First impressions on this debut full length album from German five-piece Empyreal, it's a melodeath album, a good melodeath album. Its packed with content, musically speaking and really warrants a few attentive listens. At the same time, the more I listen the less I feel like I understand this record. There is a lot going on here. At times I do feel like I'm at one of those buffet restaurants that boast doing 6 entirely different and incompatible styles of cuisine. Sure, if you're feeling indecisive you can load up on everything and that's great, but getting Chinese and Indian in your mouth at the same time by mistake can leave a strange aftertaste. There were moments here, where the constant shifts in direction left me a little confused. The opening track, Meant To Cease opens with some superb tremolo picking, ascending minor thirds coupled with a ferocious blast beat (highly reminiscent of the sound that's currently being popularised through the Belgian-German Post Black movement, think Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Soul Grip and the like) then moves into more traditional melodeath riffing.
There are influences under the surface from Dissection and Amon Amarth to name a couple. Production is big and clean, vocals sound great, there's a lot to like in here. The second track opens with a somewhat strangely industrial intro, before settling again into more familiar blackened melodeath territory, introduces some thrashy riffs and even though the song loops back to complete what on paper is a fairly standard song structure, it does so in such a grand and round about way you'd be forgiven for having lost your bearings along the way. Of course, that's not to say you wouldn't have enjoyed the ride, like I said before there's little not to like here. These themes are not inconsistent throughout. There are some really great passages in this album, the songwriting is creative and ambitious and it's all intriguing enough to entice you to listen again, and perhaps, again. So why aren't I awarding a higher score? Well, I felt not just as a whole, but even at an individual song level this lacked some cohesion and refinement of style. It's all rather good, but not necessarily all together and all at once. That said, it's a solid (highly enjoyable) debut and certainly worthy of a listen. 7/10
Auras: Binary Garden (Entertainment One) [Liam True]
Some Progressive Metal from our brothers across the pond in Canada. With the record more being along the lines of Djent than Metalcore, the album stands out a lot more as it's an underappreciated genre. That being said, the album itself is a pulsing attack on your senses from the start. With the absolute colossal duel combination vocals of Eric Almeida & Josh Ligaya the band are able to propel themselves above any other band in the scene at the moment. Granted the big dogs of Djent right now are Meshuggah and Monuments, but Auras are a force to be reckoned with. With the destructive string work of Ligaya & Aaron Hallman backed with the squid like appendages of sticksman Nathan Bulla, Binary Garden is a crushing sophomore record with more force than a sonic boom. 7/10
Spellbine: The Death Of Crann Bethadh (Self Released) [Val D'Arcy]
The title of this debut album from one-man, Ohio based Spellbine, refers to the celtic name for the Tree Of Life, and the death thereof. The eye catching album cover depicts a fallen tree amidst a cold, reddened sunset, presumably said tree of life and its subsequent death. The intro immediately says 'this is going to be one of those folkey, nature based, atmospheric bm endeavours' and although does well to invoke some of the aforementioned themes of cold is otherwise a relatively generic synth intro. The album kicks off with a familiar lo-fi black metal sound, blast beats, minor chords and some distorted picking, we've definitely been here before. The next song, Moaning Of The Ent (more tree based material) introduces elements such as clean, folk vocals and over enthusiastic bass lines which, when coupled with the (presumably intentional) rough production have the effect of someone quietly farting the melody of the song in the background; it's not very grim.
I'm not sure if this is the artists way of showcasing his ability to play all instruments but I do feel that overtly audible bass lines should be used very sparingly in this type of raw black metal. It's once again applied in the next song It's War although this time in tandem with a melodic lead guitar, more sparingly and far more effectively, this song was one of the highlights for me. The album does well to build some atmosphere and for the most part, maintain it. In what is a truly saturated sub genre of black metal im not sure this record makes enough effort to stand out from the masses. There are moments where the songs break their repetitive cycles of 2/4 drum beats and 3 chord patterns, teasing you into thinking they're about to develop into something interesting, however falling short of really committing to that departure. 5/10
The Mariana Hollow: The Abandoned Parade (TMH) [Liam True]
Hailing from Greater London, The Mariana Hollow bring some catchy riffs, drum beats you can't help but tap along to and some soaring vocals, courtesy of Rebecca Spinks. Although they're on the mellow side of metal they still bring a punch. The riff work of both Richie Walden & Gabriel Moreria is mesmerizing. Plucking away at the strings to make the most dream catching or fist pumping sounds imaginable. I wouldn't really like this genre (Being Alternative Metal) it's not really my thing. By the angelic voice of Spinks is what draws me in. Being either a soothing lullaby, the shrieking highs or the attitude driven styles, Spinks, for me, is the savior of the record. Yes the instrumentals are brilliant, but personally I enjoy my music a bit faster. If you enjoy Alt-Metal then don't hesitate on listening to this band. They'll hit the spot. 7/10