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Friday 7 June 2019

Reviews: Darkthrone, Heart Of A Coward, Until Rain, Destrage (Paul H, Matt, Sean & Liam)

Darkthrone: Old Star (Peaceville Records) [Paul H]

Three years after Arctic Thunder roared, the legendary duo of Fenriz and Nocturn Culto return with album 17. Historically vital to the Norwegian black metal scene, Darkthrone retain elements of their early raw black metal but have moved some distance away from the ravaging sound of the early 1990s. Early on it’s worth noting the earthy sound, mixed by Sanford Parker and mastered by Jack Control, with the old school drum sound of Fenriz captured perfectly is exactly what the album needs. It’s also the first album for a long time not to have included Nocturn Culto on the production side of things. The other interesting thing about Old Star is the fantastic cover art by Chadwick St John. At 38 minutes it isn’t a long album. Six songs, which mix up styles and pace, opens with I Muffle Your Inner Choir, a rampant dark track which leads neatly into the almost old school heavy metal style of The Hardship Of The Scots complete with Tom G Warrior style “ugh”, a Dio style riff incorporated within the track. The title track is a slower, almost doom metal piece and the shortest on the album. Alp Man has an interesting chug to it, whilst Duke Of Gloat returns to the punk-infused rapid power. Closing with the haunting The Key Is In The Wall, a Celtic Frost style chopped guitar and a Motorhead flavour added to the ballsy punch that underpins this song. Old Star is a grower; spin it several times in a row and marvel at the talent. It may not please the purists anymore, but Darkthrone have always delivered what they want when they want. Old Star is no exception, a punchy, heavy and sometimes blisteringly good release. 8/10

Heart Of A Coward: The Disconnect (Arising Empire) [Liam]

Having had this band recommended to me by a friend and enjoyed their previous record, i was looking forward to it. I wasn't expecting anything amazing, but it's actually blown me away with how good it is. With the addition of new vocalist Kaan Tasan, the London Metalcore mob are more focused toward riffs and the chorus' of songs rather than trying to be generic. With the furious guitar work of both Carl Ayers & Steve Haycock backed with V on bass and Noddy destroying the drum kit, the band prove they’re a force to be reckoned with in this genre. From start to finish the album is great. Just hitting you with a barrage of metalcore but not sounding stale at the same time. The band has a unique sound about them that makes them stand out. I'm unaware of what that sound is, but that makes it better, if you have a unique sound to any other band in the scene, then use it to your advantage. If anything, with this new record, the boys have proved they are more than capable of handling themselves and keeping their music fresh. With a spot at this years Download festival, they are worth a watch. I know I'll be there watching! Will you? 8/10

Until Rain: Season V (Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt]

Originally founded in Thessaloniki in 2008, Until Rain are now based out of London but they are still playing the stirring mix of alternative/progressive rock that has been a part of their career for a while now. They may have been a more metal based act earlier in their career but now on this their fifth album, they have touches of the melodic dexterity of Haken but also the fragility of Anathema, who's Daniel Cardoso mixed this record. The album deals with the TV series Leftovers, featuring Christopher Eccleston, where 2 percent of the population (140 million people) disappear completely leaving the remaining people to deal with it in different ways. It's a show that makes for somber and dour viewing but it makes for great progressive music, for me if a band are experimental or emotional the more melancholic the better. The concept of this record, the title is a double meaning towards a fifth album and a fifth season of the show, sees numerous characters trying to deal with "grief, inability to adjust, loneliness, search for meaning/weakness, the need to save themselves and their loved ones."

It's a very musical record with Lef Germenlis contributing to the lion's share of the music as he provides keys, guitars, backing vocals, string arrangements & programming, as Theodore Amaxopoulos adds yet more fluid guitarwork, Linus Abrahamson takes deep grooves with both fretted and fretless bass underpinning things and linking up with the flowing percussion of Matthew Vella. Musically these men all converge together excellently bringing a cinematic tone to songs such as Miracle. Musically with so much going on it's great that they have a dexterous vocalist in the shape of Cons Marg who has a fantastic set of pipes that can be soaring, be sorrowful and scream (Time Escape) equally well, the harmonies are fleshed out with some beautiful female vocals from Donna Zed in the backing role and on The Long Break we get special guest Vicky Psarakis from The Agonist taking the co-lead vocal, this is where things get really Anathema sounding with emotion ringing out of every line.

Season V are really impressive progressive metal/rock album from a band who have gradually improved their craft with every releases. They hook you and resolutely try to keep you on their journey from the opening moments until the closing bars. Their sentiment is never overshadowed by their musical agility and they never stray into tedium when they try to address complex topics. As a prog fan this album is amazing, I loved it, I think you will too! 9/10

Destrage: The Chosen One (Metal Blade Records) [Sean]

Maturity is word that’s thrown around a lot. In some cases, it’s managing the summon enough resistance to not purchase yet another VST amp suite, knowing full well you’ll never achieve tonal greatness (the pain is real). It’s used quite a bit by us music journalists, a catch all term to adequately (or lazily) describe an artists musical growth. Generally a positive, as I’m sure most would agree. An yet sometimes, just sometimes, you’re left yearning for the days of youth full exuberance, piss, vinegar and full blown balls to the wall! Take Italian progressive metalcore act Destrage for instance. When word had reached me of their inevitable “maturity” via 2014’s A Means To No End, I’d be lying if a small part of me didn’t die on the inside. Such was the wacky schizoid fun of Are You Kidding Me? No, I fell in love with these stupidly talented Italians and their brand of technical amazing tomfoolery. I couldn’t bare the notion of them eschewing fun to be “super cereal” but as you and I both know, the party ends for everyone and it’s time to grow up. Enter new album, The Chosen One, swaggering in with big boy pants in tow. Aight Destrage, let’s do this!

And they’re off! Immediately out of the gate with title track The Chosen One, Destrage waste little time in establishing their musical chops, blasting and grooving with as much might as they can muster. Their innate poppy sensibilities soon make themselves knows, coming across as an djentier Every Time I Die. It’s over pretty quickly, About That picking things back up again with guitarists Ralph Salati and Matteo Di Gioia firing off all manner of riffy pyrotechnics. It’s pretty energetic, with vocalist Paolo Colavolpe’s ever contorting delivery never failing to amaze. He morphs from boy band crooning to death metal gutturals in the blink of an eye, perfectly in sync with the rest of the band. Whilst it may not be the cartoony antics of yore, this is still very much Destrage and it’s really, REALLY tight. Hey, Stranger! mostly recalls everything I loved about them in the first place, rocking the fuck out yet never failing to inject a rip roaring fret run here or cheeky breakdown there. At The Cost Of Pleasure is djentier number, alternating between ambient passages and thunderous lows.

Whilst not as hooky as the others, it’s good track in it’s own right with it’s reserved demeanour acting as nice counterweight. And god damn, those lush lays of melody at the end! Mr. Bugman takes us back to classic Destrage. Playful, pop laden vocal hooks drive it onwards, complex guitar work never derailing its structure. Rage, My Alibi displays signs that “maturity” I’m ever so wary of, industrial beats and what can only be described as a “I whisper my words to sound damaged” vocal delivery. Interesting, though not the most enjoyable of songs. Still, it fits in well in the general flow of The Chosen One with Headache And Crumbs getting things back on track. We soon reach the finale of The Gifted One, with Destrage fully embracing ambience and all manner of synth and strumming. Dense chords above a slow and steady pace give way to groove laden stomping, Destrage employing every single trick at their fingertips. It briefly revisits opener The Chosen One, ending in a suitably oddball fashion.

Well, that was certainly a rush! For all my trepidation that one of my favourite bands had “matured” into normies” was mostly all for naught. Sure, the fun factor is dialled down a few notches but it isn't absent. Traces of those ol’ shenanigans are still there, just married seamlessly with Destrage’s newfound level headedness. It’s like bumping into an old schoolmate that you haven't seen in a while. Sure, he’s a bit more serious than you remember. But at the heart of it all? Even if he’s tidied himself up a bit, he’s still a blast to be around and The Chosen Ones is a blast to listen to. Good stuff. 8/10

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