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Thursday 25 July 2019

Reviews: Visionatica, Wormwood, Vile Extortion, Mean Machine (Matt, Val & Manus)

Visionatica: Enigma Fire (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Led by vocalist Tamara Amedova (who hails from North Macedonia) Visionatica are a German band now on their second full length album. Alongside guitarist Manuel Buhl, drummer Gerhard Spanner, and bass player Tim Zahn they released a debut in 2016 and hit the ground running with high energy symphonic metal that mixes Within Temptation with Delain and Nightwish. On this second album they have bolstered their sound a bit more with some folk influences that appear at first on the intro, but not for the last time as this record is intensely cinematic full of swathes of strings that mean songs such as Fear hit home when the strings are met with the chunky metal riffs and thick grooves. Symphonic metal is a genre that allows bands to take elements of classical music and here Visionatica used the tried formula of having a soprano fronting the band.

Tamara's voice is extremely good, she has depth and clarity to her voice that means these songs simply ring out of the stereo, her classical training is matched by the virtuosity of the band themselves who have some great riffs Roxana, The Great especially reminds me of early Within Temptation, while Dance Of Fire has some shouted vocals backing it giving the Nightwish comparison. Symphonic metal is a difficult genre to get right mainly due to the the sheer number of bands playing it. Visionatica do it right and while it's not very hard to be groundbreaking, Visionatica have counteracted that by being very entertaining and using the orchestral/cinematic elements well distinguishing them from their contemporaries and influences. Enigma Fire is top level symphonic metal. 8/10

Wormwood: Nattarvet (Black Lodge) [Val D'Arcy]

Wormwood return with their highly anticipated follow up and second full length album Nattarvet. On the face of it, a Scandi-folk black metal album, but in truth this is so much more. In fact, beyond some of the folk and nature themed intros, this all takes something of a back seat in what follows. 53 minutes of musical bliss that instantly makes you sit up and think, shit, I'm listening to something bloody good here. Nattarvet is a truly epic adventure of soaring melodies, cold, introspective atmosphere and a raw, ferocious aggression that holds their sound true to its Swedish black metal heritage. The composition of each song and the overall structure of the album carries the themes and the narrative in a way that flows both effortlessly and compellingly. The vocals are truly superb, there's a range of different styles here all perfectly executed and used with great effect, be it to drive the fierce black metal passages, dampen the sombre post-black interludes or invoke the spirit of the Fatherland in its storytelling.

It's the aforementioned post-black components that really make this record unlike a lot of post-black junk in this world (that really serves no purpose); Wormwood use it here as a catalyst to manipulate the flow and feel of the album. It's the glue that holds the chapters of this book together, it's the cold bite of the night air and the duvet to wrap you up all at once. The songs themselves are a pleasing balance of accessible melodies, acoustic folk-influenced intermissions, all round heaviness and enough creativity and originality to keep you interested with eager anticipation of what comes next. The final track is a glorious eleven minute epic that utilises all of the aforementioned style, building gradually in an emotive crescendo reminiscent of Nokturnal Mortum's Valkyria or Gamma Ray's earlier masterpiece Heading For Tomorrow; as mournful as it is euphoric, a fitting climax. 9/10

Vile Extortion: Incoming Threat (New Dream Records) [Matt Bladen]

A short, sharp, shock of Greek thrash metal comes from Thessaloniki thrash maniacs Vile Extortion who have ridden out of the gates all guitars blazing for this debut EP. A maelstrom of intense thrash riffage, destructive blastbeats and shredding solos, Incoming Threat is just that a 19 minute thrash metal frenzy that brings to mind Testament, Kreator and Exodus, it's got a nice mix of classic and modern thrash that keeps you engaged with it helped immensely by the brilliant production job. If you're a guitar nut then you'll love the guitar solos which sees some fleet fingered duels taking centre stage, though the final track Cry Of Terror has a pretty neat bass solo in it was wellm for those of you that prefer four strings.  From the intro of He Who Dwells In The Shadows through Purification Progress and Mors CertissimaIncoming Threat is a very impressive debut release, more of this please. 7/10

Mean Machine: Rock ‘N’ Roll Up Your Ass (Fighter Records) [Manus Hopkins]

The European speed and thrash aggression is definitely present on Mean Machine’s third record, Rock ‘N’ Roll Up Your Ass. Don’t let its groaner of a title fool you. These tunes are serious, splicing rock ‘n’ roll guitar tunes with a hostile, breakneck pace playing style. The lyrics might be cheesy, but with songs this killer, who cares? The tunes are so high-energy, it almost feels ridiculous to be sitting at a computer listening to this album. It’s music you want to be taking a run or working out to, or obviously, moshing to at a show. This is a compliment to the band, by the way. They’ve managed to capture that raw live energy in the studio, which bands often aren’t able to do. It feels loud, even with the volume at a normal setting, and it really gets the blood pumping. Isn’t that what you want speed metal to do? 8/10

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