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Friday 31 May 2019

Reviews: Fleshgod Apocalypse, Majestica, Widower, Aegonia (Paul H, Matt & Rich)

Fleshgod Apocalypse: Veleno (Nuclear Blast Records) [Paul H]

Three years since the Italians released King. Is that all? It seems much longer. Still, album number 5 has been much anticipated and now it has arrived what has the trio of Francesco Paoli, Paolo Rossi and Francesco Ferrini delivered? Well, in a nutshell, one of the greatest albums of 2019. With an opening Bludgeoning Of Fury, Carnivorous Lamb and Sugar surging forward with an unstoppable aural tsunami, this is something special. There is no diversion from the intensity that Pelugia’s sons impart, but there is also the breath which allows the plunge when it comes to be so much more enjoyable. The Praying MantisStrategy segues into a brooding, smouldering Monnalisa which threatens to erupt with explosive force long before the operatic and orchestral elements soar. In fact, there is a calm, balanced pace to this sinister track which teases and taunts, whilst all the while you scream “just bring it!!”

Immersing yourself into Veleno is one exhilarating experience. The pace and blistering approach on Worship and Forget is astonishing, the classical elements blending perfectly with the rapid-fire drumming, heavy riffs and rampaging assault. Significant changes of direction and tone encourage detailed listening, with the first tones of Veronica Bordacchini’s soprano emerging from the raging torrents. The onslaught is maintained on Absinthe, another rip-snorting beast, thunderous riffage and Rossi’s soaring clean vocals contrasting with the guttural roars of Paoli whilst sinister choral elements add to the atmosphere and darkness of the song. Pissing On The Score opens with a rampant piano section before blasting drums, jagged guitar and more spiralling symphonic additions split the skull. This is brutally beautiful and totally genius.

Calmness and tranquillity return for the emotion soaked The Day We’ll Be Gone. Bordacchini taking central spotlight, working almost spiritually with the gruff voice of Paoli, the piano, sympathetic drum beat and a crescendo of classical interventions; the sound of the plucked harp strings reassuringly correct despite the bizarreness of their location. This track builds massively, and whilst it isn’t my favourite, it’s virtually an opera on its own, with Franceso Paoli’s understated lead work crafted in complete harmony with the rest of the track. The two and half minute instrumental title track, performed by Ferrini’s solo piano is stunning, different and quite enchanting, whilst the mandatory cover version focuses on Industrial German titans Rammstein with a bone crushing version of Reise Reise, a song that never fails to get the heart pumping. Closing the album with another massively original and haunting six-minute song in The Forsaking (Nocturnal Version), I suddenly realise I haven’t even got to CD 2, the instrumental versions of most of the tracks. Wow!

This is simply an incredible release. Sufficiently straightforward to knock you between the eyes from the start, but pleasing complex enough to demand repeat plays. When you click repeat five times in a row you know this is something special. Immersion in the world Fleshgod Apocalypse is essential. Few will match it in 2019. 9/10

Majestica: Above The Sky (Nuclear Blast) [Matt]

Reinxeed were a Swedish power metal act in existence from 2000 releasing 6 albums in their history however when Reinxeed's mastermind Tommy Johansson (guitar) joined Sabaton, the work of this band ground to a halt after their 2013 album, mainly due to the touring commitments of Sabaton. However the band that were once Reinxeed are back though they have changed their name to the much easier to remember Majestica.

Once again Tommy not only showcases his guitar prowess here as he has in the war based metal bands but also his vocal talents, in Reinxeed he was also the singer but most new fans wouldn't have heard him sing until he stood in as the vocalist of Twilight Force on their 2017. I'll say that he's got a great voice in the Michael Kiske or Timo Kotipelto style and this is where the band sits musically two rampaging power metal with tonnes of guitar trade offs between Johansson and guitarist Alexander Ortiz with classical synth runs on The Way To Redemption and Rising Tide really giving you that early 2000's power metal sound.

On the other hand Night Call Girl is punchy AOR number that does stand out a little but still has a great gallop to it thanks to the bass work of Chris David who also gets some big moments on Above The Sky and the very Helloween like Future Land. Helloween are a big influence on this album so it's ideal that behind the drumkit is ex-Helloween man Uli Kusch, though the band is officially a trio, his sticksmanship is exactly what this band needs. Above The Sky is a great power metal album, I actually prefer this to Sabaton as I have been brought up on a diet of Sonata Arctica, Helloween and Stratovarius so a track like Father Time gave me a massive smile on my face. If you love cinematic sounding symphonic power metal that hits you at lightspeed then I suggest you go Above The Sky. 8/10

Widower: Cataclysmic Sorcery (Black Market Metal) [Rich]

Cataclysmic Sorcery is the new release from Texan blackened thrashers Widower. Having released a string of EP’s since the formation of the band in 2011, Cataclysmic Sorcery is the debut full length album by the band and a very enjoyable album it is as well. Widower take the best elements of both thrash metal and black metal and combine them together in a way that neither of the two genres overshadows each other. Thrash metal riffs, tremolo riffs and blast beats merge in a glorious mass of darkness and blasphemy with furious throat shredding vocals adding to the evil aura of this album. Whilst there are countless other bands who have done this style and very little in the way of surprise throughout Cataclysmic Sorcery is a fine album. The performances and delivery are spot on with a nicely raw production aiding the music. Songs such as Fornicate Upon Mass Graves and Hell Sent are guaranteed to get heads banging. Wonderfully savage stuff. 8/10

Aegonia: The Forgotten Song (1238812 Records DK) [Paul H]

If you asked me to name another Bulgarian metal band, I think I’d struggle (and apart from a few active black and death metal bands I sourced on Google I’d be right) so it’s always good to listen to music from outside our usual range. Aegonia is an atmospheric gothic metal band from Sofia, Bulgaria, formed by Elitsa Stoyanova and Nikolay Nikolov in 2011. The Forgotten Song is the debut album from the band, and at 68 minutes long it’s a massive fantasy folklore journey, full of the typical contrast of magical acoustic guitars, ethereal female vocals and violin which jostle for pride of place alongside more brutality from harsh guitar work and male growls. The band uses traditional Bulgarian instruments as well, with kaval (traditional Bulgarian flute), percussions and bagpipe.

The album follows the story of the fantasy novel of the same name written by the singer of the band Nea Stand. At times, this strays massively into Eurovision pomp territory, and without wishing to be uber-critical, you can see the flowing silk gowns, the hair streaming from the off-stage fans and the ridiculous posturing. With the Mists She Came is one such example. Battles Lost And Won varies greatly, with some delicious sections of playing but a lot of meandering abstract parts as well. The Offer and The Stolen Song are fully immersed in the folk side of the band’s music and despite my lack of enthusiasm for such albums, a further play of this release from start to finish led me to change my opinion somewhat and although it’s a bit woolly in parts, overall, The Forgotten Song is a beautifully composed and intricate release. 

Complex, carefully woven and at times delightfully performed, the four band members, Nikolay Nikolov - vocals, guitar, kaval, Elitsa Stoyanova - vocals, violin Atanas Georgiev - bass Ivan Kolev - drums (since 2018) have delivered a quite magical piece of work. Be warned though, it does need to be played in full to appreciate the rich tapestry which has been spun together. 7/10

Reviews: SOTO, Glassing, Abaddon, TheNightTimeProject (Matt & Paul H)

SOTO: Origami (InsideOut Music) [Matt]

Hypermania the first track on this third album by Jeff Scott Soto (Sons Of Apollo/Talismen), sort of an overview of this record, it's a thoroughly modern mix of crunchy riffs, huge synths and Soto's brilliant vocals. The SOTO project was derived from Jeff wanting to return to the heavier styles of Talismen, they released two albums in 2015 and 2016 with his more hard rock solo self titled solo project taking precedence. After fronting Sons Of Apollo he has once again brought back the heavier sound of SOTO, with more of the progressive sound he has been involved with recently. Hypermania has got the most poppy sound on the record (and the lyrics are a little suspect) but when you get the chunky title track, Afterglow which has got a grooving riff to it and a chunk of parping brass. Vanity Lane however is slower but still heavy, while World Gone Colder is a massive rock track and Torn is a big ballad.There's so many stylistic changes on this record that it will appeal to any fans of metal/rock music but it never strays to far from it's big bouncy hard rock roots. Origami is a joyous record with one of the biggest and best voices around, it's not going to change the world but it'll certainly get it grooving. 7/10

Glassing: Spotted Horse (Brutal Panda Records) [Paul H]

Five minutes into the opening seven-minute opening track When You Stare and I was ready to heave this into the bin. Demonic vociferation to the point of pain, more time changes than a Great Western bank holiday train timetable, combined with asymmetric song structures and staccato rhythms; this was a combination of metalcore, hardcore, Djent and I wasn’t having any fun whatsoever. Having toughed it out though, Spotted Horse improved dramatically. The album is the second release from Glassing, a three-piece from Austin, Texas, who by all accounts are gaining a reputation in their field and are certainly favourites with the Kerrang readership. That might make my opening sentence understandable now. What Glassing are is a complex entity. Bassist and vocalist Dustin Hoffman has stated that neither band or listener should ever be allowed to be comfortable when listening to them, and I think he’s captured that completely.

This was no easy listening session. At times disturbing, at others distressing and yet completely surprising. The frantic explosive opening to Sleeper provided a wall of noise so extreme that it sounded like a military firing range but then evolved into ambient soundscapes although soundscapes complete with harrowing vocals. The post hardcore style is evident throughout but there are a myriad of influences and styles contained within this 44-minute piece of work. A Good Death would resonate with fans of Alcest and similar ambient shoegaze outfits, the haunting feel at odds with the frenetic intensity contained elsewhere. At every moment, uncertainty about the next steps was prevalent, and that is what allowed this album to remain in play. It’s unconventional, challenging and texturally fascinating. Not something I would usually give the time of day to, Glassing has delivered a sophomore release which intrigues, frightens and confuses. 8/10

Abaddon: Angelic Scorn (Self Released) [Paul H]

Formed in 2016 in El Paso, Texas, Abaddon are a four-piece outfit who deliver bestially foul death metal in the style of early Cannibal Corpse. One of about a million bands with the same name meant that even tracking down this vile outpouring details was challenging. However, if you like your death metal older than my socks and just as disgusting, then this 35-minute debut will probably make you smile with venomous joy. Deliberately anti-religion, tracks such as Burning Sermon, Purgatory and Icon Of Sin simply flatten. Vocalist Michael has clearly styled himself on the squeal of Corpsegrinder and the old school monsters, such is his indecipherable delivery. 

Drummer John is unstoppable, a crashing powerhouse who batters the shit out of his kit whilst bassist Oscar and guitarist Ray pound away with iceberg sized riffs. With a production which is stripped back, Angelic Scorn could strip paint if pointed in the right direction. It may be modelled on the older styles, such as on the blistering Justified Homicide but sometimes it is simply too enjoyable to listen to anything other than a pure maniacal battery which melts your face. This is perfect for when the mother-in-law has overstayed her welcome. 7/10

TheNightTimeProject: Pale Seasons (Debemur Morti Productions) [Matt]

A melodic/progressive rock 'supergroup' Thenighttimeproject is made up of Fredrik (guitars) and Mattias Norrman (bass), former members of Katatonia and currently October Tide. Along with them are guitar/vocalist Alexander Backlund and drummer Jonas Sköld from Letters From The Colony. It means that this second album the Swedish group has the overwhelming melancholy of Katatonia fused with an unshakeable similarity to Opeth. Now I'm talking the post-Watershed era of Opeth so if you want growls then stop reading, however if the more ethereal sounds of current Opeth then I really recommend picking Pale Seasons as it does sound like a lost Opeth record. Backlund's sombre and expressive vocal tone mirrors that of Mikael Akerfeldt, filling every word with emotional depth. Musically it's intricate and ornate in it's setting, delivering music that draws you into to it from the first notes taking on it's evocative gloomy journey as organs wind their way in under the fluid resonant guitars that occasionally dip into heavier realms but for the most part are happy with their ambience.

Pale Seasons is an album that builds, conceptually it deals with how the longer you live the more Pale Seaons you get, it's large patches of your memory where nothing happened that you don't remember as vividly as you do your childhood and youth, this will echo with older readers and it makes the album even more poignant. I've said it builds which is one of the reasons I absolutely adore this record Hound is ghostly, just a solitary guitar and vocal with an echo pedal, it sets the mood for the album which becomes more forlorn as it progresses. Rotting Eden has a marching riff and lots of Moogs swirling in the background and you know when I said about harsh vocals well I lied (to get rid of the posers) as Rotting Eden has those as well. It moves into some synth drenched propulsion on Binary which is an ominous track due to the relentless drumming and phased guitar it's built around, before it drifts into some Floyd-like dreaming, huge organs creep on the gothic Final Light, as first single Embers is more straightforward matching a hooky chorus with darker riffs.

I was hooked so much that by the time the cathartic Signals In The Sky came around, with it's lilting female vocals and almost Portishead-like electro-ambient a tear was shed leading to the twitchy outro of Meridian which lets you relax for the first time. As soon as it finished I played it again immediately, Pale Seasons is going to be in my top albums of the year no doubt about that, it's beautiful and brilliant. 10/10

Thursday 30 May 2019

Reviews: Enthroned, Upon A Burning Body, Iron Flesh, Eye Of The Destroyer (Paul H & Liam)

Enthroned: Cold Black Suns (Season Of Mist) [Paul H]

Five long dark years have passed since Sonerigus, the last album from Belgian Black Metal legends Enthroned. Once more there are line-up changes with guitarist Shagäl and bassist Norgath now in the fold alongside long-serving Nornagest [guitars and vocals (since 2007)], drummer Menthor and lead guitarist Nerrath. The 11th album opens with the oppressive and haunting Ophiusa, Satanic mumblings, jangling guitars and swirling mists creating an atmosphere of terror. Huge forest flattening riffs threaten. Ophiusa segues into the explosive Hosanna Satana, an all-out frenzied slashing assault, Nornagest’s roaring voice cutting through the blast beats and rampant riffing before it ceases after 2:17. A marching beat of malevolence leads into Oneiros, slower but no less sinister, this is evil personified. Laden with effects and imposing doom, the underlying keyboards and effects enhancing the horror with which the atmosphere builds.

Following the bludgeoning of Vapula Omega, there’s a more melodic song in Silent Redemption, but this is no lightweight piece. Fear not, Silent Redemption is crushing, with the tremolo picking leading into a skull pounding impact as the track detonates with blast beats, colossal thrashing guitars and a groove that ensure that the head is moving. Flexing their black metal muscles with careful placement, Cold Black Suns demonstrates why they’ve been around maintaining a high level of quality since the early 1990s. Terrifyingly heavy, teasingly mellow for delicious seconds before assault the senses with a battery that is punishing and relentless, their ability to contrast moods and feelings demonstrated perfectly with Aghoria which eases effortlessly to the bulldozing Beyond Humane Greed. Add to the mix the closing epic Son Of Man, a nine-minute monster that builds, broods and simmers before erupting, all the while retaining a devastating level of melody. This is a work which needs to be enjoyed repeatedly. Evil, Satanic and utterly absorbing. 9/10

Upon A Burning Body: Southern Hostility (Seek & Strike) [Liam]

This is a record I've been waiting for since they dropped the single King Of Diamonds. With their first record in three years and first on new label Seek And Strike, the band have found their sound, moving from Deathcore to their own sound if Mexi-core (A mix of Metalcore and their Mexican roots). The album itself is more riff driven than other efforts, such as Straight From The Barrio being more breakdown and chug orientated. It looks as though the band are evolving, not into mainstream music, but to a wider audience of metalcore. And if this album doesn't propel their popularity, I'll be very surprised. The record itself is full of great riffs and songs, with my personal favorite being Burn

I've had that riff stuck in my head for days and I'm still not bored of it. I mean the record is still Upon A Burning Body through and through as they haven't given up elements of their previous records, but they have improved. Back to front the album is brilliant, just hitting you with riff after riff and singalong chorus'. After the album is done, there's a cheeky little treat for you. A cover of Alice Cooper's Feed My Frankenstein. Done excellently by the way. I've been waiting for this album for the better part of a year. And it delivered. 9/10

Iron Flesh: Forged Faith Bleeding (Self Released) [Paul H]

Welcome to Iron Flesh, a four-piece death metal outfit from Bordeaux in France. Forged Faith Bleeding is their first full length release, following on from two EPs in 2017 and 2018. Although it sounds as if it has been recorded in a toilet underwater, the basic delivery is spot on for old school death metal, well, in parts anyway. Harbinger Of Desolation is doom from start to finish, a lumbering, breathless old man trying to climb too many flights of stairs and failing to really get to the finish. Invade, Conquer And Dominion and Ripping The Scaral in complete opposite, are fast, frenetic and totally raw. Celestial Disciple’s Incarnation is possibly verging towards thrash rather than DM but that’s splitting hairs; it opens at pace before slowing into a much more melodic track which doesn’t really appear to know what it is doing and then accelerating to warp speed again. Julien Helwin’s gravel soaked guttural roar fits in with the overall sound and the chainsaw guitar work is decent. Overall though, despite a promising start, Iron Flesh lost me about halfway through. Good effort. Can no doubt do better. 6/10

Eye Of The Destroyer: Baptized In Pain (High Potency) [Liam]

Some straight up Deathcore from New Jersey, and I'll be honest, I like Deathcore, but this album does nothing for me. It's repetitive. Every song is the same. There's no flair. There's no differentiation between any of the songs. I mean i commend the guys as the record is self-released and they're trying to break through a scene where you need to stand it and make yourselves known, but this record does not do that. If you like Deathcore but are looking for something new, this album isn't one I'd recommend. But if the inner Deathcore kid in you just wants to come out for some memories, it'll be the one for you. 2/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: King Kraken

King Kraken, Eulogy & Who Knows Didley, Liquid Lounge, Maesteg

Yep it's another one of those gigs in a small Valley's town that we so frequently drive from the capital to attend. Usually we go on the back of one or two bands we know, this one wasn't a punt though, in fact we have seen all three bands on the same bill only recently in Fuel Rock Club albeit in a different order. We were there to see King Kraken a band who haven't even been together for a year but have proved to be one of the most surprising entry into this years M2TM, constantly bringing massive riffs to their performances and slickness that has been trained by all the members being in several bands previously (Psycho Kiss and The Boom Sons, the two we've actually reviewed). Why Maesteg? well KK frontman Mark is from the town and is on a mission to bring original rock bands to it rather than the slew of covers bands that play venues such as the Liquid Lounge.

So we took a 45 minute trip up to where Bridgend meets Port Talbot, parked outside in a town that has more takeaways per square foot than anywhere else I've seen in the UK and wandered into this "social club" that was full of Sixth-Formers drinking Jagerbombs, interspersed with the members of the various bands setting up with their friends and families sitting and drinking. I will say the venue went all out for this gig as every staff member was bedecked in a bright green King Kraken t-shirt and they had even put on a (very drinkable) King Kraken IPA for the night. While we caught up with the band beforehand the terrible jukebox choices of the 18 year olds was drown out by the sound of roaring engines and petrol as the Valley Commandos made an appearance bringing  a huge number to the small venue as the drinks started to flow.

With a very cool Easy Rider-esque photoshoot done courtesy of our amazing photographer it was time for the bands and in a total reversal of the last time we had seen this line up Who Knows Didley (7) came on to the stage first, they have had a lineup change since the last time as drummer Craig has been replaced by a (very) young man who's name I didn't catch, but he has injected a new fierceness into this band despite this being his first gig (ever), he's one hell of a drummer and the 'more seasoned' members of Didley have also upped their game with the harmonies really working well as the classic rock riffs came out starting a fire that only burnt brighter as the evening progressed. Consummate in their professionalism and workrate both on and off the stage Didley are a band that seem to go from strength to strength.

Next up a band we are very familiar with modern rock three piece Eulogy (8) taking the stage for their slick, anthemic hard rock. A band that are always so tight live they have a number of go-to songs now that are full of great riffs from Mike Williams that immediately draw attention, with Neil Thomas bringing the bass grooves and some of the best vocals on the South wales circuit. Tracks such as You'll Die Alone, Cross To Bear and the brilliant Blood Red Skies, a song so good they played it twice! You really need to see Eulogy if you haven't as every time they impress, hopefully we'll see them creeping further up the bills of line up's soon.

So with the stove now cooking properly it was time for the main event, as this was the bands own show the stage set up was very different from their Fuel shows. Drummer Rich brought his huge full kit with him (and proceed to use every inch of it) so the stage was very much dominated by it leaving just bassist Karl and lead guitarist Adam flanking either side while guitarist Pete and vocalist Mark were basically on the floor. Not that this matters as the frontman of these old world riff monsters cuts an imposing shape and with an equally imposing voice, now featuring some snarling along with the more powerful soaring cleans. King Kraken (9) were probably the best I've ever seen them here, they have added new elements to the set that just really elevate them another level, I'm not going to give any spoilers as this apparently is one of their preparations for the M2TM final but it gives them a new gravitas that really got you ready for heavy hitters such as War Machine and Freak.

What was also evident is that the band themselves have tried and tested these songs to the point that there was a lot of Zakk Wylde guitar widdling from Adam while the rest of the band riffed away like their lives depended on it. Noticeably emotional Mark took the soapbox between each song to declare how they were trying to reintroduce original rock music to Maesteg and the surrounding areas and when you see what they do over in the Gwent valley with The Patriot, The Dolls House, it's hard to argue, still with an influx of talent from the West of Wales it won't be long until this happens in my opinion especially with bands like King Kraken decimating stages.

The machine rolled on giving the partisan crowd along with some randoms, one of whom called  KK the best band he's ever scene in Maesteg, a taste of the set they were going to play for the final. It's a beast folks, really but that is all in the very near future, with good heads on their collective shoulders King Kraken are looking beyond this and are ready to take over not just South Wales but further afield as soon as possible. With a great collection of songs, and more coming soon, King Kraken destroyed the Liquid Lounge in what's becoming a theme with their shows. These Cephalopod obsessed riff monsters, were raised from the briny deep once again and they crushed all in their path.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Reviews: This Sun No More, Diviion, God Of Nothing, Harbinger (Paul S Liam & Matt)

This Sun No More: In Circles (Sludgelord Records) [Paul S]

This Sun No More are a six piece who have been making music together since 2008. The Stoke On Trent based band have released 2 EP’s in that time. Thats a long time to produce only 2 Ep’s, so I hope the band has been spending that time creating something pretty special. Luckily for the rest of us, they have! This Sun No More have spent the time creating a unique sound that is a mix of Post Rock, Doom and Sludge, with maybe a little new wave and gothic in there for good measure. The album is based on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, with each track being one circle of hell. The album starts with Guiltless, which is an instrumental with a sample of Stephen Fry talking about not believing in god. Musical the track is mainly mid-paced clean Post Rock guitar riffs. As the track goes along it builds and gets heavier, the final third has distortion on the guitars, and feels quite doomy, but in a more stoner way.

The pacing stays the same throughout, but the intensity increases. There is a definite similarity to some Mono material. Second track Storm, starts with just drums and psychedelic, spacey noises. Again we some clean Post Rock riffs but with some electronics, which feel quite introspective. The intensity also increases, and about halfway through we get a bigger dissonant sound, coupled with harsh vocals, and without really noticing we’ve moved to a sludge song. Gut starts heavy, and slightly sleazy. After a heavy opening, the song goes into a softer, introspective section that has an uplifting feel to it. After blissing out on this for a couple of minutes, the heavy returns and this time it has kept the uplifting feel from the preceding section. The vocals in this final heavy section are harsh and feel anguished, a nice juxtaposition with the uplifting feeling that is still present in the music. Midas feels more purposeful than the tracks that came before it. It has some nice rhythmic touches, and drives forward. The track features harsh vocals, again quite anguished, but this is an album about Hell, so I suppose that is just as well! The River is mainly a heavy track, but it flows beautifully giving it a bit of stoner sense in the tempo. There is an interesting sample about nuclear weapons, and the track feels uplifting and beautiful (sometimes this album feels too serine and lovely to be about Hell!). The track gains a piano line near the end, and ends up mixing power and drive with all that beauty, sublime.

Dis has a clean Post Rock beginning that gets heavier as it goes along, but at the same time feels relaxed, tuneful and melodic. The addition of an organ (Hammond?) in the second half of the song, coupled with the harsh vocals, tempers the harshness of the vocals whilst giving the track a lot of depth. Next we get Atilla, which is properly doomy and heavy and powerful. The song has a really slow and heavy sludgy section, with agonised vocals and a twisted, lurching tempo. There is a clean, but brooding section, before the distortion comes crashing back in, and to top it all off, there's a cracking solo as well. Uri is a short instrumental with a sample from mystic con-man Uri Geller, talking about bending spoons (I’ve never understood why when given incredible powers by the universe, Geller chose to use them to make cutlery useless). The album comes to an end with the track Iscariot. The track starts clean and slightly blissed out, before building from post rock into a more new wave sound.

There is a short, soft, introspective segment in the middle of the track, before the heavy and loud come back for the end of the song. In Circles is a great album. It mixes Post Rock with doom and sludge in a very pleasing way. The way the band have melded different sounds into a whole that is coherent and sounds natural, even though there is a lot of different, disparate elements in play, is very impressive. The transitions from one style to another are seamless, and work so well. It’s a complicated beast, but with a few listens it opens up, and will delight the listener. Turns out This Sun No More, have created something very, very special. Grab it, have a listen and enjoy! 9/10

Diviion: Journey Of The Time Shaman (Self Released) [Matt]

You'll have read in these pages about epic Bristol based death/doom metal band Void Titan, we've covered their Ep release and a few of their shows. Well late last year their drummer and bassist parted ways with the band (but Void Titan still exists) and out of that has come extreme progressive metal act Diviion which features former Diviion drummer Fionn Moore on vocals and Void Titan guitarist Phil Wadey on bass. I'm going to treat this as its own independent project and not in anyway compare it with Void Titan as although Fionn uses growled and roared vocals it's very different. Diviion have much more of a Mastodon meets desert rock vibe due to the extensives use of time changes, different tunings, loud & soft dynamics along with more flowing metfluous 'proggy' textures.

Supervoid and the title track show both elements of this, Supervoid having some thrash/death metal blasts that are balanced by more melodic guitar elements and sudden changes of pace, while the title track has a more spacey feel to it, still having Hugo Benezech blasting away but with more ambient intelligent guitar textures. The recording line up of the album is Fionn on guitar and vocals, Phil on bass, Hugo on drums and Scott Grimble from Bangover on lead guitar, but since the recording of this album the band has fleshed out the ranks with Jonny Scaramanga and Kate Bidder on guitar, taking over from Grimble.

Journey Of The Time Shaman 
has all the virtuosity and pretension you would expect from progressive music but with a bit more of a metallic bite that take in thrash and death metal influences. From Depth is groovy and opens the album properly after the instrumental and there are several more pieces that can be used as transitional pieces leaving the two longer numbers as the 10 minute plus Chronological Warfare brings everything together at the end of the album. This is great first strike from Diviion with an otherworldly progressive metal sound they have made their own. 8/10

God Of Nothing: Cruel By Nature (Legend Recordings) [Liam]

This has to be the most downright filthy, vile, disgusting sounding Deathcore album I have ever heard in my life. And i absolutely love it. I wasn't sold by opener instrumental Dissolution, but as soon as 1075 hits, you're hooked. And near the end you're treated to one of the most face gurning, stomach churning, break your spine clean in half breakdowns you've ever heard. The album IS basically one big breakdown by itself, but honestly, I think that's why I love it so. I'm a Metal/Deathcore kid at heart. So hearing new and upcoming bands serve us their own ferocious tunes is welcomed. Altogether the record blends together flawlessly and sounds amazing. Granted it could do with more riffs instead of chug after chug, but whatever floats their boat. There are some gems if you're interested in sticking around, but your musical taste takes over my recommendations. So if you're a core kid, the party is here, if not, then steer clear. But beknown, these guys pack a punch that'll shatter your eardrums. 7/10

Harbinger: Compelled To Suffer (Self Released) [Liam]

With their debut album just released, and already touring with well-known bands such as Nekrogoblikon and Rings Of Saturn despite only being around since 2015, the London metal crew hit it off strong with their first full length. Combining elements of Deathcore with Tech Death, the band just pounds you with their consistent barrage of riffs, blast beats and growls to make your stomach churn in excitement and anticipation for the next track. In a scene where all music isn't really progressing forward, just staying the same and becoming stale, Harbinger are one of the stand out bands this side of the decade. The intensity of the record is back up only by the sheer force of heaviness and riff work by the band. Vocalist Tom Gardner assaults you with his deafening highs and destructive lows, while the band just dominate their instruments and shifts the metal scene into a new light. Well done boys. 8/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Gong & Ed Wynne (Live Review By Ed Hughes)

Gong/The Ed Wynne Band, The Globe, Cardiff

I sat down for a beer in the local pub before the gig. What had previously a lovely, sunny day had evolved into a slightly overcast, quite windy evening. Were these psychedelic winds I was experiencing? Quite possibly. I saw many a Gong fan in the pub, judging by the T-shirts and dreadlocks. Anticipation was high. Although I’m a fan of both, I’d gone into this gig not knowing all that much about Ozric Tentacles or Gong, I was looking forward to what I was about to see.

Having never seen Ozric Tentacles in the past I made sure to get down early so as not to miss The Ed Wynne Band (10). The lights went down and psychedelic patterns, and images of stone henge were projected onto the backdrop, letting us know we’re in for a bit of esoteric Ozric madness. The music started and it’s unmistakably Ed Wynne. With both Ed and the keyboard player, who is his son, controlling the desk, they created their musical landscape. A few songs in and the drummer breaks into a Samba beat, getting the crowd dancing. They’d crafted a fairly flawless sound.

The synthesizer work was excellent and the tone of the snare was really quite impressive. Half the crowd were, hypnotised the rest are banging their heads. The guy next to me was having a great time by the looks of things. The music went down a more dub route towards the end of the set, which was happily received. Bathed in darkness with neon lights behind them creating some beautiful silhouettes, Ed told us they had ‘one more little weirdness’ for us, which I thought was both charming, and very fitting. I was blown away by what I’d seen and heard, it just needed to be at the end of the day in a tent in a field somewhere.

You could feel the anticipation of the crowd before Gong (9) came on. A cheer arose as the iconic Angel’s Egg appeared, shining at the back of the stage. They broke into some rocking progressive funk before giving the sax some room to move on a new song. A couple of songs in the singer, Kavus Torabi, takes a moment to declare to the crowd that there’s ‘beautiful people up, down, all around’. What a gent. Most of the new album was played and I’ve got to be honest it sounded great live. Gong take us on musical journey, taking us into some heavier territory, to the delight of those head banging at the front. Before guiding the crowd down a somewhat trippy path with Rejoice! which brought with it some serious groove, and an impressive clarinet display.

The stage was empty for a few moments before the band took the stage again for the encore. It started with some soulful saxophone before descending into a jazz odyssey, with a bit of Middle Eastern chanting. The venue may have only been half full tonight, but the people who ARE here are absolutely loving it. Gong were great, the only thing letting them down was the sound quality, which I found to be a bit distorted and peaking. The music ends, they take their bow, and the Kavus waves to the crowd before exciting the stage. The applause said it all. Tonight was Gong’s world, I was just visiting.

Both bands were absolutely incredible tonight. It’s just unfortunate that the sound for Gong wasn’t perfect, as it should’ve been. If you get the chance to see either of these bands I highly recommend it.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (Live Review By Paul H)

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – The Crofter’s Rights, Bristol 24th May 2019

Eschewing the delights of Cardiff’s extreme metal fest at Fuel for one year, a trip across the bridge to the delightful The Crofter’s Rights for a night of something a little different proved a fabulous move. Three bands for £10, up close and personal, provided great value for money and more importantly, provided support for another small live music venue. Next time a band want £60 + for a massive arena show where you can hardly see them, remember the grass roots first. This is where the real music and action is.
Opening proceedings were Superseed (8), a five-piece triple guitar attack from Bristol. With a range of sounds that varied greatly, their mix of hard rock, punk, garage and stoner was fantastic to get the evening started. The three guitarist, Ben Taylor, Dan Armson and David Edgar also swapped vocals throughout their set and with a raft of original material earned a well-deserved ovation. The three-pronged guitar attack gave the band massive heft and the riffs fell hard, heavy and frequent. David Edgar took the lion’s share of the lead vocals and was resplendent in his REO Speedwagon tee and Sabbath ink. Behind him the solid drumming of Matt Colley and pumping bass of Keith Bowers ensured solidity. Tracks from their debut release which was duly picked up after their set went down well and their diversity whilst retaining a heavy rock edge was excellent.

On our trip over Mrs H and I sampled a bit of Notts based Haggard Cat (8). We remarked that they sounded like Royal Blood mixed with The Arctic Monkeys. Well, we weren’t far away at all as the duo proceeded to level the venue with their explosive brand of hard punk fused rock. Unassuming off stage, guitarist/vocalist Matt Reynolds and drummer Tom March blasted into life as soon as they started their set, and the only challenge was how the audience could possibly keep up. A small but vociferous pocket of support cheered them on from the front and whilst the venue wasn’t even a quarter full, this failed to stop Haggard Cat from a blistering high energy set which saw them deliver tracks from album Challenger including the superb Bone Shaker, The Patriot and American Graffiti. Marsh’s violent assault on his kit, combined with massive hooks and Reynolds roaring vocals left you pleasingly uneasy as to whether the lid would stay on this bubbling pot of passion and energy. I think control was just about maintained. With a European Tour with the Dead Kennedys just announced, this is a band who will continue to wow audiences – the sky is their limit.

It’s been some time since I crossed paths with The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (10) and how I’ve missed their powerful greasy biker rock. Having endured the M25 and the M4 to get to Bristol from Hastings, the dirty fuzzy trio wasted little time in levelling the room with their own brand of hard-hitting rock. With plenty of material from their three albums to choose from, it was only a question of what they would pick to play, and they duly obliged with a selection from Keep It Greasy, Don’t Hear It! … Fear It and Check ‘Em Before You Wreck ‘Em. With the promise of a new album in the autumn, we were also treated to a new track which sounded brilliant. Clad in their blue vests with yellow piping, the band were in unstoppable form. Guitarist Johnny Gorilla throws riffs out for fun, and his Flying V takes no prisoners. Wearing her “Pommy Bastards” tee, drummer Serra Petale battered seven shades of shit out of her kit, whilst wearing a beaming smile throughout.

And then we had bassist Louis Comfort-Wiggett, whose London demeanour in the magnificent on-stage banter almost overshadowed what a good player he is. In fact, despite their apparent anarchic chaos, the band are astonishingly good musicians and their 15-minute jam towards the end of their set was intoxicating. Having driven for 8 hours, there was no way they would finish on curfew and sure enough, they crammed in a final song which took them way past the 10:30 finish. No-one in the sparse but enthusiastic crowd was complaining mind and it was to well-earned applause that the set ended with cries of “more” echoing round the room. This is a band that must be seen in the live environment. The Admiral rules.

Review: Diamond Head, Vader, Sammy Hagar & The Circle, MTXS (Paul H)

Diamond Head: The Coffin Train (Silver Lining Music)

To say I was underwhelmed by the self-titled 2016 release that Diamond Head put out last time around was an understatement. However, like many of the albums we review here, with time and a more reflective approach, Diamond Head was actually worth far more than the 6/10 I gave it at the time. Well, if that didn’t grab me hard, the band’s latest album The Coffin Train is very much a return to the fire and passion that always underlines the band’s live shows. This is very much old school classic heavy metal with a modern twist. Listen to opener Belly Of The Beast, a runaway horse of a track which rarely slows for breath as it stampedes along. Vocalist Rasmus Bon Andersen on fine form, drummer Karl Wilcox nailing everything with his powerhouse drumming and new bassist Dean Ashton [he’s been with the band for three years but this is his debut on record] linking tightly with Andy Abberley’s rhythm guitar work, you are assured of a smooth platform for Brian Tatler to work his six string magic.

The Messenger is another raucous track, decent pace and Bom Andersen hitting all the high points. I’ve said it several times before when reviewing the band, but they always amaze me with their enthusiasm and sheer passion. The title track fits nicely into the band’s catalogue, a slower brooding number which builds with a smoulder and some neat guitar work whilst the dramatic introduction to The Sleeper, another epic hard rocker. Classic metal is never far away in Tatler’s writing and Death By Design has an amazingly old school feel. At times Bom Andersen’s vocals drift into Myles Kennedy territory, especially on the closing duo of The Phoenix and Until We Burn but he has sufficient individuality to ensure his own mark. Of course, you always get quality guitar work with Diamond Head and this album is crammed full of quality musicianship. The Coffin Train is a fabulous piece of heavy metal, proving once again that the old guard can show those youngsters a thing or two. Well worth a listen. 8/10

Vader: Thy Messenger EP (Nuclear Blast)

Iron Times preceded Polish Death Metal tyrants Vader’s last long player, the excellent The Empire in 2016. Thy Messenger clocks in slightly longer than Iron Times, but one can’t help wondering in three years if the band couldn’t have managed another full release. Regardless of that pondering, what we have here is four blisteringly short but brutally savage original tracks, Grand Deceiver, Litany, Emptiness and the one minute Despair, as well as another cover, this time Judas Priest’s Steeler, which sounds like early Venom!! It’s a neat little package, reminding you, as if you needed it, that Vader remain as brilliantly intense and aggressive as they have always been. Once more it’s James Stewart’s battering assault on the drums that grabs the attention with a tightness that most could only dream of. He is one beast of a machine. Probably one for the diehards rather than the casual fan, Thy Messenger is hopefully the prequel to another slab of Death Metal, done the right way, the old way. 7/10

Sammy Hagar & The Circle: Space Between (BMG Rights Management (US) LLC)
The Red Rocker is back. Yes, the man with one of the most distinguishable voices in hard rock returns with 34 minutes of country fused rock. This is almost Americana if you want to put a badge on it., Of course having a supergroup around you doesn’t half help and in former Van Halen colleague Michael Anthony on bass, the exceptional skills of Vic Johnson on guitar and one Jason Bonham behind the kit Hagar has built a neat collection. Having released a live album in 2015, Space Between is the studio debut and it oozes the class and quality you would expect from such rock alumni. Fast paced songs such as Full Circle Jam (Chump Change) with its metronome engine drumming and slide guitar sit comfortably alongside opener Devil Came To Philly [with some fat riffs] and the mellow Wide Open Space.

I was always Team Lee Roth rather than Van Hagar but solo wise and with Montrose in the 70s Hagar was superb. At 71 the man still possesses the pipes to deliver with style. The stomp of Free Man illustrates the easiness and comfort of a band who have nothing to prove. Switching from that stomp to the Stones/Petty style on No Worries with such casual effort and then flicking back to the thundering blues of Trust Fund Baby, you can only marvel at the sheer polish and professionalism of these artists; Johnson’s guitar work slick and tidy, Anthony’s pulsing bass lines present but never over powering whilst Bonham’s huge sound is distinctive and powerful, pushing everything forward. Little more to say except this is how the grown ups do it. 8/10

MTXS: Ache (Self Released)

Crossover bands aren’t my thing. I’ve never understood the huge breakdowns, the roaring vocals or the anger that rages. But times change, and MTXS, who merge hardcore attitude with elements of Nu-metal have delivered a toxic disease-ridden album that combines Meshuggah, Slipknot and Hatebreed in one foul ball of fury. The South East outfit kick hard and fast. Ten tracks over 25 minutes includes the monstrous Strain, the rap influenced Bad Blood and the anger-fuelled all out thrash elements of Burn The Baron. Massive riffs, stop start motion, chugging mid-sections, punishing drumming and a hardcore punk feel all combine effortlessly. By all accounts ferocious live, MTXS has provided a sophomore release that leaves little to the imagination. It’s powerful, furious and well delivered with intelligent lyrics. If you like it hard, angry and with enough force to encourage you to break stuff, this may well be for you. 7/10

Monday 27 May 2019

Reviews: Restless Spirits, Dead Acid People, Circle Of Witches, Asylum Pyre

Restless Spirits/Tony Hernando: Restless Spirits (Frontiers Records)

Now this...this is not good, probably one of the most overproduced, insipid melodic rock albums I've heard this year all from the axe slinger of Lords Of Black. This is apparently him stepping away from the style of Lords Of Black probably due to their recent line up change, he had time on his hands, but if I were to offer some sage advice, don't quit your dayjob. Yes ok the positives this album does feature some of the best voices in the melodic rock genre: Johnny Gioeli (Hardline), Dino Jelusic (Animal Drive), Diego Valdez (Dream Child) along with Deen Castronovo (Revolution Saints ex-Journey), Kent Hilli (Perfect Plan) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (every Frontiers band ever). So that's the vocal talent as normal the guitarist takes all guitars, bass while Castronovo takes a more familiar place behind the drums as Victor Diez and Leif Elhin share the keys and piano.

Now with that out of the way we can focus on the album itself, the opening number Stop Livin To Live Online is a pretty competent rocker with Gioeli's vocals at their best, he even has the best ballad, the rest though just sounds like Journey-lite, especially Castronovo fronted numbers, it's all slick 'semi' rockers and saccharine ballads where the voices all blend into one except for Gioeli, Jelusic and Valdez (who gets one measly song). It's bland and banal and after a while you find yourself just wishing there was a proper riff, due to Hernando's dayjob I'll make this comparison: Lords Of Black is Rainbow fronted by Dio, Restless Spirits is the Bonnet/Lynn Turner era. 5/10   

Dead Acid People: Earth, Weed & Fire (Self Released)

This was never going to an album of smiles and sunshine with that title was it? No French mind expanding stoners Dead Acid People walk on the darkside with this their second album. The opening intro has a creeping synth and "that" line from The Sixth Sense, before the title track opens the record with som analogue sounding, buzzing riffs, low basslines and metronomic drumming establishing a heady groove that would usually be accompanied by some drug induced stumbling. The record is an ode to the leaf clearly so naturally these French herbalists have tried to make it as appealing to stoners as possible, as the guitars and bass take precedence over both the drums and the droning vocals. Much of that is due to the mix which does sound like it's come straight out of the 60's/70's back-to-back reels leaving the drums low in the mix like on those early Sabbath albums.

I've mentioned the S word as it's nigh on impossible not to when your talking about riff based music that urges to "smoke a joint" like Earth, Weed & Fire does, they do vary form the blueprint of Ozzy and co though as Never Ending has a propulsion of MC5, while Fuzz You is more The Stooges, Beyond The Path meanwhile is proper 60's psych. It's a brain melting album which is sort of the point as the fuzz pedal is very much in the on position for the whole thing with the phaser coming in and out as well, the vocals to are more like a chant with a snarl cutting across for attitude. Earth, Weed & Fire (one of my favourite album titles of the year) is a distorted, hazy (Cosmic Trails), munchie inducing album ideal for late nights getting blazed (not that we condone that sort of thing). 8/10

Circle Of Witches: Natural Born Sinners (Sliptrick Records)

What is it with clever album titles, I know this has been done to death but it's still clever. Circle Of Witches are an Italian metal band that mix heavy metal and doom with a definite influence of Grand Magus creeping in. Natural Born Sinners is their third album and according to the band deal with riots and some of the more rebellious people in history such as Lucifer, Spartacus and Anton LaVey. Ideal heavy metal fodder then and musically too they've managed to get that niche Magus themselves enjoy which is being as heavy as truck but also catchy as venereal disease. Take a song like the pummeling The Black House you can happily bang your head to the crunchy riffs but also enjoy the big choruses that deal with LaVey's Nine Statements in the Church Of Satan.

The Oracle brings Gothic touch of Ghost which suits the more gothic lower timbre of Mario Bove's vocals, the Magus influence can be heard fully on Spartacus (Prophecy) There is an old school metal vibe to this record it's all very leather and studs which makes it even more enjoyable as when they play fast it's ferocious, but when the doom elements come in it goes to gets a significant stomp. Church Of Witches are Mario Bove (vocals/guitar), Joe Dardano (guitar), Tony Farabella (bass/bv) and Joey Coppola (drums) and if you've worn out Wolf God already then I'd say invest in Natural Born Sinners for a 'proper' heavy metal fix. 8/10

Asylum Pyre: N°4 (M&O Music)

N°4 is the fourth album from French band Asylum Pyre who have released their first album since 2015 their first with current singer Oxy Hart. Asylum Pyre are a band that are hard to classify they sound like an amalgamation of Lacuna Coil, In This Moment and Amaranthe as Oxy has a very adaptable vocals style that is matched by the harsher tones of Johann Cadot for a dual vocal assault. Though the main focus is on the classically trained Oxy, Beast In Black's Yannis Papadopoulos does pop in on Sex, Drugs & Scars, however the balance between the clean/harsh dynamic is done really well, especially on Dearth. I suppose you could call it progressive power metal as every track presents you with another style though it's the electronic/industrial touches that are ever present, shummering synths fuse with powerful metal riffs. Looking at the press bumf around this there seems to be an overall concept around this band that is far too complicated for me to get into but it doesn't detract from the music on offer. As I've said it's almost impossible to pigeonhole this band as they have so much going on musically but that endears me to them, a real surprise for me as I did think Asylum Pyre may be one of those generic symphonic metal bands but there are a lot more strings to their bow. 7/10

Sunday 26 May 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Thee Oh Sees (Live Review By Liam)

Thee Oh Sees, Prettiest Eyes & Heavy Lungs, The Tramshed, Cardiff

Heavy Lungs (3) I don't know what to make if these. I mean musically there were on point. In the middle of punk and hard rock, just not as many riffs, just smashing the fretboard and drums to create a ferocious noise, and it worked pretty well. Until the vocalist chimed in. The only way to describe his is to compare him to a knock-off Clash cover band who's had way too much dutch courage. The guy was stumbling all over the stage, making no coherent sense. I mean at one point even the band looked at each other with concern. Not a good first impression, with some sub-par vocals.

Prettiest Eyes (8) This is the kind of band you'd want at any function you're throwing. Hailing from the great state of California, the three piece just want to have as much fun as possible while playing some good rock music. Halfway through the first song I realize, there's no guitarist, but instead a keyboard player taking on full responsibility of the fret man using only his keyboard and a distortion pedal, with the energy of a kid drinking their first sugary drink. The drummer/vocalist is just belting out the beats while performing some amazing voice work. And I'm pretty sure they were singing in Spanish in for most of the songs as well, but they were so catchy I didn't realize. The bassist them dominates the other side of the stage, but not as you'd imagine. Dressed like a Spanish ballroom dancer, he shakes his hips and just struts around the stage. And I'll be honest. He's the sexiest man I've ever seen. With my eyes glued to the band in anticipation, the sets over. Just like that. This is a band that's worth keeping an eye out for. Amazing.

Thee Oh Sees (9) So my understanding of Thee Oh Sees was just prog (psych actually - Ed). My opinion has been severely changed. As soon as they hit the stage the crowd goes wild as they burst into Plastic Plant. What I noticed most in the first few minutes is the has two drummers. Yes. Two. Both full kits. Both playing the same beats in the same time. Why was is necessary? I couldn't tell you the reason why, because my mind was focused on the noise coming from the entire band. It was just magic. Playing with fury, but making it look so easy, the band encapsulate everyone from the beginning. Further into the set, vocalist John Dwyer has issues with his microphone, and without missing a beat fixes it within moments, and the show goes on. While more driven toward the hard rock side tonight, the band still fit in their classic prog sound with the mesmerizing keyboard work of Tomos Dolas just takes me under its wing until the band bursts to life again, squashing my momentary day dream. My favorite song of the set was when they played the chorus inducing The Dream, which hooked me from beginning to end. Until the final goodbye of Encrypted Bounce leaves the speakers, I'm left speechless. There's nothing I've seen like this, and maybe, there never will be.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Reviews: Tyrmfar, Alpha Wolf, Mother Iron Horse, Blaze Out (Paul H, Matt & Alex)

Tyrmfar: Renewal Through Purification (MTAF Records) [Paul H]

A new band to me, Swiss outfit Tyrmfar has been delivering their brand of melodic death/black metal since 2013, with 2015’s debut EP In The Depths Of A Dark Spirit followed by their first full length Human Abomination in 2017. This second album is overflowing with blast beats, massive riffs and intricate melancholic endings which provide a welcome contrast to the onslaught which Tyrmfar bring. Opening with the intro of The Arrival, its Of Legions Of Eternity which provides the initial introduction to the band, crushingly heavy and new singer Robin demonstrating a fine pair of chops. Rise Of Chaos maintains the blend of death and black metal, continued riffs, crushingly heavy drums and a change of style like bands such as Kataklysm and Dunkelnacht.

There is enough originality within the band to distinguish track from track so whereas Rise Of Chaos follows a death metal style the next song The Almighty moves more to the black metal elements. Powerful, skull splitting heavy, No Hope allows Robin to release the guttural roars, whilst the duel harmonised riffage of lead guitarist Mickael and rhythm player Kevin add substantial body to their works. Freedom Call is a rare instrumental song whilst Living Corpses is a brutal death metal blast. Overall, Renewal Through Purification is a significant piece of work, bludgeoning and aggressive with enough chops to catch the attention of all who claim to like metal. 7/10

Alpha Wolf: Fault (Sharptone Records) [Alex]

Despite being only 17 minutes in length, Alpha Wolf makes their short amount of time impress count. Theirs is an industrial-tinged, severing brand of metal. What Fault lacks in subtlety it makes up for in determination. No Name opens, its mechanical guitar textures, and the marching thud of the bass and drums creating a furious force of energy and noise. Spirit Breaker is equally frantic, the addition of gloomy synths counteracting the chaos, proving frighteningly dystopian in tone. Russian Roulette has a jive and infectiousness to it - an insanely outstanding quality which eats its way into the listener's memory.

The main criticism I have of this EP is the lyrics. While I get the sense that you are not meant to pay close attention to the words, hearing ‘You’re Just a pussy in a black hoodie’ screamed throughout Sub-Zero, proves ultra-cringe-inducing, if only for the sheer ‘edge-lord’ quality. You can chalk these phrases up to the need to match the aggression of the performances, yet much of the wordplay here does not compliment the tone in a positive way at all. Overall despite a few missteps, these seven anthems (well, six and a transition) bode well for the future of this act, and for crushing metal of a visceral nature 6/10

Mother Iron Horse: The Lesser Key (Hellmouth Records) [Matt]

Do you like Black Sabbath? Silly question really but Mother Iron Horse really love Black Sabbath, and also Electric Wizard, I mean they'd have to as this record is full of , as they put it "Drugs, Sex and Sacrilege" vocally moving between a low wail and shouts the instrumental elements rely on heavily fuzzy stoner and doom riffs that crawl out of the pits of hell backed by a throbbing rhythm section that drives Scepter Of Ice which is one of the faster songs on the album, before  The Lesser Key is Mother Iron Horse's debut album and it's built on the occult nature of the bands hometown Salem, Massachusetts where the famous witch trials took place and it worships at the b-movie doom/stoner metal of Electric Wizard, Sleep or Acid King. Trippy, witchy and powered by some really heavy drugs The Lesser Key is a late night head trip. 7/10

Blaze Out: Instinct (Blood Fire Death) [Matt]

Instinct is Barcelona groovesters third album and if bands such as Saliva, Soil, Fozzy and Adrenaline Mob float your boat then it's worth investing some time into it. From the off it's packed to brim with riffs opening with the thrashier pit starter Toxic AF before Attack On Titan will still get you moving but has a downtuned coda at its heart. Blaze Out vocally it moves between crooning and a rasp but you'll come for the riffs and stay for the riffs which fill this album until The Raise brings the first ballad of the album as Drunk Empire has country picking on it and bursts into a solo. Despite being from Spain there is nothing on this album that hints at them being European as their style of music is overtly American in style, even when they bring doom to the beginning of Deadfall, it turns into another mediocre groove metal song. There's nothing particularly bad about this album if you like groove metal, musically competent but nothing to write home about, less of a blaze more of an ember. 6/10

Reviews: October Tide, Magnified Eye, After The Burial, Invicta (Liam, Alex & Manus)

October Tide: In Splendor Below (Agonia Records) [Liam]

When a doom metal band from Sweden has a previous member of Katatonia, you know you're in a for a good ride. With their first album in three years, they hold nothing back. Filled to the brim with slow bone-crunching riffs and the demonic gurgles of vocalist Alexander Högborn, this record is a masterpiece front to back. From the deceptively speedy start of I, The Polluter to the funeral march sound of Our Famine you'll be pleasantly surprised with how much you'll enjoy this album, despite it's depressing tone. I'm not a big lover of doom metal as it does nothing for me personally, but October Tide pull it off flawlessly encouraging me to listen more to the genre and find new up and coming doom bands. This record is the focal point of doom for me, massive riffs. Even if it's not your genre, if you listen to this record, you won't be disappointed, only glorified you've stumbled across this diamond in the rough. Fucking brilliantly done. 10/10

Magnified Eye: The Virgin The Whore The Martyr (Osmium Records & Daredevil Records) [Manus]

Magnified Eye haven’t lost their touch, despite not releasing an album before this one since 2005. With album number three, they’ve churned out a slick, professional product in a genre overrun by amateurs. Newer stoner bands, take notes. This is how it’s done. There are killer riffs that don’t just go on forever, instead fitting in to the well-put-together song structures. The production is excellent, the songs sounding heavy and booming, and the vocals sound like a real singer is singing, not just the guy who wanted to be in the band and couldn’t play any instrument and thought vocals would be the easiest thing to do. Trailblazer is a strong track for its speed and invigoration, while Homeless Shelter is full of great hooks. Chimp King is a textbook stoner metal song, though the whole album really fits the mould without needing to add gimmicks. This is a strong return for a band that hasn’t released an album in over a decade. 8/10

After The Burial: Evergreen (Sumerian Records) [Alex]

When it comes to metalcore, I’m fussy. Acts in the genre need to be forceful, while effectively using the values of timing, precision, or even melody when needed. It can also aid to have a rougher production, in service to creating a hostile tone. While I like some of the melodic phrasings on Evergreen a lot, After The Burials sixth studio outing disappoints in a refusal to subvert conventions and bearing an enticing mix. Although far from terrible, there is a mundanity at the core of this work which prevents me from sensing any of the anger on show. Although the opening few seconds of Behold The Crown promises something suspenseful and dramatic, the subsequent charade of guitar shrieking utterly kills the tone. Not until the lead break to we get anything remotely attention-grabbing, when the soloing takes on a dark yet conquering style. We hear the same problem with Exist, Exist – there are some excellent ideas sprinkled in there for sure, yet for the most part, it’s a combination of tired out blast beats and breakdowns, which I’ve heard a million and one metal bands utilize.

For those who want to tell me that I’m judging the album by the sound of the genre it falls into, I implore ask to look to the next track. 11/26, with the exception of the pointless fade out at the end, has enough tempo changes and transitions in order to keep the listener hooked, and even subverts expectations through an acoustic section and impressive musicianship. Regardless, all that experimentation was clearly too much as the next piece is six minutes of the most insufferable repetition and pseudo-aggression I’ve ever heard. So goes the entire record. For every rager which proves changeable and different, there is a moment of tediousness. For the price of the hard-hitting Respire, we get the insipid To Challenge Existence.

Utter proof that, despite its detractors, heavier music is not, in fact, all the same. You can say that inconsistency is preferable to out and out disaster, and you’d be right. Still, when confronted with a mixed record, it makes me mourn for wasted potential. What if After The Burial had focussed on the intriguing, absorbing and captivating aspects of their creation? What if they had done away with many of the conventional elements and created something which was wholeheartedly them? People make a mistake when characterizing music critics in that our chief foe is not misadventure, but mundanity 5/10

Invicta: Halls Of Extinction (Independent) [Manus]

Right from the opening riff of track one, Terminal Brutality, Invicta’s Halls Of Extinction just rips. At only eight songs, it’s straight to the point, and beats the eardrums with thrasher after thrasher. The guitars are a talking point here, with chugging riffs and shred runs incessantly attacking with expert precision, while the vocals are the perfect style for these songs, and have a huge, powerful sound to them. There’s hardly a riff on the entire record that doesn’t call for breakneck headbanging, and what more would you want from a true thrash band? It’s hard to pick highlights on such a thoroughly killer album, but Sacred Scourge and Eye Of Destruction sum up pretty nicely what the album is about. Still, give the whole thing a listen. It’s worth it. 9/10

Friday 24 May 2019

Reviews: Demons & Wizards, Gaahl's Wyrd, Black Oak Arkansas, Employed To Serve (Paul H, Matt, Sean & Alex)

Demons & Wizards: S/T & Touched By The Crimson King (Century Media Records) [Matt]

Formed in 1999 by two of the biggest names in metal music Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) and Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Demons & Wizards released their debut Demons & Wizards (9) in 1999 and the follow up Touched By The Crimson King (8) in 2005. Now in 2019 with their first tour since those original albums and a UK show looming they have re-released these albums remastered off the orginal tapes with a whole host of extras for fanboys to lap up. Remastered by Zeuss (Iced Earth, Overkill, Queensryche) these albums have got an increased audio quality to them everything just a bit more bite so tracks such as Poor Man's CrusadeFiddler On The GreenThe Whistler and Gallows Pole on Demons & Wizards shine like never before as Jon Schaffer's unmistakable riffs are cranked out and Hansi Kürsch unique vocal is in full force.

As per Iced Earth the majority of the compositions including the synths and orchestrations are all from Schaffer who is backed in the studio by then Iced Earth members, Jim Morris (lead guitars) and Mark Prator (drums). It's a lot folkier than Touched By... and this is enhanced by the new audio quality. The special edition features an alternate version of The Whistler and a demo version of Heaven Denies both of which are ideal for the collectors amongst you. However it's Touched By The Crimson King that offers the best value for money, the more straightforward of the two records it features 3 bonus tracks not featured on the original album (though they were on the special edition), the epic Lunar Lament is the first with Spatial Architects a doomier number while the third track is a slow version of Wicked Witch. Where this gets more interesting is that the special edition of this re-release comes with an entire disc of demo versions of the album which is a music lovers dream as you can hear how the tracks came together.

Both of these records are excellent though for me Demons & Wizards just pips it's successor despite that insane Zeppelin cover, they are very much worth seeking out if you've not got the originals, though if you do have those then may I suggest investing in theses remasters for the better sound quality and host of extras.

Gaahl's Wyrd: GastiR - Ghosts Invited (Season Of Mist) [Sean]

Hey guys and Gaahl’s (sorry), have yah heard the WYRD (sorry again)? Guess who’s back! Unless your living in the deepest recess of the earth or Ogmore Vale (I’m from there, so I can make that joke), chances are you may have caught wind of heard of the former Gorgorth/Godseed/Trelldom latest venture, Gaahls Wyrd. Given the frontman’s colourful past, it’s not surprising the metallic world would be disturbed upon word of his imminent return. After many collaborations in the world of pagan neo-folk with Wardruna, Gaahl returns to what he does best. Along with the rest of his cold born compatriots, who’s own resumes are equally illustrious (Aeuternus, Grimfist, Horizon Ablaze), Gaahls Wyrd are set to turn black metal on it’s corpse painted head once again. Manifesting in the form of debut album, GastiR - Ghosts Invited, do Gaahls Wyrd deliver the blackened goods? Yes, yes it bloody well does. Ek Erilar oozes in from the murky darkness before taking it's first breath, Gaahl’s throaty rasp sat about the furious tremolo of guitars and pounding blastbeats. Touches DISSONANCE melded with his wailing make for a dense and uneasy listening experience, as of we've stumbled on some profane ritual.

Would should be noted is the lack of Gaahl’s trademark screeching, settling for a more varied and dynamic approach of whispers, bellows and baritones. It works, culminating in a strong start that is both atmospheric and aggression. From The Spear focuses more on the aggressive this time, a more physical assault as opposed to a spiritual one. The riffs take on a chunkier air, traces of groove here and there, heightened with some pretty tasty lead work. Is shifts into another form, dense chords acting providing a solid foundation for Gaahl’s trance like cleans. It all flows very well, creating a faulty smooth journey in spite of the old powers being invoked. Ghost Invited introduces a subtle shift into major keys, Gaahl’s natural baritone fitting in neatly with the ever shifting guitars. I can see why this was chosen as the title track, it's quite simply fantastic and nicely displays the band's proggier side. Single, Carving The Voices, has been making the rounds online for a short while now. It’s shiver inducing, 7 minute sprawling blackened doom sits neatly in the album's flow, providing yet another highlight. Eerie synths fill out the dynamic space, the drumming mostly slow and deliberate adding to the mounting dread already present. 

Veiztu Hve , in contrast, favours cold tremolo riffs above relentless beats and the ever present spectral utterances. The chorus takes on a folky, almost hypnotic quality, before being thrust into the abyssal density that is of The Speech And The Self. It’s last part, in particular, is pure melodious majesty. Through And Past And Past (uh?) is the most rage filled of all the songs, the riffs collapsing on each other in tumultuous chaos with Gaahls finally resuming his trademark howl. Parting track, Within The Voice Of Existence, an atmospheric number, coloured by the ebb and flow of chanting voices and pulsating drums. It suddenly explodes towards the end, the voices rising in a crescendo of ritualistic cacophony. Power are summoned and all fades to black…..Whatever reservations or allegiances you may have against the man, cast them all to the gutter right now. DO IT! As soon as you have done that, purchase GastiR - Ghosts Invited immediately, as it is nothing short of a triumph. Down to it’s conception and execution, Gaahls Wyrd have fashioned a rich, deeply engrossing work of nuanced blackened brilliance. Are you still reading this? GO! PURCHASE IT NOW! 10/10

Black Oak Arkansas: Underdog Heroes (Purple Pyramid) [Paul H]

Back in the early 1970s, a band from the town of Black Oak Arkansas, were one of the biggest bands in Southern Rock. Today, I’d be surprised if many people outside of the Southern Rock scene in the States even knew who they were. Led by the magnificent Jim ‘Dandy’ Mangrum, whose unique raspy voice and on-stage washboard antics were both amusing and bizarre, they were at times the ultimate boogie band. Multiple guitar players and a solid engine room gave the band an infectious trademark sound and even though the band were well in decline by the time I got into them in the 1980s, albums such as Black Oak Arkansas, High On The Hog and Keep The Faith, all early 1970s releases became part of my regular listening and prized [and much missed] vinyl collection. To be fair, I assumed the band had long hung up their geetars and washboards, but no, they have in fact been a regular part of the touring circuit in the States for years. BOA’s last studio album surfaced in 2013, Back Thar N’ Over Yonder, which featured five new songs, although their catalogue is littered with compilations and live albums. 

It was with much excitement that we finally get Underdog Heroes, the first full BOA album in over 30 years and featuring original members Dandy on vocals and Ricky Lee Reynolds on guitar. Although the classic BOA line-up is long gone, Tommy Aldridge is still delivering the goods for Whitesnake. This version of BOA is completed by Sammy B Seauphine ‘Lil Bit’ on duet and backing vocals, guitarist David Flexer, drummer Victor Lukenbaugh and bassist Billy Little. 38 years after their debut, what do we get from Dandy and co? Well, his voice remains magnificently curious and unique, and the boogie woogie duelling guitar is as fabulous as it ever was. Some of the tracks are weak, such as Channeling Spirits, which is basically a list of dead rock stars linked to some mumbo jumbo about faith on the other side and the rather uncomfortable homage to Dandy’s original duetting companion Ruby Starr, Ruby’s Heartbreaker, whose voice was on the band’s 1973 charting remake of LaVern Baker’s 1957 recording Jim Dandy, recorded following a suggestion by Elvis Presley when the band visited Graceland. 

The Wrong Side Of Midnight improves things amply, a smouldering number with ‘Lil Bit’ adding some smoky vocals, and she takes centre stage with her duet on The Devil’s Daughter. Do Unto Others really is a blast of classic BOA boogie, the rhythm of Lukenbaugh and Little’s groove laden bass holding everything tightly together; but the real emotional bit here is the inclusion of guitar parts from former BOA guitarist Shawn Lane, who died in 2003, his fine lead work countering Dandy’s superb vocal showing. Love 4 Rent is bilge and typical sleazy BOA, but The 12 Bar Blues is a blistering stomp which allows the band to show their quality. Black Oak Arkansas really are an acquired taste and if it was another band who had such weird vocals, I’d be marking it down. However, such is my fondness for the band’s early work that just to hear new material is fabulous. 8/10

Employed To Serve: Eternal Forward Motion (Spinefarm Records) [Alex]

Carrying with them the anger of the disaffected in a way only a nasty hardcore act with passion and creativity could Employed to Serve aren’t sparing any fury on their second album. Their debut Warmth Of A Dying Sun proved one of the standout albums of 2017. Two years later, they return more frustrated, crushing and socially conscious than ever! Using chaos to capture the worries of a young generation screwed over by political leaders, and facing an increasingly uncertain future, there is a definitely a nihilistic side to Eternal Forward Motion, yet the core message is one of defiance. With incredibly passionate performances and risky compositional moves, this UK originating, three-piece takes this message in their stride! 

‘All these people craving years gone by makes me fear what lies ahead’ Justine Jones screams on the opener, deriding the culture of demanding a return to ‘the good ol’ days’ without concern for the anxieties and troubles of future generations. A macerating riff mixed with an exultant lead part, speaks to this contradiction excellently. Beneath It All condemns toxic relationships while constantly escalating in intensity, only letting up temporarily to create suspense, an effect which is executed to thrilling effect. Dull Ache Behind The Eyes is debauched and wanton, before slowing to a grim, dirge-like stamp, again robustly proving how well these musicians utilize doubt and unpredictability to put the listener on-edge, mercilessly making them tap into their frustrations and anxieties. ‘I want to crush those rose tinted glasses beneath my feet and let the glass bleed new life into me’ reads one striking line, spitting at the idea that the response to all our problems should be to keep our chin up and our mouth zipped. 

Although ‘slow’ and ‘metalcore’ don’t seem like the most compatible terms, Harsh Truth is one of the most commanding anthems here, bringing Jones’ eviscerating screams to the forefront and allowing the presence rhythm section to leave a mark. Although the message behind this one is ambiguous, the refrain ‘there's a harsh truth in plain view but we just stand and stare’ seems to denounce apathy of all forms. Sore Tooth Twin follows an instrumental which effortlessly brings together dramatics and tension, to create a spine-tingling bridging moment. Unequivocally pouring scorn on the tidal wave of racism and discrimination emanating from countless pundits, Force Fed is another throttling moment.

The contrast between the screamed verses and Deftones-esque vocals of the chorus works stupendously on this track while verses in the vein of ‘No one asked for your opinion, I’m so fucking bored of banging my head against a wall’ bring the hostility home to roost. We Forgot You and Suspended In Emptiness both experiment with tempo and pacing, even daring to turn up the distortion entirely in some points. Meanwhile, Reality Filter and Owed Zero use their intense clout to craft a message around challenging the dishonesty and deceitfulness bombards society. ‘Something keeps me from slipping, three words in my head…open my eyes’. Not only is Eternal Forward Motion one of the best metal albums I’ve heard so far this year, but it’s also one of the most poignant. By taking an acerbically honest approach to the wordplay and defying genre conventions, Employed to Serve make a furious and vital mark on the metal scene. 9/10

Thursday 23 May 2019

Reviews: Death Angel, Majesty Of Revival, Hunt The Witch, Despite The Reverence

Death Angel: Humanicide  (Nuclear Blast) [Paul H]

You know what you get from California’s Death Angel. Veterans of the Bay Area Thrash movement, few bands can touch their technical onslaught. Like several of their counterparts in the genre, Death Angel have been tapping into a rich source of form over the past decade and their latest release, album number 9, maintains the quality that we saw with The Evil Divide and The Dream Calls For Blood. As in previous reviews, there’s little to quibble about here. It’s frenetic, powerful and force ten from the start with the title track and Divine Defector blasting hard. Vocalist Mark Oseguda is in fine form, his distinctive roar straining, sinews pulsing as he spits out the chorus to Humanicide, a reflective piece on the way humanity is destroying itself.

Alongside Oseguda Rob Cavestany, the sole original member slices and lacerated with his ferocious lead guitar work. Old school style in Aggressor, punishing drumming from Will Carroll driving the beast forward, although this track does allow for a pause at the midway point, Damien Sisson’s rumbling bass underpinning the intricate guitar work as the atmosphere builds before the crushing riffs slowly build the pace once more. I’m not over fussed on I Came For Blood, possibly the weakest track on the album but it’s a grower and packs a punch with real fire. 

There is variety packed away within this gem of an album, the soulful approach on Immortal Behated fuelled by a solid rhythm section and chunky thick guitar work contrasting with the blistering thrash of Alive And Screaming and the monstrous The Pack which demands circle pits. Of Rats And Men maintains the momentum and closes the album in style. Little to complain about here. It’s Death Angel. It’s quality thrash and it’s as fresh today as that first blast of The Ultra Violence in 1987. 9/10

Majesty Of Revival: Timeless (Wormholedeath) [Matt]

Any band that describe themselves as "crazy metal" will mean that Timeless will be a hard album to review and as if they know this the band who shorten their name to MOR opening their album with a jarring mix of Mastodon-like heavy prog and some off the wall The Mars Volta oddness. Destroy Space has thumping grooves to it paired with rhythmic drumming and some wild vocal differences much like The Mars Volta, especially on the spacey Disposable Clown. These Ukrainians have thrown everything at this record, with every song catching you by surprise with something you wouldn't think they'd attempt. Void bridges a gap between Talking Heads and David Bowie in it's art-pop oddness before it leads up into a guitar solo that brings back the chorus that moves out into a ambient realms while S7 brings heavier riffs modern prog metal riffs meeting soaring choruses.

Dream Dealer is bit punchier, probably the most straightforward song on the record as a riff based stoner rocker, Sinners & Saints is a more of a ballad, while Doppelganger brings roared vocals and a death metal bent, though alt/grunge creeps in on Consciousness Beyond which gets more trippy as it goes on sprawling into prog, with the title track bringing the Canterbury Scene to the modern day as it meets oppressive metal in the middle, it's probably the most mental track on the album a real melting pot of influences and soundscape the finale of this album. Timeless is a madcap, modern progressive record that dances between genres nimbly, a thoroughly enjoyable listen. 8/10     

Hunt The Witch: Strange Gods (Self Released) [Matt]

Well this is was a surprise, just when you thought Alien Weaponry were the be all and end all of Kiwi metal you stumble upon a band like Hunt The Witch, a tasty mix of 90's alternative and desert rock there's touches of Kyuss on the heady Sirens while Whole Lot Of Trouble is a filthy rocker and Sold The World takes a a page from the Soundgarden as The Clamoring brings some slow burning doom. Hunt The Witch are Sam Whitley (vocals), Jason Peters (drums), Bevan Carbines (guitar) with Jason Clarke and Anthony Lakin on bass and they make a glorious noise on the early part of the record but towards the end it suffer a little from bloat, The Clamoring especially could have been dropped. Along with less emphasis on the slower numbers, no matter how psychedelic they get on Magnitude, Hunt The Witch are at their best when they are blasting out solid riffs such as City Of Lights and Sold The World. A big chunk of New Zealand rocking here that reminds me of quite a bit of Clutch or Orange Goblin. 7/10

Despite The Reverence: Plethora (1289124 Records DK) [Matt]

A tolling bell begins this record from Saskatoon groove metal band Despite The Reverence, as Wilderness grows there's a build of rain and a singular guitar to set an atmosphere before a bass comes in to start Into To Void the first full song on here. However this is where we get the first problem of this album which are the vocals, specifically the clean vocals which fall flat, though the harsher vocals are much better with Reckless Hero have low death grunts. Apparently the band contributed 5 tracks to Ferocious a movie starring Kim Coates from Sons Of Anarchy but this fourth album doesn't do anything for me really, it's reasonably boring groove metal, delivered well but the simplicity of the songs and those vocals. 5/10

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Reviews: Savage Messiah, Aeon Zen, Blutfeld, Paul Gilbert (Matt, Alex & Manus)

Savage Messiah: Demons (Century Media) [Matt]

We've had a potted history with Savage Messiah over the years, they've always been a band who have impressed on record but each time we've seen them live it's been a different story. This might be just us as from most accounts Savage Messiah "embody heavy metal" and it is hard to disagree as they do seem to be one of the hardest working bands on the UK scene. They have had their fair share of problems as before mainly financial strains faced by so many young bands, founding member/sing/guitarist Dave Silver says that their previous release Hands Of Fate "brought this band back from complete extinction". Hands Of Fate scored 8/10 with us here at MoM Towers so I was eager to hear if that quality had been retained on this fifth full length. Silver has said that he has “looked at what we’ve done in the past and knew we could be taking this band way further”.

So then lets press play and see what happens, well Virtue Signal is unlike anything the band has done before, backed by new members guitarist David Pear and bassist Mira Slama along with drummer Charly Carreton they have almost re-invented their sound for this album. Yes those vintage thrash riffs are still there but they are undercut with some melodic synths and massive hook chorus, it brings to mind the more melodic offerings from BFMV (before they went pop). Production wise they have moved away from Scott Atkins this time they chose David Castillo (Opeth, Dimmu Borgir and Soilwork) at Jens Bogrens’ Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. There is a very personal element to Demons much of it coming from Dave's experience of becoming a parent, while also residing in Verona Italy and commuting between the UK and Los Angeles (he is the co-founder of Halfin Silver Management with Oliver Halfin).

 I've said that it's a more melodic and cohesive record than their previous releases but it takes the new focus heard on Hands Of Fate and adapts again into a more, not accessible, but streamlined and modern approach to heavy metal. Huge choruses are evident on Heretic In The Modern World, their cover of Chris Stapleton's Parachute is anthemic (with a country feel) and could easily be all over rock radio. In fact for the first time Savage Messiah have managed to turn their classic/thrash/power metal sound into something that you can really hear laying down the foundation for their future, all of which happen spontaneously in the studio (seriously) from the excellent Under No Illusions to the crunchy, political semi-ballad The Lights Are Going Out, the thrashy Rise Then Fall and the ballad Until The Shadows FallDemons is the best Savage Messiah album by a long shot, this reinsurgence started on Hands Of Fate and it shows no signs of slowing down. AC/DC said it's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll, well Savage Messiah are trying their best to climb that ladder with Demons. 9/10

Aeon Zen: Inveritas (Richard Hinks Music) [Alex]

Aeon Zen perfect a brand of explosive, high octane metal which screams to be heard attentively. As stretched out as their songs can be, they never lose their sense of throttle, giving rise to a sensation of chaotic bliss. I don’t want you to think from my focus on the wild nature of Inveritas, that it just screams past you in a whirl of noise, leaving little to no space for intrigue. Quite the opposite, as frenetic as these compositions can be they are underpinned with tunefulness and feeling. By fusing the power of traditional thrash and hard rock with the compositional complexity of progressive metal, this Cambridge-based five-piece create an electrifying combination. The melancholic synths which open the first few seconds of Rebel Theory may lead you to the incorrect conclusion that we are headed for a mellow opening. That is until gnashing a rhythm take you off guard and Hinks unique vocal textures are heard soaring to the sound of the monolithic compositions achieved through the frenzied interplay between the guitars and bass. Not that there’s no room for slower tempos in Aeon Zen’s cannon, the contemplative middle section adds the allure of contrast, a technique brought to life through the entire album.

The First And Only Line follows, its alt-prog tendencies interlaced with funk-inspired pacing and instrumental techniques, the fastening approach making the payoff seem yet more epic when it finally arrives! Another Piece That Fits is precise and splicing, every note hitting you with a kind of forceful clarity - proving just how excellently volatility and spontaneity can factor into contemporary music if executed skilfully. In terms of crushing viscerality, The Last Alive serves to fulfil, the slightly dropped tuning adding an extra air of menace and aggression to the madly composed anthem. In case you were in any doubt, however, about how well this quintet can play, The Treachery Of Images is erratic and unpredictable, carried by a series of diverse and fascinating instrumental techniques. Disconnected verges on theatre, the triumphant tone reminiscent of power ballads in one sense, yet with a lot of the bite and snarl kept intact. Finally, World Without Sky and Inveritas, are apocalyptic in sound, bringing the album to a vast and dramatic finish. To say Aeon Zen have a sound which borrows from prog and alternative, while not sounding like any of the acts in either of those genres would be an understatement. ‘Do I have your full attention’ runs one of the lines on the title track. With a record this hectic and detailed, for them not to have my full and undivided attention would be a strange circumstance indeed 8/10

Blutfeld: Kingdom Of Mine EP (Independent) [Manus]

Blutfeld’s Kingdom Of Mine EP does a solid job blending a bludgeoning death metal sound with melodic, nearly power metal-sounding instrumentals. One track with particularly successful results is Natural Born Leader, which features guest vocals from Samantha Kempster. New Dawn isn’t a fast tune, but maintains the band’s heavy sound, and Victory Or Defeat is perhaps the EP’s best track, conjuring images of battle and triumph. A couple of instrumental tracks appear on the EP too, being intro Fanfare and the ambient Ritual. The title track is the epic closer, and with only four songs, this feels like a small but defining taste of what is to come from Blutfeld. 7/10

Paul Gilbert: Behold Electric Guitar (Mascot Records) [Manus]

In a pleasant surprise, it sounds like Paul Gilbert has improved significantly since his poor man’s Eddie Van Halen days in Mr. Big. When it comes to virtuoso solo shred albums, this won’t be remembered as one of the best, but it’s not what was expected either. Sure, Paul Gilbert is no Joe Satriani or John 5, but at least he seems to have matured musically on this record. He shows he’s able to pull off an array of styles, ranging from blues to country to even sort of progressive stuff. He doesn’t play any one style amazingly, but he does a decent job at each. The album is a little long at 12 songs, but a few standout tracks include Everywhere That Mary Went and Sir, You Need To Calm Down. There’s nothing really amazing about this album, but it’s not bad, and that’s something for anyone in Mr. Big. 6/10

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Reviews: Stormlord, Windthrow, Paladin, Orbstruct (Matt & Paul S)

Stormlord: Far (Scarlet Records) [Matt]

Roman "extreme epic metal" band Stormlord once again return with another titanic slab of symphonic blackened death metal. Opening with Levithan the orchestral swells come in early to the song but are quickly joined by blistering blastbeats. What is obvious about Stormlord is that they aren't afraid to throw everything at a song much like countrymen Fleshgod Apocalypse, as the cinematic strings really add another level to their sound, as do the vocals of Cristiano Borchi which switch between black metal screams and guttural death metal growls. Though the other members of the band don't mess around either playing some explosive extreme metal, that has been perfectly composed to give a huge feel enveloping you in a wall of sound.

The songs on the album deal with the legends of Ancient Rome such as Romulus along with Conan The Barbarian on Cimmeria which has massive waves of synths. They have been plying this style of music inspired by heroic legends of the past since 1991 and they show no signs of easing up on this sixth album. Slower more epic tracks like the title track and the slow burning Sherden which takes a leaf out of Amon Amarth's book, which also features some great clean vocals from guitarist/keyboardist Gianpaolo Caprino. Far is an album that will appeal to fans of Dimmu Borgir, Amon Amarth and even Septicflesh, it definitely has an epic feel about it so it's a little odd that this is bands sixth album and I haven't heard any of their previous releases, happily this record has made me want to go back and listen to their previous releases, which is always a good sign! 8/10

Windthrow: Treacherous Beckonings (Self Released) [Paul S]

Windthrow are a one man band project, based in Sweden. The man in question is Robin Pettersson, and he’s been making music under the name Windthrow, since 2018, and Treacherous Beckonings is the first album from this project. The album kicks off with Jag For, and we are dropped straight into a blast beat and tremolo picked savagery. The track sounds orthodox, but is also musical and tuneful. The track has a relentless quality that I really enjoyed. Good Start! Next we get a short, folky instrumental called Rimfrost, it features a couple of very traditional sounding instruments (possibly a Hurdy-Gurdy), it feels bleak, which fits the feel of this album. Rushing Blood is next, and is a slight change in style. This track has a pagan metal feel to it that is quite reminiscent of Primordial (although with harsh vocals). The track features great riffs, lots of energy and has a slight NWOBHM feel to some of the riffing; this is emphasised by a couple of ‘galloping horse’ tempo riffs in the second half of the song.

Alea Lacta Est is slower, but is driving and powerful, the track does speed up in the second half, with some nice blast beats and tremolo picked riffs. The album comes to an end with Morrowless, which starts with a blast beat and a cracking solo, to batter the listener. The song does slow down a bit as it goes on, and again has a pagan metal feel to it. It’s melodic and tuneful and is a great ending to the album. Treacherous Beckonings is a great piece of pagany black metal. I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s tuneful and melodic, whilst still being heavy and extreme. My only criticism would be the length of the album. Most black metal albums are longer than this at 33 minutes, easily long enough for hardcore or grindcore, but it feels a little short for this sort of album. However, it’s a criticism that is actually a compliment; I wanted more. So, great album, could you please make the next one longer so I can enjoy your music for longer? 8/10

Paladin: Ascension (Prosthetic Records) [Matt]

Paladin are an American band, in fact they are from Atlanta, Georgia but they have consciously adopted a European style of metal, that they hope will separate them from their American compatriots. Well all I can say is that this mission to bring European power metal to American audiences is accomplished brilliantly as this debut album opens with lots of slicing dual guitar leads as Alex Parra and Taylor Washington trade off from the first moment of Awakening before those double kicks get things moving at the pace of a jet fighter. From here it's all systems go as the songs keep coming with lightning fast precision driven by the rhythm section of Nathan McKinney who beats the skins like they've wronged him and newest member Andy McGraw whose bass is the backbone for all the mayhem.

Things take a slight left turn on Divine Providence which sees Taylor Washington moving between his already established soaring cleans to adopt a harsher growl which shouldn't work but it does so well giving them a bit more of a thrash bent especially on Carpe Diem. From here on out the growls and cleans battling much like the guitars (Bury The Light) that seem to be in a constant struggle for supremacy. Ascension is an assured debut record, from the opening minutes until the final moments. It really shows what these young metalheads can do, shifting effortlessly between Scandi power metal and German thrash doing both with ease in a blaze of muscular guitarwork and anthemic songwriting. This record is a definite Ascension for Paladin who I hope to see on a stage sometime soon due to the absolute quality of this album. 8/10   

Orbstruct: Phobos Rising (Self Released) [Paul S]

Orbstruct are a 2 piece based in Ukraine, they’ve been going since 2016 and this is their first album. The band play a very brutal style of death metal, mainly old school in flavour, but with a few newer elements to add to the mix. Firstly, let’s deal with the things that don’t work. The album’s sound isn’t consistent throughout the album. The first 2 tracks on the album (Venus Rising and Shade Of Death) sound like they were recorded at a different time to the rest of the album. The production and mix on these first 2 tracks isn’t very good. The vocals (which are very guttural and extreme) are too high in the mix, as are the drums. The bass and guitar are practically missing on these first 2 tracks. Also, the guitar and bass sound is very detuned (which in itself isn’t a bad thing) and flat, there's no sharp, raspy edge to the guitar and bass sound. This means tracks 1 and 2 feel like there isn’t any guitar or bass on them. The vocals are too high in the mix all the way through the album (a common complaint with death metal), but on the first 2 tracks it’s a real problem. It’s a shame as there might be some good material here, that the mix and production don’t let you hear (there’s a great guitar solo on Venus Rising, but that's the only guitar you can hear, if it was all at the volume the guitar solo was at, it could have been a good song).

The other problem with the album is some of the pacing. Most of the material is either slow or mid-paced, and in some cases it drops to a boring and plodding pace, and doesn’t really work. Gods Gun, Utopian and the second half of (No) Restrictions all suffer from having a lacklustre feel to the pacing, and it’s boring (sorry, I hate describing music as boring, but it’s boring). It turns out that Bolt Thrower are a very clever band, making slow and mid-paced death metal interesting and engaging. However, it’s not all bad, there’s some good stuff on here as well. The guitar solos are all really good, technical, tuneful and melodic. Deterioration is a great track, it’s slow, but feels flowing, the tempo is great (and it’s this slow but flowing feel that the plodding songs are missing). Another track that benefits from a better tempo is title track Phobos Rising, which is relentless and driving, and a cracking track. Phobos Rising feels like a missed opportunity. This band clearly have talent as musicians and songwriters, but too much of Phobos Rising is spoiled by, either, bad production, or bad tempos. The band need to build on what works, and be more self critical about what doesn’t. It’s a solid, but unremarkable album, that feels like it could have been a whole lot better. 6/10