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Thursday 4 July 2019

Reviews: Krysthla, Abbath, Heilung, Auger (Paul H, Sean, Rich & Scott)

Krysthla: Worldwide Negative (PHD) [Paul H]

Few albums have been more anticipated than the third release from possibly the best UK metal band around today, but when this bad boy dropped in the box I must admit to a little dance of excitement. The Northamptonshire outfit have been carving a name for themselves in the UK and Europe since debut release A War Of Souls And Desires arrived in 2015. With the follow up Peace In Our Time the band enhanced their reputation for being one of the most impressive up and coming bands on the scene, with killer live shows which are bursting with energy and power. So, opening Worldwide Negative up, what do we get? Well to start with, a fantastic production job by guitarist Neil Hudson, who not only acted as producer but engineer, mixer and master. Sharp, clear, yet capturing the very essence of the band’s power. Recorded at Initiate Audio and Media Recording Studios, this is eight tracks and 44 minutes of your life you really want to devote time and energy toward. Krysthla is a band with strong moral beliefs, their statements on the insanity of the world around us and their observations on the social impact of those in power not only timely but oh so accurate … and frightening.

Negative opens the album, a five-minute statement of intent which focuses on the constant struggle with doubt and paranoia that poisons the mind of anyone that finds themselves in a dark place mentally. With the world gripped by sadness and madness, the song asks how do we find a place or even live inside this worldwide negative? Vocalist Adi Mayes is in imperious form, his bear of a roar better than ever. Intricate guitar patterns and a thumping bass line hint at a more progressive approach before all hell breaks loose and Krysthla accelerate immediately. There is a massive industrial groove ala Fear Factory that surges throughout not only this track but the whole album. This is no bad thing and no copyist approach either. Krysthla are very much delivering their own sound and Negative sets the bar high. However, although I’d heard Zero Sum Game prior to this album, nothing could prepare me for the immensity of Reawakening. Possibly the most accessible track the band have ever released, this is an absolute piledriver. A Slipknot style guitar groove with Davies’ huge bass lines rioting all over the place, Mayes’ punishing roar balanced by clean vocals which adds a new focus and style which just stunning. Epic stuff.
Although the band have embraced the melody this has by no means watered down their sound. If anything, it has intensified the intensity of their assault. The bone crushing Grief Is New Love contains haunting riffage from Hudson and fellow guitarist Noel Davies whilst new(ish) drummer Liam Turland delivers a blistering assault of power drumming. This is the longest song on the album. It’s explosive, almost automated in its drilled, clinical delivery whilst retaining soul and passion and fades with a fascinating change in approach. If you are a fan of the band, you’ll be familiar with Zero Sum Game, released a few weeks ago. Utilising clean vocals to fabulous effect on the chorus, Zero Sum Game was a pulverising first taste of the fire and passion that surges through the band. The song tackles how life itself is caught in the endless sway of life and death, and the chasing of meaningless things that mean nothing. With traces of Fear Factory’s Self Bias Resistor, this song just destroys.

No let up in the pace or groove, with White Castles, which is another massive track. Once more Carl Davies’ bass is high in the mix without dominating, the pacey raging assault driving the song. The mid-tempo change of pace provides some much-needed respite from the carnage which has erupted so far. The onslaught resumes for the politically charged Psalms Of Heartlessness, a concrete pounding beast which reflects on the mistrust and hatred that permeates our world and our politics. Look at Trump and his walls, the division and hate that is all around. Krysthla urge reflection. All neatly wrapped up in a crushingly heavy track that simply flattens. If you have any energy left by now, summon it up for the penultimate epic, Aurea Medioctias, a punchy and emotional ride with shades of Korn, Fear Factory and Ministry. There are sections located within the track that allow Carl Davies and Turland to lead the way, the bass once again gargantuan on a song that oozes brutality and focuses on the blind eye turned despite awareness of the consequences. A punishing beauty of a song. 

And then we arrive at closing track The Gift, which has shades of those French behemoths Gojira in its tone and sheer intensity. A wall of organ crushing riffage is unleashed, with some melodic breakdowns allowing pauses in the tsunami which is racing toward you. The song focuses on the unwanted guilt left when someone takes their own life. The unwanted gift left behind. Emotionally charged from personal experience, the obliterating attack that Krysthla have cultivated over the past few years is unstoppable, and the calm acoustic fade just adds to the quality of an impressive track. Guitarist Neil Hudson commented that in Worldwide Negative the band “exceeded what we thought we had in the tank. It’s been an exhaustive but exhilarating process! Worldwide Negative is an album with more of an introspective view towards us as the human race, how we impact the world and each other. In the pursuit of happiness, safety and security we're slowly destroying our sense of empathy and giving in to a darker way of life that ultimately can only end in misery.” In Worldwide Negative Krysthla have delivered one of the most important and stunningly perfect albums of 2019. This is insanely good in quality, production and delivery. There set at BOA becomes an unmissable event (although to many, it was already in the list). Just brilliant. 10/10

Abbath: Outstrider (Season Of Mist) [Rich]

Since his split from Immortal in 2015, Abbath Doom Occulta has kept busy and kept his profile high with the formation of his own solo band. 2016’s self titled album was a very good album indeed and the high amount of touring plus the antics of the man himself have very much kept him in the limelight which is where Abbath really shines being one of the true characters in black metal. The man is a revered icon in the Norwegian black metal scene yet is equally seen as one of the goofiest people in the scene with an image that is as mystical as it is hysterical. With Outstrider which is the second album from the band we see Abbath not really straying from the sound forged on the debut but building on it with more scope, more melody and generally improved songwriting.

Outstrider has a feel that is as harsh as it is epic with songs such as The Artifex, Land Of Khem, Harvest Pyre and Scythewinder making you feel like you want to windmill in the middle of an icy tundra. The riffs are plentiful and glorious and the drumming relentless yet controlled. This is black metal with a cinematic scale but without the need of a symphony orchestra to deliver the scope of the music. If you have enjoyed the latter Immortal albums and the previous Abbath release then guaranteed you will love this. It’s not a groundbreaking release but Abbath has simply built and improved on what he has done previously. A great headbanging marathon of an album.8/10

Heilung: Futha (Season Of Mist)

“What’s going on here? Why are they all wearing masks and why does that lady have horns? And why is the music so good?!” These are but of few of the questions burning brightly in my mind, upon viewing the Nordic/Germanic collective known as Heilung for the first time. Formed in 2014, these heathen heralds have been busy bringing their skaldic ceremonies to the masses, converting all in their wake. Doubters were silenced, the confused were convinced and Heiliung triumphantly return to us in 2019 with new album, Futha. Time to don those robes, grab the goatskin drum and ready the mind. Shall we?

Harsh rasps, belching forth blackened ichor (amongst other things), greet me upon the beginning of Galgaldr. It expands, cold winds disturbing the once silent wind chimes, as well as something older and far more powerful from blackened murk. Bellowing horns and the wail of disembodied voices ululate above the returning raps, pulsating drums only serving to increase the ritual to near feverish levels. I can see it all, the hooded congregation shrouded in incense laced smoke, emanating from open lit braziers. Norupo is a more straightforward and traditional number, (somewhat) lighter in tone and provides contrast to its predecessors darkness. The atmosphere is no less thick, however, densely layered female voices flowing with ethereal grace above the throaty throng. The next phase is soon ushered in, the drip drop of icy water providing a rudimentary beat. The voices soon coalesce and Othan thrusts me into its desolate cold, sprawling and dense, constantly moving under its own icy weight. Such is the level of evocation that Heilung are capable of summoning, I’m immediately transported across vast swathes of frozen tundra, the harsher voices reinforcing my experiencing of the untameable wild. The chiming of bells and pulsating of chirping grunts thaw me of Othan’s wintery grip, with the summery vibes of Traust stirring life from it’s hibernating cycle.

I have no clue what Heiling are saying though, but I have no doubt that pure poetry is being spun, easing and comforting me throughout this spiritual journey. Vapnatak, a soundscape of sorts, unleashes the rain from the heavens and the volley of arrows, men crying out as their threads are cut short. Verses are spoken over eerie synths, before the war bellow of Svanrand answers in kind. The occasional sailing of a stray arrow aids the steady beat, feminine chants melding with masculine grunts, layers steadily amassing atop each other. Elivagar begins with a whisper, slowly morphing into a growl and all things unpleasant in between. It’s as if the speaker were slowly abandoning his humanity, casting his former self away as he embraces whatever energies he’s invoking. It climaxes in a cacophony of voices, all in thrall to the Elivagar . It turns out that the Elivagar were a series of rivers that existed in Ginnungagap (meaning gaping abyss), the norse equivalent of the primordial void. It also ties into the origin of Ymir, the first giant (which is pretty neat). Elddansurin is heavily percussive, every hit driving the repetitious guttural phrases onward, occasionally punctuated by an agonised scream.

It suddenly abates, clean melodies supplanting the bestial elements, ascending into a lush crescendo vocal harmonies. Hamrer Hippyer brings the journey to a close, letting loose every power at Heilung’s disposal across a fanatical 14 minutes of pure primal power. Throats are shorn, skins are struck, verses are sung and Heilung have all but exhausted every inch of my person. And yet…my soul and mind feel enhanced. Refreshed even, long after Futha fades to silence. Back to reality then….*sigh*. Futha” may not be a metal album, contain blast beats or any mention of goats (save for the ones who’ve been made into drums). But make no mistake, it’s momentous atmosphere is as visceral and engaging, if not more so than any traditional metal album can muster. The unprecedented attention to detail, throughout each individual movement and entrancing mood, is simply staggering. The result is something that is more than just music; a listening experience, that transcend mind, body and soul. I’d go on but that would detract form the time in which YOU should be buying, listening and loving every inch of Heilung’s Futha as I did. Hails. 9/10

Auger: From Now On I (DarkTunes Music) [Scott]

UK based Industrial Metal/Dark Rock duo, Auger are back again for another helping for brooding tones and spacey guitars. This time better than ever. I’m not gonna lie, this album makes me feel like I’m in the upcoming video game title Cyberpunk 2077. But not in a tacky futuristic way. Something that I can look forward to, like this album makes me almost feel better for a futuristic future. I get varying Tool vibes, like if Tool went complete cyber and made this album. This is an album I can chuck on in a dark room, and open a door to a completely different universe, and close it behind me. And allow it to swallow me whole. Industrial fans really need to check this out. Never heard anything like it, and I bloody love it. 8/10

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