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Thursday 14 November 2019

Reviews: Jakub Zytecki, Necronomicon, Buck & Evans, Bloody Unicorn (Matt, Rich, Steve & Val)

Jakub Zytecki: Nothing Lasts, Nothing's Lost (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

There are thousands of solo guitar players around today so it's quite burgeoning genre to try and stand out in. Jakub Zytecki does this by having a very expressive soundscape that incorporates ambient electronica, funk, jazz fusion and soul on opener Somewhere Quiet all of which is driven by his mastery of his instrument managing to merge technical dexterity with an almost primal accessibility. Much like his peer and touring partner Plini, Zytecki crafts sounds that may see 'metal' fans reaching for the off button but if you have more than a passing interest in more diverse music then Nothing Lasts, Nothing's Lost will be an album to discover. That isn't to say there's nothing heavy on it as the thumping synths do their work on Creature Comfort especially which also features Meshuggah guitar legend Fredrik Thordendal who provides a trademark solo to this slab of buzzing electronica-influenced number.

He's one of two guests the other being Polish singer Paulina Przybysz who lends her voice to the surf styled Bonsai. Everything else you hear here is Zytecki, from the euphoric Spring, which features some classic Motown samples, to the soulful Light A Fire (Fight A Liar) which gives us a chance to head Zytecki's excellent vocals too. Nothing Lasts, Nothing's Lost owes as much to the current wave of guitar heroes such as Plini, Guthrie Govan or even Jon Gomm and John Mayer as it does to acts like Foals, Anna Calvi and Vampire Weekend. An interesting listen that requires headphones for full effect, Jakub Zytecki has created a record for those times when you just take any more blastbeats or aggression, laid back, (mostly) upbeat this ambient/indie/virtuoso album is a rewarding listen. 8/10

Necronomicon: Unus (Season Of Mist) [Val D'Arcy]

Keeping the recent theme of new releases from Canada going, one of the country's more long-standing metal institutions Necronomicon present their latest studio album, Unus. Historically they've been more of a straight up Death/Blackened Death Metal band. In the last five or six years they've leant more of the symphonic elements which are prevalent here. In many ways this album continues on the path Advent Of The Human God set them on in 2016, maybe taking it a step too far in my opinion. The first track, From Ashes Into The Flesh starts with a synthesised intro, which leads into a spoken word passage that (when combined) screams Dimmu Borgir. Indeed, it doesn't stop here, frequent moments of choral backing, and the lead vocal effects over the spoken passages are equally reminiscent of the aforementioned Norwegian band's modern day sound. On top of this, Unus has a production quality unlike any of its predecessors. The overtly punctuated and defined sound to the drums was a trademark of Dimmu Borgir's 2001 album Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia and on top of everything else it does contribute to something of a copy-cat sound. That said, the clean production is a welcome development from the almost unbearable finish on their 2010 album Return Of The Witch.

Symphonic elements are stripped back for first two minutes of Infinitum Continuum to a more traditional form of Blackened Death metal, after a brief respite it kicks back in again, there's even a single handed synthesised piano to be heard in the background. The guitar solo at the end of this track is quite glorious and the way it rides over the melodic background riff is really pleasing. I should stress that if you ignore the (unfortunately unavoidable) parallels and similarities with that Norwegian Band, the musicianship, melodies and general sound of this album is first class. Once more as we enter the third track, Paradise Lost we're treated to a cleaner Blackened Death Riff and ear-splittingly fast blast beat (what is this, like, 320bpm? Not sure.. I can't count that fast, but its speedy!) before settling into a more old-school Death Metal chug of riff. Despite the furious start this is one of the more reserved and guitar led melodic songs, there's less of a dependency on synths and backing, quite enjoyable. Following a fairly short, synthesised interlude Singularis Dominus presents a track that is broadly, more of the same but a solid piece.

Ten Thousand Masks which follows takes something of a Middle Eastern detour that leaves you feeling like you may have briefly slipped in and out of a Septicflesh song. If I can get over how much this album sounds like other bands (bands I really like!) then it's really not bad at all. The production is spotless, the songs are catchy, full of hooks and the instrumentals are all world class. But it is very hard to see (or hear) past the similarities with certain contemporary artists. Artists who, were doing all this stuff long before this album came along. Originality pulls this score down, on what is otherwise a really well executed recording. 6/10

Buck & Evans: Write A Better Day (Cargo Records) [Steve Haines]

Though this is a debut album in 2019, it could quite easily have been a ‘found album’ in an archive from the 1970s. With a very bluesy sensibility driven by Chris Buck’s excellent guitar work and Sally Ann Evans’ vocals sounding like Joss Stone with a bit of extra rock oomph, they have created a very strong debut album. Opening track Slow Train is a banger. A belter. A tour de force. Unfortunately, the rest of the album does not match the standard this sets – not that the rest of the album is crap by any means, just not as good as the opening track. While some tracks feel like fillers between stronger songs like Trail Of Tears, Sunrise and Fix You, there is still an infectious and chilled ambience that creates a cohesiveness that unites all the tracks as a body of work and this is rare to find. There are very strong elements here.

The guitar work in the outro to Sinking and the almost disco-esque feel to Ain’t No Moonlight elevate the rest of the album but in opening the album with their best track, they almost set the rest of the album up to fail as it never reaches the heights of Slow Train. There is more than enough here from the Cardiff-based band to suggest that they have a strong future in music and their style makes them a shoo in to be included on Radio 2 playlists if they continue at this level. My complaint, if you can call it that, is purely in the arrangement of the tracks on the album. I would perhaps have scored it a little higher if the standout track was later in the album because the songs all hang together really well in terms of vibe and general ambience and you don’t often find this with albums these days. It is a strong debut and it has a chilled feel that can really carry you like a wave but, as I say, it peaks far too soon. 7/10

Bloody Unicorn: Of Monsters Under The Bed EP (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

Of Monsters Under The Bed is the debut EP from Italian melodic death metal band Bloody Unicorn. Previously known as Azra’il the band split and some of the members came back together to form Bloody Unicorn. This short EP is a release that shows plenty of promise from an up and coming band but there are areas that also need some improving. As well as a vicious melodic death metal style the band incorporate a symphonic metal influence with a use of keyboards which give the songs a dark and epic atmosphere. The band are seamlessly able to fuse the two styles together though you have some songs such as Crushing Down and Faith which lean to be bands more savage side whilst Running Out Of Time has a more epic gothic atmosphere to it. Frontwoman Irene “Eva” Scapin has a ferocious death metal growl on her but her clean vocals really need improving either being flat or completely out of tune. These need to be either worked on or ditched altogether. Of Monsters Under The Bed is a promising EP definitely showing the bands potential and with some improving and tightening of the bands sound that potential could definitely be realised. 7/10

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