Monday 16 March 2020

Reviews: Code Orange, The Unity, Benevolent Like Quietus, David Reece (Matt & Simon)

Code Orange: Underneath (Roadrunner Records) [Matt Bladen]

Ok I level with you before I review this album. I don't get Code Orange, having seen them support a few times they are one of the most boring bands I've ever seen live. Their use of explosive loudness and deathly quiet gets old very quickly and despite all of the hype (and I mean HYPE) that surrounds them, their previous records and live showings have done nothing to change my opinion of them. However I'm nothing if not fair so I pressed play on the Pittsburgh natives fourth album, which I may add has had 'universal acclaim' reaching a 92/100 rating on aggregator Metacritic! Maybe my opinion isn't needed? However I'm going to give it anyway.

What starts after the creepy cinematic intro is a jittering style of extremely modern metal, it's been called 'molten' by other publications and I get that as it's somewhere between aggressive hardcore punk, dreamy shoegaze and crushing djent, with lots of jump cuts between everything wrapped up in the industrial style of splicing samples throughout. This means the album has a definite flow to it, the aggression and fury of the music matching the raw vocals which means that when the dreamy voices float in or they move into the more melodic territories these songs really stand out. Who I Am is a cracking song with a real NIN sense of melody to it, The Easy Way getting the full electronic soundscapes, sing along chorus and soaring guitar lines, while I can see why Sulfur Surrounding was the first single as it's clearly the song with the broadest appeal.

I can't deny the ambition of the record it's doing something quite unique musically borrowing from everywhere but making a genre all of their own. However there's a too much flitting between songs for anything to land properly for me and at 14 songs a bit of trimming is required. There hasn't been this level of hype over a band since Slipknot made their presence known with their first two albums, it's taken a bit longer for Code Orange but there is no denying that Underneath is probably a seismic shift on the metal landscape however, like with Slipknot, I'm in the minority that doesn't believe the hyperbole. For me this a well executed record but one that doesn't change my mind. 6/10 

The Unity: Pride (Steamhammer) [Simon Black]

The Unity allegedly came about from a backstage conversation between two members of Gamma Ray (Drummer Michael Ehré and guitarist Henjo Richter), who felt the need to try something different and forged this little super group, which I guess keeps them busy whilst Kai Hansen is off doing things with pumpkins. The Unity are on album number three with Pride, and for an album forged from the roots of the Euro Power Metal scene, it is as you will expect a tight affair, full of catchy melodies, anthemic choruses and the obligatory power metal vocal harmonic tropes.

It's a record with plenty of variety, as with a pedigree of contributing musicians like this, there’s plenty of contributors to the song-writing, so you get fast pile-driving double bass drum led tracks like Damn Nation (which also has the kind of guitar/keys tennis play you expect from the more symphonic end of the genre) alternating with more AOR led songs like Destination Unknown. Single We Don’t Need Them Here shows a band not afraid to challenge the rising attitude of intolerance towards immigration, currently staining a population near you and it’s refreshing to hear bands tackle this kind of material, and it’s not alone on the album in that. It makes a pleasant change from the usual swords, sorcery, demons, mythology, and everything else that Dio inadvertently set loose in the early 70’s. It’s also an album that paces itself, with some of the better tracks being saved to the end – thunderer Scenery of Hate is worth waiting for, but the left-field Rusty Cadillac feels like early Van Halen thrown in a blender with the Satch Boogie from Surfing With The Alien.

It’s a consistently solid and well produced album, but I’m struggling to find a stand out song to act as a hook for the punters – you need an ‘everyman’, and this disk doesn’t have one. What it does have is solid performances, and I’m particularly fond of Gianba Manenti’s vocal performance – he has a good range, with enough gentle growl mixed with the clean notes to stop this being average. 8/10

Benevolent Like Quietus: Kill The Bliss (693107 Records DK) [Matt Bladen]

For those that thought Gothic rock died with Peter Steele then you'd be dead bloody (kisses) wrong. Canadians Benevolent Like Quietus were born in the cold and gloom of Calgary, Alberta and their music reflects that, what you get here is 11 songs of driving Gothic heavy rock that is heavily influenced by Type O Negative, Sentenced and Katatonia, with nods to Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission. The band is made up of Ty Frederick (Guitar), Ryan Spencer (Drums), Daniel Louden (Vocals), Killian Murphy (Bass), Matt Springer (Guitar) with the rhythm section driving rumbling numbers like The Great Divide as the dual guitars riff away while also adding some flavour to songs such as The Rise And The Fall. Every number features the sonorous, deep vocals that occasionally veer into growls, (think early Katatonia).

Kill The Bliss is their debut record written by mainly by Ryan and Daniel before the band work the songs through, peppering the at time bouncy music with melancholic lyrics, there's even a great cover of Tears For Fears Mad World where they make it a bit more muscular with a Machine Head-like breakdown. After the cover the record actually gains more of an epic quality as Where Dead Hearts Reside has the fist pumping anthemic quality of Sentenced (who are still one of my favourite bands). I wasn't sure how to approach this record before listened to it as Goth rock can be a little hit or miss, however Kill The Bliss is a great record from a band who are making the genre their own, while basing it on that of the originators. 8/10

David Reece: Cacophony Of Souls (El Puerto Records) [Simon Black]

This piece is the latest solo album of erstwhile Accept/Bonfire/Banaglore Choir (et al) lungsman David Reece. He’s not an artist I was particularly familiar with, and so I was quite curious, given that he’s been around the block a lot, been in a lot of bands but somehow not managed to become a globally known name. Yet. This outing sees 12 tracks of solid Euro Metal to wrap round yer ear’oles. It’s solidly written and I can’t find a track on here that’s weak. Kicking off with the Skid Row-esque Chasing The Shadows, this track sets a great driving tempo for an album that throughout shows tight song-writing, solid guitar work from former U.D.O. axe man Andy Susemihl and a solid vocal performance from Reece himself, who can still clearly hit the notes when he needs to. Collective Anesthesia is a solid rocker, showing that he can vary the pace and still keep your attention.

Lyrically it gets into slightly dodgy territory with Metal Voice, but I will forgive him for that as this was apparently a commission for a US Radio stations, but in terms of playing and pace it’s a real head-nodder, and clearly deserves to be a centrepiece of any live set … assuming any bands are actually able to get out and tour this year…A notable track is A Perfect World, tucked near the back of an album that’s worth listening to in its entirety, which sets a more moody tone but sees his best vocal performance on the album, and is the sort of song that rock star careers were forged on a few decades ago. That said, don’t write off the title track – it’s proper anthemic stuff and shows Reece taking some different vocal approaches and bravely throwing in some more almost spoken lines in a song with a full on melo-rock hand waving chorus. There’s some strong production values on this album too, and I really hope this gets some attention, as it absolutely deserves it. 9/10

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