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Tuesday 18 June 2019

Reviews: The Meads Of Asphodel, Kvelgeyst, Power From Hell, Starbynary (Paul H & Rich)

The Meads Of Asphodel: Running Out Of Time Doing Nothing (Godreah Records) [Paul H]

A band that I’ve been aware of for years but who I’ve never really paid much attention to. I’m probably guilty of a musical crime as The Meads, who hail from Hertfordshire and who have been plying their trade since 1998 are an intriguing outfit. Their early works were focused on elements of black metal but combined that with Medieval, Arabic, punk and progressive sounds. I’m not in a position to comment on their early works but this album, the first long player since 2013’s Sonderkammando is totally absorbing. With alumni including former Hawkwind bassist Alan Davey and the sadly deceased Huw Lloyd Langton the band have an element of space rock included in their style which strongly appeals.

Opening with a solitary repetitive mechanical beep which gives way to a freshly charged riff and the roar of “Wake up you wankers, It’s the end of the fucking world”, this is Bug Splat, an electronically industrialised pulsing two minute track which paves the way for an album quite unlike anything you are likely to hear for the rest of the year. Each song is completely different, but the band’s belief that everyone has the right to leave a life free from bigotry, racism and persecution resonates. Their anarchic and often humorous experimental extremes lift them far apart from the mainstream. From the chilling Souvenir Of Death, the Avant Garde style of Like Blood Shaped Flakes Of Snow through to the politically charged I Stood Tiptoe, Reaching Up To Heaven with an uncomfortable montage of political commentary with clips of Saville interspersed throughout, this is an album that draws you deeper in with every play.

Black Is Black And White Is White impressed with jazz drumming, elements of progressive rock and psychedelia, thrash and death metal all combined into one massive mix. Cockroach Marionettes adopts a similar complex and impressive kaleidoscopic soundscape, Spanish guitar, thick haunting keyboards, military style drumming and heavy riffing combining into a delicious mixture of chaos and drama. Joining the three permanent members, Metatron- Vocals, J.D. Tait - Guitar, Keys & Vocals and Andre Kjelbergvik Thung - Drums & Percussion, special guests include Alan Davey on bass, Iain Smith – Keyboards, Cristina Padovano – Vocals & backing vocals, Will Banyard – Vocals & Violin, Christina Poupoutsi, Charlie Noakes, Malcolm Tait – Saxophone and Steve Wallace – Guitar Solo.

There are times when amidst the huge numbers of albums that we review, you come across a band that you’ve never really considered of before. Whilst it isn’t necessarily a matter of pride there is a slight element of shame that you know so little about the band you are listening to. The Meads Of Asphodel are now very much on my radar and whilst the background and previous music has yet to be explored in detail, that delicious opportunity now awaits. So, with apologies to anyone who feels I’ve failed to provide a fully researched review, all I can add is that this is an album of surprise, enjoyment and exploration. Embracing it with open arms would seem the right thing to do. 9/10

Kvelgeyst: Alkahest (Self Released) [Rich]

Alkahest is the debut album by Swiss black metallers Kvelgeyst. Doing some reading up on the band they are part of the Helvetic Underground Committee who are dedicated to the advancement of grotesque, vile, depraved and putrid audio torment originating from Switzerland. That sounds very promising but does Alkahest meet up to that statement? Kvelgeyst play a style of black metal that is not only vicious but incorporates a great use of melody as well as a clear thrash influence. This album manages to be both aggressive and atmospheric in equal measure with some awesomely violent sounding tremolo riffs mixed with moments of evil and malevolence. The vocals are a mixed bunch from the standard black metal rasp to agonised shrieks, unholy roars and aggressive barks. Some of these vocal styles work here whilst others do not. Alkahest is an enjoyable debut album which whilst not having any wow factor to it is a perfectly competent album of black metal fury. 7/10

Power From Hell - Profound Evil Presence (High Roller Records) [Rich]

Blackened thrash metal and Brazil go hand in hand from legendary old school bands such as Sepultura, Sarcofago and Vulcano to more modern day bands keeping the blackened flame burning such as Power From Hell who have released their sixth album Profound Evil Presence. Power From Hell are a band I know of but have never got round to listening to until now and whilst the band are termed blackened thrash the music on Profound Evil Presence has a far more old school black metal feel to it. The thrash influences are clear throughout though not a prevalent and driving factor in the music. There is more of a classic speed metal influence running through this album mixed in with some classic black metal tremolo riffing and some dissonant song structures. The production on the album is made to sound very old school with loads of echo and reverb which whilst having the desired effect to me made the album sound very washed out and lifeless taking away a lot of the power of the music. I did find Profound Evil Presence initially enjoyable but the album was very repetitive and formulaic and by the fourth song my interest has waned considerably. This is a style I normally love but the lacklustre songwriting and lifeless production just made this fade into background music. There were a few moments that caught my ear later on in the album but it was too little too late. 5/10

Starbynary: Divina Commedia - Purgatorio (Art Gates Records) [Rich]

Divina Commedia: Purgatorio is the third album by Italian progressive power metal band Starbynary and the follow up to their 2017 album Divina Commedia: Inferno with this being a continuation of a musical interpretation of the Dante Alighieri poem The Divine Comedy. Starbynary perform very atypical progressive power metal with plenty of influence from many other bands within the genre albeit mixed with a very clear classical influence and heavy keyboard use. These guys are clearly very skilled musicians with the ability to produce some highly intricate music but whilst technically skilled the music on display here just isn’t very captivating. Whilst there are some very enjoyable moments throughout the album it just never escalates beyond good with very little that grabs your attention.

One clear drawback are the vocals of frontman Joe Caggianelli who whilst not having a poor singing voice does have a limited one and throughout the album tries to sing beyond his abilities and comes across as sounding strained at times. There are accompanying vocals from an unidentified female singer throughout the album who outshines and outclasses Joe’s vocals completely. Divina Commedia: Purgatorio is an album that falls into the trap that so many progressive bands do in that too much concentration is on the conceptual nature of the songs rather than the actual quality of the songwriting. This is a pleasant enough sounding album with definite musical ability throughout but flat songwriting robs this of much interest from me. 5/10

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