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Thursday 7 November 2019

Reviews: ELO, Democratus, Saint Deamon, Cell (Matt, Rich & Val)

Jeff Lynne's ELO: From Out Of Nowhere (Big Trilby and Columbia Records) [Matt Bladen]

Don't worry pop pickers Chris Evans favourite band in the world haven't covered Faith No More. No From Out Of Nowhere is the Birmingham purveyors of symphonic rock newest...perhaps unexpected album. This is partly due to band leader Jeff Lynne taking semi-retirement several years ago. Though they released a record in 2015. However in recent years the he has returned to the ELO mothership for festival headline slots and tours to much critical acclaim and there is clearly an audience still there for the premier purveyors of multi-layered pop rock. This reinvigorated interest in the band is noted on the bouncy One More Time and Time Of Our Life, which is actually about their huge Wembley show. If you can call From Out Of Nowhere anything that that would be upbeat, it's a generally friendly sounding record that doesn't bring you down or get rid of those blue skies from years ago. It's awash with love songs from the off delivered by Lynne's smooth vocal and backed by the multi-tracked ELO magic. There's also a few nods to old friends with a pinch of Petty and a handful of Harrison sprinkled throughout the record Down Came The Rain and Help Yourself being the most obvious, but at its heart this is classic ELO down to the ground, it won't win over anyone who has never liked the band but it is a prime slice of symphonic power pop! 8/10

Democratus: Damnation EP (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

So the South Wales Metal 2 The Masses 2018 winners return with their second EP Damnation it's been a a while in development and since that win the band have seen some line up changes as guitarist Kerrin Beckwith has stood down being replaced by Richard Rees on guitar. The rest of the band remains the same with Zak Skane behind the kit, Stu 'Spoon' Rake on bass, Joey watkins on guitar and the South Wales motormouth himself Steve Jenkins on vocals. The EP was produced by Kerrin along with Michael Buffery (King Ibex) who also mixed and mastered the release. It's immediately clear from the opening Is This Fear that the numerous high profile support slots and tours have sculpted this EP into much heavier place than the band have ever been. Jenkins is using his harsher vocals style for much of the release, they have also added more progressive touches with this opening track changing timings a couple of times.

The same cannot be said about BTK (Bind Torture Kill) a song about serial killer Dennis Rader which will be familiar to anyone who has watched the band live, on this EP though it's far heavier with grinding riffs as Jenkins grunts over the downtuned musical backing. Next is the title track which has been out for a while but still jumps out with a clean/harsh dynamic and some noodling leads on top of Spoon and Zak's thick heavy rhythm section. The final number is the thrashier Dead Without Dying which ends the record with you seeing where the band are heading going forward, this is Democratus sounding heavier, nastier and more hungry than before. Look out for their debut album next year but for the moment this is a snapshot of the Democratus of 2019. 8/10

Saint Deamon: Ghost (Ram It Down Records) [Rich Oliver)

Saint Deamon is a name I haven’t heard in a while and it was a very pleasant surprise to hear that they had a new album out. Saint Deamon impressed power metal fans everywhere when they exploded out of Sweden with their brilliant debut album In Shadows Lost From The Brave back in 2008. Another great album followed in 2009 with Pandeamonium and then everything seemed to fall silent and I assumed the band had split. 9 years later and Saint Deamon have returned seemingly out of nowhere with their third album Ghost and they have lost none of their potency.

It is very much the melodic power metal style of the previous two albums but the band have also incorporated a massive progressive influence into their sound resulting in an album that at times is as complex and intricate as it is catchy and melodic. The songs themselves are nicely varied from the anthemic such as Captain Saint D and Higher to speedier songs such as Return Of The Deamons and Land Of Gold, the classic prog leanings of Hell Is Calling and the dark prog power of the title track.

There is a lot going on throughout this album and with a 71 minute duration and 14 songs it is a mammoth listen. With a high number of songs some do fall by the wayside and get overshadowed by the stronger songs on the album but when this album is at its strongest it is utterly fantastic. The band are firing on all cylinders and the vocals by frontman Jan Thore Grefstad fail to disappoint. With a bit of trimming here and there and a reduced album length this could be one of the top albums of the year but it falls just a bit short. Still a fantastic listen and one that should not be missed by the power metal fans out there. 8/10

Cell: Ancient Incantations Of Xarbos (708085 Records DK) [Val D'Arcy]

For the second time in as many weeks I find myself commenting on the increased dosage of Canadian metal for the world to consume. Indeed, here we are with three-piece Cell and their second album, Ancient Incantations Of Xarbos. Not entirely sure who Xarbos is and I'm not about to Google it so I can tell you, for the sake of looking knowledgeable; I have no idea. What I can tell you, is that this is a really enjoyable romp of an album. The intro sets us off on the well trodden path of screams and synthesised winds; all good intro material of course, but mildly cliche. Nevertheless a good intro, which takes us into a rather slow paced, plod of a riff that says, I'm going to be a doomy kind of album. Fortunately, as I roll my eyes and toggle the display on my Discman to see how much of this album I must endure, a drumroll breaks out and the track launches into a ferocious torrent of Blackened Thrash riffs (that's definitely more like it). The production has a somewhat gritty and primitive edge to it which suits the style well, reminiscent of the First Wave Black and Speed Metal bands of the Eighties. There's a Venom-esque tongue in cheek vibe with some of the darkness of Sarcofogo thrown in.

In fact, there's a real mix of musical styles scattered across these eight tracks ranging from the distinctly Death Metal riffs to be found in The Wailing Sea Of Emptiness and God Of The NetherRealm, to the straight up Eighties, Canadian Thrash sound of the final track, Altering Matter In The Realm Of The Frost King. Indeed the solo in the aforementioned could be right out of a Razor track. I don't want to (entirely) fall into the trap of comparing the songs to something similar, relatable, because this is sufficiently unique to do without that. That's not to say there's anything groundbreaking or new here stylistically, it's all familiar stuff when stripped back to its component parts. A bit of Black, some Melodeath, some Blackened Thrash, some Doom. What I do like about it, is that it doesn't feel like these guys have intentionally set out to create some wild concoction in an attempt to be different. I really don't get the impression that they sat up one day and said, you know what? No one's done melodic blackened doom death thrash yet, have they? It has a genuineness to its songs, like a bunch of guys jamming random tunes, rather than a pretentious attempt at a new sub genre and the end result is a lot of fun. As an album, it doesn't necessarily flow from start to finish with sufficient continuity for my liking, but enjoyable enough as individual tracks. 6/10

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