Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Reviews: Twilight Force, Sertraline, As I May, Hawk Eyes (Rich, Lee, Manus & Alex)

Twilight Force: Dawn Of The Dragonstar (Nuclear Blast) [Rich Oliver]

Majestic is a word that should easily be used when referring to Dawn Of The Dragonstar which is the third album by Swedish symphonic power metallers Twilight Force. It is an album that plays into all the cliches and excesses of the power metal genre but as a result of that it is easily one of the best power metal albums I’ve heard this year. This album may have exactly what you expect from a symphonic power metal album but the songwriting, the hooks and the melodies are just so damn perfect that Twilight Force have easily raised the bar for power metal in 2019. The album starts as it means to go on opening with the soaring title track before going into the hilariously cheesy but utterly majestic Thundersword.

The album barely loses any momentum throughout with the magnificent Winds Of Wisdom to the epic closer Blade Of Immortal Steel. Dawn Of The Dragonstar is the first album with new singer Alessandro Conti who power metal afficondos will know from his work with Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody and Lione/Conti and he massively impresses with his phenomenal vocal work here. Twilight Force have 100% converted me to their cause with this fabulous album. This is power metal at its excessive best but it manages not to be overblown with the focus being on the songs and not getting lost in a bloated concept or storyline. To me the band sound like a cross between the grandiosity of Rhapsody and the tongue in cheek fun of Freedom Call. If you are one of those poor miserable souls who despise power metal then this album is going to do little to change your mind but if you love joyous cheese in your metal then I implore you to give this album a listen. It brought a massive grin to my face on a dreary Sunday afternoon. 9/10

Sertraline: From Both Our Hands (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Lee Burgess]

Sertraline should not be mistaken for the power outfit of the same name. This is an entirely different band, with an entirely different sound. They hover comfortably between the post metal of Cult Of Luna and the epic Atmospheric BM of Fen and Wolves In The Throne room. What I love with this EP entitled From Both Our Hands, is the way Sertraline are not afraid to do their own thing in their own way. They quite easily encapsulate the grim Satanic style of Watain whilst keeping with the traditions of more folk based masters Winterfylleth. The music within these tracks is haunting and grim, and yet beautiful and visual. This band beckons us to follow them on a pilgrimage through their music.

If you follow, they will show you a pathway through a soundscape of pain and darkness. With vocals low in the mix and gritty guitar tone, Sertraline are brutally serine in their delivery of tracks that twist and turn and pulse. There is little anger or even pace here, but there is a sense of rawness and of wonderful agony. Each track envelopes us in darkness and offers little hope of escape. The great thing is, escape is the last thing we want. I would bet this band are destined for cult status in an already awesome scene. This is a stand-alone band, unafraid to drag us to places we didn’t know we wanted to go. If hell has a sound, and the sound is Sertraline, then I hope there are still tickets available. 9/10

As I May: My Own Creations (Rockshots Records) [Manus Hopkins]

Well, this likely isn’t something that’s bound to hit the spot with the majority of metal fans, but for what it is, As I May’s My Own Creations is done pretty well. The synth-infused modern metalcore style As I May exemplify on this record is one metalheads have been known to turn their noses up at, but for those who enjoy it, or don’t let internet comment sections decide for them what to like, this should be right up their alley. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a metalcore act in this era. Screams on verses, catchy clean-sung choruses and standard metalcore riffs make up nearly the whole record, with more than a splash of dance-like synth licks thrown in too.

It’s textbook metalcore, for sure, but that gets to be more of an issue the further into the record you get. There’s just nothing new on here, really. Tons of bands, well-known and not, play this exact music. The songs just sound standard and generic, considering how many strikingly similar ones are out there. Even song titles like Necessary Evil and Cure Is Worse Than Disease could belong to any metalcore act out there. It’s like there were no influences on the writing on this record besides other metalcore acts, and the band just really hasn’t found its own sound yet. 6/10

Hawk Eyes: Advice (Drakkar Entertainment) [Alex Swift]

It’s no secret that I have been quite critical of modern hard rock in the past, largely for being unoriginal and for too often failing to reinvent itself. There have still been honorable exceptions though. Hawk Eyes could be one of those exceptions. In fairness, you can make out some decent melodies, and there are certainly some intriguing grooves throughout Advice. There could potentially be a lot to admire on this album. Why only could? Well, there’s a huge, insurmountable, seething problem standing in the way. That being, the production is horrendously awful! I don’t even understand how they did such a terrible job with the mixing. If they’d recorded these songs using a tape recorder, using tin cans as microphones, and transmitting their instruments through a broken PA, they would sound better!

Everything blurs into an amalgamated mess, where any hooks that you can pick out have absolutely no character or depth, owing to the fact that you can barely discern the notes from one another. Meanwhile, the vocals and lead parts are drowned out in a haze of feedback and extreme volume fluctuations, which lurch from ear-splittingly loud to inaudibly quiet, with no discernible rhyme or reason. For everyone that moaned about the new Baroness album having challenging production (An intentional and apt stylistic choice, but I digress), feast your ears on Hawk Eyes: hear how crap studio construction really sounds! I kid you not when I say that they make St. Anger sound like Dark Side Of the Moon. My advice? If you value your sense of hearing at all, give this one a concrete miss. 2/10

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