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Monday, 9 September 2019

Reviews: Cold In Berlin, Mars Red Sky, Orm, Fretless (Matt, Val & Rich)

Cold In Berlin: Rituals Of Surrender (New Heavy Sounds) [Matt Bladen]

Ominous, ritualistic, bewitching. Three words that can be attributed to London doom crew Cold In Berlin, who like a winter in Germany's capital, have a chill running through their music built upon their noisy downtuned, gothic doom riffs and mesmerising vocals that evoke both the spiritual and the sexual nature of the lyrics. I wasn't sure what to expect when I pressed play here but as the album opened with The Power we get brought straight into the warped world of Cold In Berlin the riffs grind with a discordant almost drone sound adding layers of density to the songs. Imagine Electric Wizard fronted by Blood Ceremony's Alia O'Brien and you'll be a little more in the know as to what to expect from this album. I'm a doom fan and the woozy heavyweight riffs are always welcome at my house, but Cold In Berlin aren't a one trick pony.

On Dark Days there is a touch of Jefferson Airplane, though this is to do with Maya's vocals which are an integral part of Cold In Berlin's strength as a a band, they are bellowed and echoed embodying every lyric on this album. However the brilliance of Maya's voice does mean that you may not concentrate as much on the excellent musical backing from Adam (guitar), Lawrence (bass) Alex (drums). Yes there are a lot of fuzzy riffs but also industrial blobs on Avalanche which has the repeating chants of "Bury Me" to ramp up the occult elements, which continue on Monsters. There's a primordial sound to this album, monolithian, mountain shaking riffs are merged with romantic goth, ghostly post-punk and lots of cinematic drama. Rituals Of Surrender is an album that draws you in to it's incense burning mystique before a baseball bat from the shadow clobbers you senseless, you will enjoy it I promise you. 8/10

Mars Red Sky: The Task Eternal (Listenable Records) [Matt Bladen]

Three years removed from their last space odyssey French psych rockers Mars Red Sky return with their new album that once again fires up the shuttle engines and launches them skyward towards distant galaxies. This fourth album is possibly their darkest yet, painting a picture with some Sabbath inspired riffs and twisted lyricism on Collector especially but all the while retaining their psych pop leanings still enveloping the fuzzy riffs. Mars Red Sky are a trio featuring Julien Pras, providing the hypnotic, dreamy vocals and six stringing, while the groove machines at the back are Jimmy Kinast (bass) and Matgaz (drums) who on Recast know when to let a track breathe as it builds up into a crunching instrumental which segues seamlessly into Reacts that evolves into a thick heavy doom riff. On the other end of the spectrum however the final track A Far Cry is an strummed acoustic folk instrumental that eases you back to earth with it's dreamy soundscape that reminds me of ambient Porcupine Tree. The Task Eternal rings out with more mind bending psych rock, grab a ride on these Frenchman's rocket ride and take to the skies. 7/10

Orm: Ir (Indisciplinarian) [Val D'Arcy]

Being previously unfamiliar with this band at the point of picking up Ir, the first thing that struck me (and caused some degree of eye rolling) was the track-list. Two tracks clocking in at twenty three and twenty four minutes respectively. My immediate thought was, this had better be bloody good. Indeed, for the first ten minutes or so I was not disappointed in the slightest. The opening segments are a brilliantly executed mix of traditional and contemporary, cold black metal. It does well to conjure images of winter and desolation synonymous with the slightly odd album cover. The cover pictures a scene of people seemingly ice skating on a frozen lake set in a forest. Tremolo-picked riffs, blast beats and overlapping vocal tracks combining growls and shrieks, all staple ingredients for some great, albeit at times predictable black metal soup.

Before long, as we approach the half way mark in the opener, the ferocity subsides, cue the first of the post-black appearances. Brass instruments, eurgh. That said, it sounds alright, I'd almost go as far as saying it fits; I'd add to say, that is said speaking in the context of what is clearly a concept album. Generally speaking I'm not a fan of post anything, let alone black metal which, in itself provides a vast enough canvas to create original work without having to forcibly over think when it comes to creativity. It's not the first time of course that brass has been used in black metal, I'm thinking White Ward, Tchornobog to name a couple. Nor is the basic phenomenon of using overtly non-metal instruments in black metal. Taake's use of a Banjo on their cover of the soundtrack to Mario Kart 64's Moo-Moo Farm was quite brilliant. That notwithstanding its not something I'd advocate on principle.

The song eventually diverts again onto a more prog path with an acoustic, Opeth-esque passage that does equally little to return my eyes to a level position. But then almost in an instant, we're back with some deliciously heavy, almost black-n-roll riffs at the twelve minute mark which are so good, they all but make up for the indiscretions of the previous minutes. The second track, I really struggled with. I've been listening to this damn song for three days and it's like having a conversation with someone you've just met that you're really making an effort to get on with, but they just don't let you in. It has an obscure, incoherence about it which, is either meant to bewilder (successfully) or is just too sophisticated for my plebeian palette. There are some great melodies in this track and the vocals are beautifully manipulated to compliment the frequent mood swings in the music, but for me it was a lot of quite interesting (and sometimes fascinating) pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which, I, in the end gave up trying to complete and put back in the box. However, if concept albums are meant to do anything it is to challenge the listener, to step outside of your two musical dimensions. To compel you to uncover and confront a deeper reaction on an emotional level. This record certainly did that and despite our differences, I've enjoyed our time together. We may not see each other again for a little while, but I'm certain in time, we will. 7/10

Fretless: Damnation (Pure Steel Records) [Rich Oliver]

Damnation is the second album from Swedish hard rockers Fretless. The band has been on a bit of a hiatus with their debut album Local Heroes being released back in 2011. Fretless are a band that show plenty of promise but not much of that promise is met on Damnation. Essentially a hard rock outfit Fretless are also massively influenced by classic heavy metal with clear influences from NWOBHM and the German metal movements with a huge influence evident throughout from Accept. There are some nice riffs and tasty solos here and there but the songs failed to get much of an enthusiastic response from me being underdeveloped and uninteresting whilst the vocals by Patte Carlson are grating sounding like a bad mix of Bruce Dickinson and Udo Dirkschneider lacking the personality and charisma of both those vocalists. Damnation does have some good moments with the hammond organ led Burn and the aggressive No More being stand out songs but overall this album didn’t do much for me. 5/10

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