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Monday 10 June 2019

Reviews: Hate, XentriX, Silent Winter, Chon (Paul H & Matt)

Hate: Auric Gates Of Veles (Metal Blade Records) [Paul H]

Now the vehicle for original member Adam ‘ATF Sinner’ Buszko, Polish black metallers Hate have been pounding their own brand of black metal since the early 1990s. Their visit to Cardiff for the Tremendum promotion in May 2017 was one of the most ferocious nights I’ve seen at Fuel, with their wall of sound levelling the place. Buszko has been accompanied by drummer Pawel ‘Pavulon’ Jaroszewicz since 2014, and during that time they’ve released two other albums, Crusade Zero and Tremendum. With a prolific output that few black metal outfits can match, Auric Gates Of Veles is the fifth album since 2010 and the band’s 11th overall.

Hate’s sound has long been described as no-nonsense black metal, full of blast beats, roaring vocals and tremolo riffing and the atmospheric opening track Seventh Manvantara’s immersive sound picks up where the band left off in 2017. The sonic wall of guitars and frenetic soloing continues on Thriskhelion, the sheer intensity of the assault jaw dropping. Assistance is provided from guitarist Dominik ‘Domin’ Prykiel and bassist Tomasz ‘Tiermes’ Sadlak. The Volga’s Veins maintains the thrashing velocity, another astonishingly brutal yet organic track which swirls around the listener, enveloping and crushing. Sinner’s vocals are as extreme as ever, his guttural growls spewing forth with fascinating horror. But it is the guitars and drumming that make Hate such a forcefully powerful outfit, and this is demonstrated by the blistering centrepiece Sovereign Sanctity. With the field of black metal as crowded as it has ever been, it requires something special to stand out and once again Hate demonstrate their mettle.

Path To Arkhen is a classic example to anyone who states that black metal is merely noise; underpinned by a machine gun battery of blast beats, a wall of riffing and an undercurrent of melody which is scathingly dismissed too often by the naysayers. Gather around the fire for the epic title track, a beautifully crafted beast which majestically varies pace and form or immerse yourself in Salve Ignis, a black metal track which is about as perfect as you can get. This is incredible stuff which leaves you breathless. Repeated plays make this album an essential listen, a blazing flame burning brightly. There is nothing about this album which I didn’t love. The haunting atmospheric elements, soaring solos and scorching assault all combine to make this one of the most astonishingly brilliant albums of 2019. 10/10

Xentrix: Bury The Pain (Listenable Records) [Paul H]

23 years since Scourge was released, Preston’s Xentrix power back into our consciousness with their fifth long player, and it’s a vital album for any respecting thrash fan. Whilst the band has been active sporadically since 2013, their heritage is firmly located in the late 1980s, with their debut album Shattered Existence from 1989 considered by many to be one of the finer UK thrash albums. Bury The Pain is the first album to feature vocalist/guitarist Jay Walsh, (Bull Riff Stampede) stepping into founder member Chris Astley’s formidable shoes, alongside Kristian Havard on guitar, drummer Dennis Gasser and bassist Chris Shires. Whilst many bands suffer from the loss of a vocalist, that this is far from the case here, with Walsh’s snarling vocals perfect for the full throttle thrash that Xentrix deliver with such style.

To me, they mirror the technical ferocity of Canadians Annihilator but with typical UK spine. Gritty, gnarly and uncompromising, Bury The Pain grabs the listener from the opening bars of the title track and spends the next 50 minutes kicking the stuffing out of you. There Will Be Consequences drives at 100mph, Bleeding Out has echoes of Testament in its stomping groove whilst The Red Mist Descends is simply imperious. The dual guitar work knits together neatly, the drums are huge and the bass rumbles like thunder exploding across the Black Mountains. With the unique stamp that UK thrash always brings, this is not only one of the thrash albums of the year and that is against such alumni as Death Angel and Overkill, but one of the albums of the year. It’s been a long time, but Xentrix are back. Welcome home! 8/10

Silent Winter: The Circles Of Hell (Sonic Age Records) [Matt]

Formed in Volos in the middle of the 90's they reformed in 2018 with a new line up, leaving only guitarist/composer Akis Balanos as the only link to their past. Last year they released an EP that I called "Assured, confident, faced paced and brilliant" so what does their debut full length hold? Well along with Mike Livas (vocals), Giorgos Loukakis (bass), John Antonopoulos (drums),Yiannis Manopoulos (keyboards and synth) Balanos has really pitched this at fans of old school power metal that sits somewhere between the synth heavy sounds of Stratovarius and the Teutonic gallop of Helloween, mainly due to Livas' vocals. It is loosely based on the The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri with the title track they have their broadest sound with a lot of drama and progressive touches, it's a fitting end to the record but before we even get here we have a lot more to listen to.

Final Storm has big, German balls behind it, as does Soul Reaper where Livas does his best work, Warriors Of The Sun has some amazing drum work to it while Follow The Night which has huge keyboard swathes. Time Has Come which is a bit more emotion to it driven by blastbeats before the guitar solos trade off. There is a 'proper' ballad in the shape of Silent Cry which features Serbian vocalist Dragica Maletic from the band Demist, just piano, vocals and drums with the guitars coming in on the massive dual vocal chorus. The Circles Of Hell is a great power metal record from a Greek band with a lot of history behind them that are finally given a chance to show their skill to a wider audience on this powerful debut album. 8/10

Chon: Chon (Sumerian Records) [Matt]

Have you ever played any 80's arcade game? Most importantly Outrun or any other racing game, preferably with a big plastic vehicle to sit in/on. Well you know the menu music, or indeed the game music itself well that's what Chon sound like, whether that's a good thing or not is purely dependent on your point of view. This instrumental band consisting of guitarists Mario Camarena and Erick Hansel, drummer Nathan Camarena and bassist Esiah Camarena are on their third album and they once again bring yet more math-rock styled  flowing guitar lines, acoustic underpinning, melodic passages and twitchy rhythms, their style if heavily effects driven with nods to other genres such as hip hop and electronica, all wrapped up in plenty of jazz trappings. The technical ability on display here is at the highest level, however if you don't enjoy instrumental music and prefer the heavier side of things then you won't find much. However if you're a fan of some esoteric instrumental musings with lashings of technical expertise but a keen ear for melody then Chon will excite you. 7/10 

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