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Tuesday 5 November 2019

Reviews: Derange, Salem UK, Sibiir, Maeskyyrn (Alex, Paul H, Liam & Val)

Derange: Senses Pt.1 (Self Released) [Alex Swift]

Tech-metal is one of those genres that when perfected – Dillinger Escape Plan, Protest The Hero, Car Bomb – can be performed excellently, yet presents lots of room for risk. So how to derange try and prove themselves as masters of the genre on the Senses E.P? Well, put simply, excellently. Instead of desperately trying to prove their tech credentials or copying anyone else, they are writing strong songs like Runaway, with great technical proficiency for sure, yet also powerful melodic hooks, arresting developments and a brilliant sense of pacing, and restraint. Hell, I’m only giving them said genre label, because of the press release which came the album, and while I can certainly believe that the albums crisp though the ferocious sound was produced by – Napalm Death, Raging Speedhorn, Dimmu Borgir – that one solitary label is reductionist in my opinion.

I mean, Higher has some of the most inspiring guitar stylings I’ve heard, don’t get me wrong, yet what would it be without the fantastic vocals of frontwoman, Cat Periera, the anarchic strut that Farrel and Macpherson bring to the rhythm or indeed the erratic changes which keep me hooked. Or look to divide where the production, as well as the performances of each of the band members, lend a towering sense of scale, while Brazdii√ľna’s distinctive guitar grooves, and keep the fierce tone firmly in place. Human follows, the passion flowing from the track in waves, while the craftful composition allows for the piece to become simultaneously contemplative and cathartic. Finishing the album is Zero which closes out on a dramatic note, brilliantly setting us up for the second, thematically linked EP, apparently coming out in due course. I look forward to that, though Derange have made enough of an impression with past 1 to make my wait excited yet endurable 8/10

Salem UK: Win Lose Or Draw (Dissonance Productions) [Paul Hutchings]

In March 2018 I reviewed Attrition, the third release by the reformed NWOBHM band from Hull. I must be honest; it was dull and 4/10 was a reasonably kind rating at the time. Amazingly the band are back again with Win Lose Or Draw, but unsurprisingly they are still dreadful. I still find Simon Saxby’s high-pitched voice disturbing; the songs are insipid and uninspiring with the dire Blind amongst the worst of a bad lot. A dreadful ballad which deserves to be consigned to history as soon as possible. I manged to listen to all of Attrition once and balked on round two. I got through this one a couple of times, but like the CAMRA beer rating, with considerable resentment. If this was an ale, I’d be ordering something else for round 2. Hell, I’d rather have a Carling (none of that talk here please Mr H - Ed). This is awful. The list of NWOBHM bands who apparently were good in the 1980s but never got their lucky break goes on. There just might be a reason why Salem never got anywhere. Go figure. 3/10

Sibiir: Ropes (Self Released) [Liam Swift]

I’ve never been one for Black Metal as I've never really gotten the concept of it. But Sibiir have taken it and expanded it more to make it fit right for me. Not sounding just like a Black Metal album, but more of a mixture of BM & Death Metal. The blending genres make for a great and unique way of presenting the music. The signature BM sound is still there, just more coherent than usual. It still that nasty pissed off vibe in the instrumentals, such as the buzz saw-like guitar tones, the feral ghoul like screeches and the brutal beating of the ceremonial drums, but it feels more alive, rather than being recorded through a wall. Don’t get me wrong, THAT tone fits THAT genre. But Sibiir have taken BM, beefed it up, and made sure it’s still as raw and barbaric than ever, with a slight Death Metal twinge to it. And it works amazingly. 7/10

Maeskyyrn: Interlude (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Val D'Arcy]

Interlude is the debut album from Canadian Melodic Black Metal band Maeskyyrn. Somewhat unimaginatively titled, the album has three tracks titled Interlude as well for good measure. My first thought is I'm seeing a lot more metal (Black Metal in particular) coming from Canada. Having now listened to this album I can safely add this to the list of good Black Metal from Canada. As debut albums go this is a solid offering with some really great highlights. As a concept (if Interlude is a concept) I'm not really sold. At just over forty six minutes this album is essentially a handful of seven-ish minute songs broken up by these somewhat odd synthesised intermissions. These three interludes (plus the intro and outro) seem to achieve little in terms of what they bring to the overall experience, feels a lot like filler. Furthermore they do not seem to flow especially well to or from the leading or preceding tracks respectively (with the exception of the intro). Honestly, I'd rather have had these removed altogether and been presented with a belter of an EP. For the most part, this is as previously mentioned a Melodic Black Metal album; it leans towards to heavier end of the spectrum rather than atmospheric but still has plenty of mood.

The instruments all put in a very strong performance and decent production gives each of them discernable presence throughout. There are spatterings of other influences present at different points of the record. Some doom-esque riffs early on in Gathering Believers Among Sheeps (and again in Of Forests And Troubled Past), some raspy death style vocals thrown in to These Battlefields Where None Walks Twice and occasional clean backing vocals, most notable in the last song. The overall disposition of the album is one of melancholy and despair. On more than one occasion I find myself likening the sound to another album I reviewed not so long ago, by Deadwood Lake. The pitch often shifts in whole octaves, a technique used to manipulate the emotional travel of the song and its executed with great effect. Coupled with distinctly varied movements, uses of slower, sometimes acoustic bridges the songs are relatively complex constructs that hold your attention well. This style of songwriting hints at Post Black but thankfully never really goes there. The Slow Death Of The Years And Other Omens takes on an unusually jovial, almost bouncy melody albeit maintaining a minor key; it sounds initially somewhat out of place. But as the track develops and reveals its multiple enactments I do find myself liking it more and more. At around three quarters the introduction of choral baking vocals adds a tranquil, haunting quality, leading us into a semi acoustic bridge before unleashing hell in the closing passage. 

This is a great track despite the initial impression of being a little out of sync with the rest of the album. Overall, I really did enjoy this album even if at times felt mildly frustrated by the overdose of filler. Stripped back and kept simpler I'd have given the individual songs a higher marking, but as an album it falls a little short of the mark. That said, I'll be eagerly awaiting their next output. 6/10

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