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Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Reviews: Allegaeon, Duel, Erebos, Hardline (Paul H & Matt)

Allegaeon: Apoptosis (Metal Blade) [Paul H]

It’s rare that a band evolves quite so beautifully as Allegaeon. Over ten years since their debut EP, the self-titled four-track which introduced their stylish brand of progressive technical death metal to the world. Two and a half years since 2016’s Proponent For Sentience, the band return with their most accessible, technical and perfectly crafted release in Apoptosis. Combining crushingly heavy death metal with their unique technical and progressive styles, Apoptosis is an album that can be played on repeat with delightful discoveries continuing every spin. The pulverising punishment that was a source of pleasure on previous releases is retained, but there is a creative, organic feel to this album which is the perfect demonstration of the evolution of the Colorado outfit. Vocalist Riley McShane’s second appearance on record is astonishing, his demonic roaring blending with some quite angelic clean vocals. Drummer Brandan Park, one of the most fluent and technically stunning stick men around in the scene today delivers a gold medal performance, flawless and blisteringly confident. There is ferocious lead guitar work from Greg Burgess, the only original member of the band, alongside Michael Stancel’s concrete rhythm work which links in an unbreakable cohesion with bassist Brandan Michael.

The album opens with a freeform jam on Parthenogenesis, with its underpinning thrash chug before acoustic guitar cools the breeze, an almost Opeth style intricacy weaving a thread around and then segueing into Interphase//Meosis, which erupts and yet maintains astonishing melody despite the spine crushing intensity of the track. The album continues to deliver shock after shock on its journey of just shy of an hour. None more so than the stunningly composed Tsunami and Submergence, a delicately constructed track which opens with an ethereal classical feel before the riffs kick in. With guest classical guitarist Christina Sandsengen adding relief on the exquisite Colors Of The Current and the album climaxing with the opulence of the intricate Stellar Tidal Disruption and the ten-minute title track, Apoptosis is an album of sheer creative magnificence. The absence of a Rush cover adds to the joy, although of the many covers over the years, their version of Subdivisions on Proponent was nowhere near the worst I’d ever heard. Joking aside, having seen the band perform live earlier this year, this was an album that I was waiting for with some anticipation. The wait was worth it. This is a piece of absolute perfection. 10/10

Duel: Valley Of Shadows (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt]

Weed smoking, beer chugging, Texan stoner/doom metal band Duel are no strangers to the pages of Musipedia Of Metal. We've reviewed pretty much all of their previous efforts and they've all been consistently impressive, this could be because they have an ear friendly stoner metal sound that many of us enjoy here. It sits between early proto-metal bands such as Pentagram and Steppenwolf with some of the rocking of acts like Thin Lizzy and more modern heavier acts like Corrosion Of Conformity or mainly Fireball Ministry. It's occult friendly, ritualistic guitar wielding heavy rock that you'd hear in a 70's dive bar as a black mass takes place in the back room like it's a Mario Bava movie. Hell the record even opens with Black Magic Summer which starts with some small bells (which also ends the record) and has the feeling of a Danzig song.

They've been categorized as 'dark boogie' by their label and that's probably as good of description as I can give them, Duel sound a little like Status Quo with a head full of Mushrooms especially on The Bleeding Heart and Red Moon Forming. Tyrant On The Throne has a strutting riffs from Tom Frank and Jeff Henson while Frank wails down the mic, as Henderson fires away some sweet solos. They ramp up the psychedelic witchery on I Feel No Pain which sees Justin Collins with his most evocative drumming on the record, as the grooves kick in during the chorus that follows the more atmospheric parts. This is Duel's most realised album yet a stoner metal masterclass that just wants you to spark up a blunt, make some mushroom tea and melt into its big grooves. 8/10

Erebos: A Flame That Pierces With A Deadly Cold (Northern Silence Productions) [Paul H]

The latest instalment of epic black metal from Polish multi-instrumentalist Erebos, or to give him his real name, Dariusz Lukasik, a prolific producer of music in recent years. A Flame That Pierces With A Deadly Cold is the fifth full release under the Erebos project, impressive given it only commenced in 2016. As well as Erebos, Lukasik is part of several other projects including Isolation, Narrenshyff and Srogość. So, what about this latest offering? Well, I’ve shared my dislike of this type of music before, mainly due to the often-absent emotion and feeling which these releases seem to suffer from. On the other hand, being able to create soaring epic black metal masterpieces as a solo artist is inspiring. Unfortunately, much of this isn’t soaring, epic or masterpieces but has an overall feel of being generated rather than born. Mists Of Ruin is case in point. Whilst the attempt to build both atmosphere and intensity slowing increases, the horrible keyboard sound totally deflates the hard work; it sounds like a busker in a subway.

Opening track The Onslaught Of Morgoth begins with some delicate piano and a dramatic violin section in the background, before building a dramatic seven-minute plus piece which combines grumbling black metal vocals, intense tremolo riffing and some stirring brass sections, fitting indeed for the fortress of Morgoth, part of the Siege of Angband in the early years of the sun in J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Of Dawn And Dusk owes much of its composition to the score written by Howard Shore for The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and is once again blighted by the tinny keyboard sound. I don’t want to be too harsh, because this was an enjoyable listen; the tension is palpable at times, and the whole album is dramatic and imposing. Yet it somehow feels somewhat fake and shorn of real energy and enjoyment. Maybe I’m too harsh. But hey, that’s what we do this for. I’ll be generous. 6/10

Hardline: Life (Frontiers Records) [Matt]

Singer Johnny Gioeli has been the only constant member of Hardline since 1992 (although there was a 10 year gap after their debut Double Eclipse) since then the line ups have revolved for nearly every album however since their second album on Italian melodic rock label Frontiers, 2012's Danger Zone, keyboardist and producer Alessandro Del Vecchio and bassist Anna Portalupi have been a major influence in the modern day existence of the band. So what about Life their fourth record on Frontiers? Well it comes after the previous album Human Nature and a world tour that looked back at their world beating debut Double Eclipse, so with their debut in the rear view mirror this album was written to reflect their present and past together.

The first three songs on the record are what you'd want from the Hardline of old, new guitarist Mario Percudani has nailed the Neal Schon guitar sound of that debut having an equal amount of heaviness and melody with those little inflections that are writ-large through the Journey songbook. The rhythm section of Portalupi and new drummer Marco Di Salvia keep things nice and locked in bringing the gallop to Out Of Time while Hold On To Right has some Purple-like organ blasts. Halfway through this album I was still invested, sometimes these records can suffer from too many ballads, happily this doesn't, it's chock full of Sunset Strip rock anthems with an occasional emotional detour for a massive AOR ballad. This is a leaner meaner Hardline displayed on a song such as Handful Of Sand which is a a crunchy rocker. With Gioeli's vocals upfront, a voice I've eulogised about numerous times, this is solid return from Hardline a band I've always had a real soft spot for. Enjoy Life as much as possible, it's a rock solid album. 8/10

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