album, any grinding having fallen by the wayside. The style on offer here is pretty brutal, albeit very well played technically. The production is very good, the guitars sound very real, organic and powerful, bass and drums sound fantastic, and batter the listener, and the vocals are very well recorded. The mix is pretty much perfect, all round great sound. The material on offer here is very well written, it manages to be brutal, nasty and extreme, whilst still being melodic and tuneful. There is a lot of variation in the material as well, which helps keep the album feeling fresh. 

So, we get some slow and dripping with tri-tones tracks similar to Bolt Thrower, the best of which would be Der Gemütliche. Which sounds decidedly evil and nasty. They also do slow and relentless, a style that feels unstoppable and powerful, as in the track Silent God. There are also a couple of mid-tempo pounders that are very enjoyable, Unholy Brutality and The Prophecy are great examples of that. What death metal album would be complete without some fast, raging tracks? Well with Bloodbath In Heaven and Butchers Joy we get the some neck breaking blasts. Fast, brutal and feeling like they are out of control, frenetic shock waves that batter the listener. Into Cascades Of Blood And Burning Soil is a great death metal album. There is a lot of this style of death metal about at the moment; but this album definitely holds its own against some very good competition. Profanation should be seen in the same category as bands like Monstrosity, Krisiun, Nile and Dying Foetus. Cracking fun, highly recommended. 8/10

Celophys: Fried Chordata (Robustfellow)

Celophys are a 2 piece from Ukraine. The duo describe their sound as Triassic Doom, which is, to these ears, really heavy, doomy sludge with harsh hardcorey vocals. Fried Chordata is the bands forth album. The album kicks off with Anunnak, a thunderingly heavy, lurchy piece of sludge. The riffs are slow, but massively heavy, with harsh, aggressive vocals. Slow, but hugely nasty and viscous. Great start! Next we get Fucked Up, which starts with a particularly sweary sample (DO NOT listen to this song at work, as I did. This track had me leaping for the volume knob as the filthy sample was broadcast across my workplace). Once the sweary sample is over, the track itself is pure hardcore. Just a 3 minute blast of aggressive hardcore energy. Papaver is another slow, lurching monster of a song. Ridiculously heavy, but with a fantastic tempo, that will have your head banging. False Lizard and Yeti, is another fast hardcorey track. 

Blasting and unrelenting, it batters the listener in a very pleasing way, nice! Magicae Mammuthus is another slow, but nasty track. The rhythm is lurching, but the pulsating beat gets into your head in a beautiful way. The track feels unstoppable, it isn’t fast, but the inertia is undeniable. The album is brought to an end by the track Prehistoric Barn. A huge, heavy and unbelievably slow track. There are sections of this song that are about as slow as sludge gets, but this is so massive that it’s great. This is an incredibly heavy way to end an album, but considering the album that has preceded this track, it’s perfectly in keeping. Fried Chordata is a fantastic piece of nasty sludge. It’s not nice, but if that's what you are after then there are very few bands that can pull this level of heavy extremity off. Just about as heavy as it gets, and beautifully nasty with it. 8/10

Cirith Gorgor: Sovereign (Hammerheart) [Paul H]

Named after the Haunted Pass, the point where the mountain ranges of the Ered Lithui and the Ephel Dúath meet northwest of Mordor, Cirith Gorgor is a black metal outfit from the Netherlands who have been together for over 20 years. Sovereign is the band’s seventh full length album and it is a no-holds barred apocalyptic ride crammed full of explosive black metal. If you wanted a quick description, I’d say that these guys are bastard offspring of an unholy union between Behemoth and Satyricon. Themes of darkness, death, fantasy and of course, Lord Of The Rings offer much expansion on the traditional black metal theme, with soaring tremolo riffing and blast beats aplenty. Luciferian Deathsquad is a standard bearer for the whole album, its intense explosive style still allowing for atmospheric feel. At times vocalist Satanael bears a strong resemblance to Kataklysm and Ex Deo frontman Maurizio Iacono but maintains his own Satanic delivery. Deathcult is bombastic, towering and imposing with a melody that underpins the entire movement, whilst Legio Luporum is just blistering in its delivery and drive. Sovereign is an album that requires repeated plays, there is just so much going on and it’s the intricacy and layers that makes it a superb album. 8/10

Reviews: The Quireboys, Ulvedharr, Defecrator, Duskwood (Rich, Paul S & Matt)

The Quireboys: Amazing Disgrace (Off Yer Rocka Records) [Matt]

Amazing Disgrace is British rockers The Quireboys sixth album in seven years, indicating that they haven't been resting on their laurels this long into their career. Guitarist Guy Griffin has said that “It’s the most diverse album we’ve ever done” which is a pretty bold claim when you consider the band have been around since 1984. So does it live up to the billing from the erstwhile guitarist or is it just hyperbole? Well throughout their career The Quireboys have been firmly rooted in the classic rhythm & blues sound however this record was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios and it's the weight of the history at this studio that had the band striving to change up their sound more than 30 years into their career, which is understandable when you consider this was the studio where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody. The record opens with the sort of style you'd come to expect from The Quireboys, Original Black Eyed Soul which has just that, parping brass, clinking pianos, louche guitars and Spikes rasping vocals, however things rarely change from there to be honest it's mostly just old school R&B, with a bit of boogie a smidgen of soul and funk, they also have a bit of country on Eve Of The Summertime. Fans of the band will lap this record up but it doesn't really do much more for me than provide a distraction. 5/10

Ulvedharr: World Of Chaos (Scarlet Records) [Rich]

World Of Chaos is the fourth album by Italian band Ulvedharr. Ulvedharr are not a band I have ever heard of before but when I was doing some reading up on them and I saw the words death metal, thrash metal and Norse mythology I knew I was going to like this and my instincts were correct. Ulvedharr play a lovely mix of old school thrash and death metal with perfectly straddles the line between the two genres.  As to be expected World Of Chaos is a fast and furious album that rarely lets up in its 38 minute duration with songs such as Cold War, Fire In The Hole and Pull The Trigger guaranteed to give your neck muscles a good work out. All the songs have plenty of thrash riffage and death metal fury with bags of attitude ably delivered by frontman Ark who has a style very reminiscent of Max Cavalera. There is also a nice degree of melody especially in the lead guitar playing. Although a fairly repetitive album, World Of Chaos is massively enjoyable with a sound and formula that is especially pleasing to the ears of this thrash and death metal fanatic. Old school thrashers this is definitely an album you will enjoy. 8/10

Defecrator: Abortion Of Humanity (Drakkar Productions) [Rich]

Abortion Of Humanity is the new release by US blackened death metal tyrants Defecrator. The band have previously released an EP Satanic Martyrdom back in 2016 but Abortion Of Humanity is the debut full length album by the band. What you are presented with on this album is a unholy mix of black and death metal with the aim to sound as unpleasant and evil as possible. Cold tremolo riffs combined with fetid rotting death metal and some bowel churning guttural vocals is what the listener is subjected or treated to depending on your perspective. The songs range from blast beat addled speed assaults such as Carnal Misanthropy and Wrath Of The Anti-God to slower more atmospheric pieces such as the title track. The album has a lo fi murky production and mix which adds to the unsettling atmosphere throughout. Defecrator have produced an enjoyable debut album which will be an enjoyable listen for any fans of black and death metal. Not an essential album by any means but a very promising debut for an up and coming band. 7/10

Duskwood: The Long Dark (Self Released) [Paul S]

Based in Yeovil, in Somerset, 4 piece Duskwood have been going since 2011 and since then have released an EP in 2013 (Cavete Ursus), and an album (Desert Queen) in 2016.

The Long Dark is a 4 track EP which comes in at 25 minutes. The style of music on offer on The Long Dark is broadly doom, more specifically it feels very Desert. The most obvious reference for this EP is the originators of the Desert sound; Kyuss. There is a little bit of more traditional doom as well, maybe a little like Trouble. So, possibly Kyuss playing Trouble covers is the best way to describe this. All the tracks have a nice amount of energy, and drive. This is a band with great riffs, and a clear talent for song writing (these two things don’t always go together). The vocals are very good as well. Strong and soulful, maybe halfway between Chris Cornell and John Garcia, and if that isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is.

The four tracks are full of energy, and Riffs! Space Craft is a taut rocker, cracking track. Mars Rover has more of a swagger, you can hear the Kyuss influence very clearly on this track. Crook And Flail is more loose and open than the tracks that came before it. Nomad is a slower track, that feels a little grungy. It’s brooding and deep, a fantastic track to end the EP with. The Long Dark is a great EP. Really well played and written, Duskwood are a fantastic addition to the already very healthy British doom scene. I look forward to hearing more from this band on the remaining EP's in this Sci-Fi concept! 8/10

Wednesday 24 April 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: BMF 666 Easter Massacre (Live Review By Paul H)

Bloodstock Metal Forum 666 Easter Massacre Charity Event, Subside Bar, Birmingham

The BMF’s latest event in aid of the very worthwhile Sophie Lancaster Foundation had been in the diary for a good while. Ten bands for £15 represented superb value for money and with Birmingham within striking distance, tickets had been bought, accommodation sourced and on a very warm Easter Sunday three members of the Musipedia team and our good friend Brett headed to the Second City for a day of hard metal and maybe a small sherry or two.

One of the great things about Birmingham is that the city centre is reasonably small and once you have your bearings it’s easy to navigate. Parked up and on our way, we even had time for a quick beer at the Dragon Inn (A Wetherspoons but when you are Welsh anything with a dragon has a tractor beam effect!) before arriving at a sparsely populated Subside Rock Bar in Digbeth where opening band Pemphigoid (6) were completing their sound check. Raffle tickets and compilation CD purchased, beer in hand, it was time to see what the Nottingham outfit bizarrely named after a rare autoimmune disorder were about. The answer was some reasonable death and thrash metal which was a decent start to the day. Ash Cotterill’s vocals were gruff and gravel soaked, his guitar work cutting through a decent mix which included Bill Richmond’s bass and Richard Mallatratt’s solid drumming. Relatively static, the band played tracks from 2018’s debut Where Compassion Comes To Die. Formulaic and unadventurous, sometimes sticking to the blueprint works best and Pemphigoid worked hard as a unit. Full marks to the band for staying until after the headliners as well.

Woking four-piece Gutlocker (8) were in no mood to mess about and despite no more than 15 paying punters watching (the venue had swollen due to the bands arriving in advance) they hit hard. Their brand of metal is best described as face melting and in vocalist Craig McBreaty they have an absolute gem of a frontman (albeit one that couldn’t hold his liquor by the end of the day as he was witnessed vomiting through his hands having skulled some Sambucca shots moments earlier). A ball of nervous energy, McBreaty prowled the stage like a caged tiger, his stomping style and shouty vocals not to everyone’s taste but even if you don’t like his style the energy and aggression was insane. The band had clearly decided that this was time to blast everyone in the room with their full on metal and they succeeded with ease. Tracks from their debut EP Cry Havoc! sounded huge and the band earned a deserved ovation. Certainly ones to catch again soon.

Effort was certainly the order of the day, and in their matching logo shirts Raze The Void (5) certainly looked the part. The Hitchen M2TM winners of 2017 took the stage with confidence. Despite a proud performance, I struggled to get their sound, which was confused and disjointed at times. With so much all taking place it was a challenge to really distinguish what their message was. Following Raze The Void was The Crimson Brigade, a band who were truly awful last time we saw them in Cardiff last August so it was a convenient time to skip their set and head for some food.

Returning to the venue with stomachs content, it was time for the heavy sounds of groove death metallers Embodiment (7) from Bristol. I’ve seen these guys a few times and their sound always impresses. Bone splinteringly heavy at times, the four-piece make hell of a sound, huge riffs and thundering bass/drumming giving them a huge noise but there is also a technical element which underpins their sound. Up front, Harry Smithson’s roaring vocals add grit to their sound. The band played a fist pumping set, with at least two new songs alongside old classics The Beast and Dragged Into Hell which finished off a fine set.

Whilst Embodiment were solid, the next band up raised the bar substantially. Staffordshire’s groove metal merchants Obzidian (8) are no strangers to this page, with their 2018 Bloodstock appearance one of the festival highlights last year. True to form the band blasted their way through a set which contained tracks from a range of albums but focused on their most recent Obliteration Process. As always it was vocalist Matty Jenks who grabbed the attention, his forays from the stage to to the pit enhanced by his snarling range. By the time Sins Here Are Purified had levelled the venue, there was no doubting one of the performances of the day. With a new album due to hit later this year, I hope that Obzidian will own 2019.

Hailing from South Wales, do we really need to explain who the next band are? Hell no! Our good friends Democratus (8) arrived with one aim: to blow a hole in the roof and they certainly did that. With vocalist Steve Jenkins prowling the floor from the front to the back of the venue allowing him to intimidate anyone foolish enough to hide, Democratus started at 100mph and didn’t back down. Creator Of Poverty and the newish Damnation from their forthcoming EP both sounded great with the band in crushing form, the thick riffs hard and fast. Despite Jenkins suffering from a bout of man flu with a raging sore throat he pushed through and a huge ovation from the crowd was well deserved. These guys are maintaining a steady trajectory and with a huge support slot to Light The Torch imminent, Democratus continue to earn well deserved accolades.

Prior to one of the most shambolic raffle draws I’ve ever seen which hilariously saw Rich win two medium sized t-shirts, it was time for possibly the highlight of the day for me with the bludgeoning death metal of Blasphemer (9) whose 2018 album Lust Of The Goat simply slayed last year. The Dewsbury band returned after a lengthy break in 2014 but there was no rust on these old school purveyors of death metal as they simply pummelled all into submission. No fuss, no messing around, just an obliteration of all who stood in their way. Tracks from their self-titled album included the uncomfortable Sutcliffe along with some pulverising songs from Lust Of The Goat which included the very apt Nazarene. This is exactly how I like my death metal and Blasphemer hit the spot. If you ever get the chance to see these Yorkshire men then I highly recommend you do. You won’t regret it.

Penultimate band of the day were Petrichor (4) from Leeds. The band have been around for a few years and had been patiently waiting for their chance. Unfortunately, post raffle the crowd thinned substantially and as the black metal outfit kicked off their set there were every few people watching. This may have been attributed to having seen the band before because they were dreadful. A chaotic mix of sounds, symphonic black metal, death metal and even heavy metal in the mix, and an image that was poorly derived all added up to a band that should not have been as high in the line up. Their music was dire with vocalist who was tone deaf not really helping. It was no surprise that we headed out for more food at this point.

All hope was restored for the headline act though. Mansfield’s Witch Tripper (9) were in South Wales recently so you can catch up on another review about one of the UK’s hardest working bands there. Patience is a virtue they say, so the power trio must be the most virtuous band on the circuit having waited all day to play. But they don’t give a shit these guys and proceeded to whip up a raging storm for the flagging few punters who had made it through the whole day. With a crushing selection of tracks from their two albums, Witch Tripper simply owned the event with their brand of hard biker rock a pleasing relief after the previous band. Richie Barlow, stripped to the waist as always and with an accent that made his between song banter indecipherable, was a blur, crazily riffing away whilst the solid back line of Chris Daughton and Gary Eric Evans held everything tight. The hour flew by and by the end of their set the band and the audience were exhausted. There are few bands. That can hold a light to these guys and their schedule means they are likely to be near you at some stage soon. Get to see them asap!

So there you are. A fun filled day with a variety of metal bands, who all gave their time free for this fantastic cause. The venue worked well, but the absence of punters rankled with our party. In the home of metal, one would like to think that a few more could have made the effort on what was an otherwise fine and enjoyable day out.