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Friday, 10 May 2019

Reviews: Saint Vitus, Myrath, Hollowstar, Damnation's Hammer (Paul H & Matt)

Saint Vitus: S/T (Season Of Mist)

Now if you've ever smoked a doob, drunk a beer or rocked out at a doom, sludge or stoner show then you have Saint Vitus to thanks for it. They themselves were influenced by the occult bands like Black Sabbath (mainly the name), Pentagram and Witchfinder General but throughout their career they have become one of the leading lights in doom/stoner metal, influencing countless bands as I've said. So what about this new self titled album, well it's their second to be self titled. It proves to be a prophetic title as it sees Saint Vitus once again in rebirth as bassist Mark Adams left after their 2012 album Lillie: F-65 his place taken by Patrick Bruders. Gone too is Scott 'Wino' Weinrich their highest profile vocalist, who has once again been replaced by original SV singer Scott Reagers in 2015.

This is their first album with this line up and you can feel that it's original guitarist Dave Chandler reclaiming his band aided by a co-founding member, the slumbering doom of Remains kicks off the album with a creeping low riff from Chandler, things get more ethereal on A Prelude To which is built on Patrick Bruders bass and leads into the classic sounding Bloodshed which feels like a proto-metal rocker, mainly due to Reagers cleaner more dramatic vocal approach. The fuzz on this record pervades through everything as do the lyrics about drugs and the occult, add this to the analogue production and it sounds like so many Saint Vitus' early works. A new album from such an influential band will always be anticipated and welcomed  and this live up to any hype it will garner. 8/10   

Myrath: Shehili (earMusic)

Three years since the excellent The Legacy was released, Tunisian outfit Myrath are back with their sixth album, Shehili. The Legacy was followed by a support slot with Symphony X in the UK, and I was lucky enough to catch them at the much-missed Bristol Bierkeller on that tour where they produced a quality performance. The band has had a stable line-up since 2012 and Shehili continues where The Legacy left off with a real blend of influences intertwined throughout their music. The band describe their sound as ‘Blazing Desert Metal’ but that doesn’t really cover the kaleidoscope of sounds and images that the band create. Shehili has a deeply melodic feel underpinned by a steely backbone which allows the band to let loose at times.

You’ve Lost Yourself is almost Eurovision in its soaring emotional delivery, vocalist Zaher Zorgati giving a superb performance whilst there is still enough gritty guitar to earn it the ‘metal’ badge. The oriental flavours so prevalent on previous releases remain pleasingly up front and central, nowhere is that more evident than on Dance, which pays tribute to a Syrian dancer who was threatened with death by ISIS. Similarly, the Andalusian influences which have always surged through the band are present on Monster In My Closet, which sways with progressive pomp. Lili Twil is partially performed in Arabic, benefits from dramatic string sections and radiates with warmth. Listen to the joyous No Holding Back and I defy you not to be uplifted. It is almost pop in places, but the Oriental influences always return captivate and envelope the listener. There isn’t a label that can be placed on this stimulating and exciting band and that is such a good thing. Listen, relax and enjoy some of the best alternative rock and metal of 2019. 8/10

Hollowstar: Hollowstar (Self Released)

May 2017 and Some Things Matter, the debut EP from Cambridgeshire outfit Hollowstar received an 8/10 from yours truly. “This is the music you want at a sunny festival with a cold beer in your had and good friends by your side” I said at the time. Two years and many high points later, Hollowstar return with their eponymous debut full length release. Having pushed hard in the world of classic hard rock, the band gained airplay on Planet Rock and Radio 2, nominations for best band in the Planet Rock 2019 awards and features in Classic Rock magazine. And once you’ve listened to Hollowstar you’ll be able to see exactly why this band are receiving such accolades. Accessible, clean, competently performed hard rock which will appeal to a wide audience.

Drawing on influences including Thunder, Slash, Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry to name but four, this is a rather special album which can distance itself from some of the more mundane classic rock bands on the circuit today. Let You Down, Good Man Gone (great riffs and hook) and the rip snorting Sinner which closes the album all have melody to spare but possess a solid backbone which allows the band to rock and rock hard. Sure, they fit neatly into the Planet Rock target, but sometimes that isn’t so bad. Hollowstar are rising. This album will fuel that elevation. Hollowstar will hit Wales a few times over the next few months, including a headline show in Ebbw Vale on 25th May, Steelhouse Festival and as opening act for Bernie Marsden in September at The Tramshed. They will go down a storm. 8/10

Damnation's Hammer: Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres (Self Released)

This is a bit of a beast! Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres was apparently released in February this year, though some places say 2017 but I'll go with the band's Bandcamp and say 2019, mainly because they have been announced for Bloodstock this year so I thought it would be a great chance to check out the sophomore album from this Northern powerhouse. Formed as a homage to the avantgarde metal of the 1980's. They have tried to create a dark, doom laden style of metal, with a lot of atmospherics behind it, with their debut album released in 2013. Damnation's Hammer have a sound that straddles thrash, doom and classic heavy metal from the thumping opener Temple Of The Descending Gods, through the thrashy blitz of Deathcraft that breaks down to chunky stomping in the middle. This stomp continues on the title track, which shifts throughout it's 6 minute runtime.

I don't really know where the avantgarde ideal comes from as this is primarily a doom/thrash album as the distorted guitars lead the way with some laser-focussed precision, but the ability they have to make a stylistic shift in an instant shows you that this band are technically impressive. However I will say that for all the progressive touches this record has the guitar sound very rarely changes at all meaning that if it wasn't for some of the brooding intros and crashing crescendos it would be difficult to decipher where certain songs end and begin. Still that's a minor thing when they have songs like the thundering Gates Of The Necronomicon and the crunching Hammer's Of War it doesn't really matter. Unseen Planets, Deadly Spheres is a great album for riff lovers and doomsters alike. 7/10

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