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 Fall. Demons 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