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Wednesday 28 August 2019

Reviews: Sacred Reich, Freedom Of Fear, CoreLeoni, Prime Creation (Paul H, Sean Morgan & Matt)

Sacred Reich: Awakening (Metal Blade Records) [Paul Hutchings]

For those of the old school, this is something that we never have thought we would hear or see. Yes, the first Sacred Reich album since 1996’s Heal has finally arrived and whilst it’s only just over half an hour in length, the wait has been worth it. Dripping with old school thrash, it certainly provides a workout for those neck muscles. The departure of founding members Greg Hall and Jason Rainey technically leaves Sacred Reich with no original players, the presence of vocalist/bassist Phil Rind and lead guitarist Wiley Arnett is enough authenticity for me to accept. It’s the return to the fold of the mighty Dave McClain from Machine Head that gives the band massive cojones whilst new rhythm guitarist Joey Radziwill makes Sacred Reich 2019 a highly powerful beast. If you go back in time, it was the band’s debut release Ignorance in 1987 which spearheaded part of the second wave of US thrash movement (alongside Testament, Dark Angel, Death Angel and the like). Awakening is an appropriate title for the re-emergence of one of the thrash movement’s most revered bands.

They have hit back with renewed energy and drive. The title track roars its intent, with McClain’s drumming exactly as we have become accustomed to follow his many years with Flynn and co. Rind’s distinctive strong voice soars above the heavy riffing. Thrash the old school way always contained lots of melody and Awakening is no exception. Divide And Conquer unleashes the speed, with Arnett in ferocious form, his guitar work razor sharp. Killing Machine is destined to get the circle pits moving, the underlying groove demanding you move your head whilst the blues-ridden Death Valley changes pace and demonstrates a style often absent. The band show their metal with two killer tracks to close the album. The pacey Revolution clocks in at 2:48 and once again allows the band to really let rip whilst the monster Something To Believe is a thumping old school classic which closes out an album that must be amongst the most welcome of 2019. 8/10

Freedom Of Fear: Nocturnal Gates (EVP Recordings) [Sean Morgan]

Do you like it tech and/or prog? Do you like it black/deathy? Of course yah do! Do you also like being plainly surprised by unknown bands? YES AND DOUBLE YES! Freedom Of Fear are a brand spanking new act, straight out of Australia. Okay, a slightly porky as they’ve beer around since 2015 but still. It’s now 2019 and their debut album, Nocturnal Gates is an absolute blinder. I ain’t joking, it’s bloody great! Let’s not waste anymore words on a lengthy preamble, let us journey through the Nocturnal Gates.

The Consciousness Of Misery get things blasting, suitably technical yet melodic riffing moving things onward with much gusto. Screeching black metal vocals sit well above the dextrous melo-deathly din, as Freedom Of Fear move from one section to the next with much fluidity and grace. The leisurely pacing gives each section it’s due, creating little in the way of wasted movement or clutter. Dense chords make for a change in dynamic, shifting gears into more blackened territory before retracing the steps to its deathly beginnings. At least that what I thought, until I’m treated to tons of reverb and a sombre sax solo. Still, great start. The Abstract Venom, our second 7 minute song, moves into chunkier territories with the tempo quickening in pace. That compositional fluidity is still ever present, even as these talented Aussies warp across fretboard and form. Seriously, these boys and girls are fucking water tight! Hello again first riff! The closing sections makes way for some tasty grooves, as Freedom Of Fear display EVEN MORE stylistic variety. 

Christ, where are we going next!? Into a symphonic interlude I suppose, via the aptly tiles Gateways. Purgatroium dispense with the theatrics as things get mean and downtuned, punctuated by Gojira-like grooves and blackened death metal blasting. It segues into almost atmospheric black metal, which ironically compliments the dazzling lead work. Seriously, it’s like Woods Of Desolation meets Yngwie Malmsteen! Just how did we get here!? Hello again first riff! Nocturne, another interlude, is two and a have minutes of soulful, maudlin melancholy. Jeez, the versatility on display is just……wow. Amorphous closes Nocturnal Gates, with Freedom Of Fear pulling out all the prog they can muster, reminiscent of Individual Thought Patterns era Death. Then Opeth and then…christ, I have no idea! There’s so much going on here but it matters not, it’s completely flawless in its construction and execution.

That was awesome. I truly mean that AND it’s one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever had to pen! Freedom Of Fear posses skill FAR belying their meagre years of existence. Quite frightening when you think about it, as Nocturnal Gates is a fantastically realised piece of work, all killer and absolutely no filler. No really, I can’t find a single damn thing to complain about! In weaker hands, wielding so many styles at once could have cause untold levels of musical disaster. Not so here. Young they may be, Freedom Of Fear posses a firm (and balanced) grip on their prowess and a steady gaze. A gaze that has already foreseen their inevitable glory. 9/10

CoreLeoni: II (AFM Records) [Matt Bladen]

Gottard founding member Leo Leoni with his second album that focuses on the early days of Gotthard. The debut was released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his previous band, he brought ex-Lords Of Black/current Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero in a s singer along with current/former members of Gotthard and released through Frontiers Records. The album did surprisingly well, even I rated it quite highly, but I did think how far they could take the concept of replaying Gotthard numbers. So when this second album came through I put it on and yet again I find myself drawn into the slick hard rock as Romero stretches his vocal muscles driven by the riffs of Leoni as Hena Habegger (drums, Gotthard), Jgor Gianola (guitar, ex-Gotthard/U.D.O./Jorn Lande) as well as Mila Merker (bass, Soulline) fill out the rest of the band, providing the rock steady backing on these hard rock numbers.

They've broadened their reach a little on this album as it opens with a guitar rendition of Waltz No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich (featured in Eyes Wide Shut), as well as a shuffling cover of Boom Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker and Il Padrino originally by Nino Rota (The Godfather theme). These covers sit with the thumping hard rock numbers such as She Goes Down, Love For Money, the bluesy I'm Your Travellin' Man along with ballads like Angel. All of these songs are taken from the early Gotthard albums but they have also attempted some of their 'own' material with the rocking Queen Of Hearts and the grinding Don't Get Me Wrong. With these new songs they prove that there is more to this band than just retreading old ground, let's see if they can write more of their own songs to keep their longevity. 7/10

Prime Creation: Tears Of Rage (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Featuring members of Morifade and $ilverdollar, new Swedish metal act Prime Creation have been compared favourably to Masterplan and Evergrey. So as a fan of both of those bands I pressed play and some tough chunky riffs came out of my stereo, Fingers Crossed is cut with some massive synth waves and is really Evergrey-like, similar to their last few albums.  These are songs written to be emotional mini-epics built around the dramatic vocal style of Esa Englund. Tracks such as A Beggar's Call are anthemic with big shout along choruses but numbers like Tears Of Rage are a bit faster bringing thrash and power metal touches to the bands normal progressive metal sound that has a mix of symphonic and electronic sounds as witnessed on the closing number Endless Rains a ballad based around tinkling ivories and orchestral swells ending this song with the requisite drama. Tears Of Rage is very 'adult' metal album, it deals with some mature themes and delivers them with virtuoso musicianship that is heavy in both senses of the word. If you were a little vexed by the new Evergrey release Tears Of Rage will redress the balance. 7/10

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