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Friday 30 August 2019

Reviews: Suicidal Angels, Pandemonium, The Contortionist, Ark Ascent (Paul S, Val D'Arcy, Liam & Matt)

Suicidal Angels: Years Of Aggression (Napalm Records) [Paul Scoble]

Suicidal Angels released their first album in 2007, six years after forming. Although it took them 6 years to release an album, the 4 piece have made up for that by releasing loads of material since then. In fact Years Of Aggression takes the album count up to seven. The quality of work from these Athens based thrashers haven’t always been on a par with their prodigious output. So, has quality lost out to quantity with this new album? Well, the short answer is a very loud clear NO; there is plenty of really high quality thrash on this release. The album doesn’t have any duff tracks, so you won’t be leaping for the skip button. There isn’t that much that is new, novel or trailblazing; you can hear the influences quite clearly. However, with a template as tight as thrash, innovation isn’t always easy, or necessary. What we get is what most thrash fans want; fast, tight riffs, pounding fast drums insane shredding in the solos, and lots of screaming- and this album has that in spades. For me, the highlights are: Opening track Endless War opens with a blast. We are dropped strait into a fast, ridiculously tight, choppy riff which is at a perfect tempo for thrash.

There's a slightly slower, chugging midsection, a brilliant solo, and then its back to the ridiculously fast and choppy till the end. Born Of Hate appears to be a homage to modern Kreator. It’s fast, but incredibly melodic and tuneful, the driving pace is tempered by the mellifluous melodies. Bloody Ground is slower, more of a mid-paced chugger. The tempo, although slower than some of the other material on the album, is powerful and driving, so it batters the listener, slowly pounding you into the ground. There is no other way to describe D.I.V.A. than so say; it sounds like Altar Of Sacrifice by Slayer. But as that is one of Slayer’s best songs, and Suicidal Angels have done a great job, that doesn’t really matter, what a blast! The Roof Of Rats is another fast track, it’s aggressive in the best sort of way, tighter than me in a medium sized t-shirt and has an awesome screaming solo. The album isn’t all about fast, The Sacred Dance With Chaos starts with an acoustic intro, before a slow, brooding riff kicks in and it becomes a powerful, heavy chugger. Yeah, it’s slow, but with so much driving power it’s like a runaway bulldozer. Awesome. Years Of Aggression is a great album. Ok it’s not going to create any new sub-genres, but if you are looking for an absolute blast of a thrash album, then this is for you. Sometimes what you need more than anything else is fun, and that is what this album is: it’s fun. It puts a huge smile on your face, and I can’t think of a better recommendation than that. 8/10

Pandemonium: Monuments Of Tragedy (Black Lodge Records) [Val D'Arcy]

Swedish death metallers Pandemonium return after over a decade with their follow up album Monuments Of Tragedy, a full length (very full, just under an hour) album to be released at the end of the month. Playing their own style of theatrical, technical, blackened melodeath (yes that's a big ol' mouthful of sub-genres) Monuments Of Tragedy is both relentlessly heavy as it is cinematic. The intro and first song And Death Was The Way sets the mood well, like the opening to a horror film, before continuing it's hour-long onslaught. That's twice I've mentioned the length of this record now, appreciating there's nothing particularly outlandish about an album clocking in at 59 minutes and some seconds. That said, it does feel a bit long. I think this may be to do with the fact that whole album is quite relentless; a tumultuous barrage that gives little opportunity to come up for air. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but it lost me somewhere around the 7th and 8th tracks, before the awesome The Only Catharsis kicks in and I was very much back in the room (a personal favourite upon closer inspection).

Despite the torrential pace of Monuments, there are a number of nuances in style that present themselves, from the technical riffing and odd time signatures to the overtly symphonic passages, industrial electronic openers all underpinned by a drumming masterclass from Jacob Blecher which really adds a richness and texture to what is otherwise a fairly average production quality. Although thematically there is a consistency present throughout, it did at times feel a little disjointed. Again, I wonder to myself if this is symptomatic of the extended duration, maybe I lack stamina in my old age, a credible possibility. Vocally, there is a brilliantly executed scale of styles and dynamics that morph and adapt to the ever-shifting soundscape, from deep guttural growls to the higher pitched, blackened shrieks they sound great. I mentioned the technical elements earlier, they're unmissably present, but not overbearing nor do they crop up in a constant and uninvited fashion as with more generic 'tech death' bands.

It's used here as a pinch of seasoning, rather, sparingly and not to unashamedly show off musical prowess for the sake of it, which can be quite tedious. Instead, it's the melodic and theatrical elements which are are the fore here and to the benefit of this record; it makes for a great musical experience. One to sit down comfortably and listen to, with a strong cup of tea and no distractions. 7/10

The Contortionist: Out Bones (eOne) [Liam True]

Some beautiful Prog Metal from America, more specifically Indiana. The three track EP is a gen in the rough in the genre dominated by giants such as Dream Theater and Symphony X, but the band make themselves stand out with Follow and Early Grave being the big hitters. The vocal abilities of Michael Lessard just brings the album together whether he's using his lullaby inducing cleans or his raspy chainsaw growls he is an astonishing vocalist and a perfect fit for the bands sound. The band itself is just an array of instrumental heaven. With the dueling battle guitars of Robby Baca & Cameron Maynard being the forefront of the record. The drumming of Joey Baca in itself is hypnotising as he works his way around the kit like he was born to do this. The three track EP then closes with a 4th track. A cover of 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins. While I'm not a fan of the original band, the cover is wonderfully done and would be praised by Billy Corgan himself. Keep an eye on these guys because they'll become big in the Prog Metal scene. Trust me. 8/10

Ark Ascent: Downfall (Ascent Records) [Matt Bladen]

Ark Ascent are a progressive metal band from the UK formed by multi-instrumentalist Jack Kirby who has made music on this debut album that is powerful, progressive metal with a lot of guts behind hit and while it never really breaks out of the Dream Theater/Symphony X (The Aftermath) mould we do get some bits of Queensryche along the way. Along with Kirby who plays the guitars and i think keyboards as well, we have former Shadowkeep vocalist Rogue Marechal, current DGM bassist Andrea Arcangeli and Sirenia drummer Michael Brush to create some really top class prog metal. The gutsy rock of Point Of No Return opens the album with numerous time and style changes before things get a bit more aggressive on Sanctuary which has some great key work cutting through it. The guitarwork is phenomenal, in fact all the performances here are top level really bringing these compositions to life, though the production of the band with Rich Hinks (Annihilator, Aeon Zen). Along with co-production and mixing he also contributed the bass performance on the epic closing track The End Of Time. Downfall is very confident prog metal album that sits comfortably in the style of those bands mentioned earlier, great performances and songs combine for a wild ride of prog metal mastery. 8/10

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