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Thursday 30 April 2020

Reviews: From Eden To Exile, Witchcraft, Baleful Creed, Smogg (Paul H & Matt)

From Eden To Exile: Age Of Fire (Attic Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Three years after their debut album Modern Disdain, From Eden To Exile are back with their new EP, Age of Fire. A brutal blend of metalcore, death metal and thrash all rolled into one vicious slab of extremity, the EP’s theme focuses on a not-so-distant desolate future exploited by corrupt leaders and our over-reliance on ever-advancing technology. Having experienced a number of line-up changes since Modern Disdain, including the departure of vocalist Matt Dyne and drummer Liam Turland (who extreme metal fans will note is now the powerhouse engine with MoM favourites Krysthla), as well as a change of position for bassist Joey Jaycock and guitarist Mike Bell who swapped places to finalise things. Having all the pieces in place has obviously helped the band because this is one face melting EP. Kicking off in brutal style with the title track, new singer Tom Franklin strains every sinew as he rages over the explosive onslaught that is unleashed. Incredibly tight, the song contains some precision time changes and on point aggression.

The production is unsurprisingly superb, undertaken by Neil Hudson of Initiate Audio and Media, who has allowed each instrument to blend into a swirling maelstrom of metal. The following four tracks maintain the quality of the opening song. Face Of Desolation pounds like an enraged streetfighter, Jake Patrick’s military driven drumming anchoring everything in place whilst the razor-edged guitar work of Kelland and Joey Jaycock is clinically sharp. The Great Disconnect continues the intensity, powerful riffs and Franklin’s ungodly roar dominant as the message continues. Ample breakdowns will please the metalcore devotees, whilst the sheer power and aggression of the band on songs such as the crushing, sludgy Inhuman will appeal to those whose tastes leans to the heavier style. Closing track Conspire adds in some fiery thrash, but also some clean vocals, and proves to be the most thought provoking track on the EP. Should we ever get back to the live event this one is sure to provoke absolute carnage. It’s clearly been a challenge for From Eden To Exile to get back on the level after their debut but with an offering of such brutality and technicality, this is a band that is rejuvenated and ready to unleash at the first opportunity. 8/10

Witchcraft: Black Metal (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Despite it being called Black Metal, you won't find any tremolo picking, raw satanic vocals or blast beats on the new album from Witchcraft. No it seems the Swedish band led by Magnus Pelander have moved away from the retro heavy rock sound and embraced the fireside folkisms of Roky Erickson, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and bands such as Hexvessel. Magnus' sonorous voice and plantative finger plucked guitar playing makes Sad People really resonate with the maudlin playing of Tom Waits. It's certainly a different direction from what many will expect from Witchcraft as it's about as far away from occult heavy rock as you can be, stripped of all the distortion there is still a lot of weight. Still unless you're a massive fan of acoustic troubadours then you'll love this, but anyone who wants psych hard rock or indeed Black Metal may want to find something else. 5/10

Baleful Creed: The Lowdown (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Ballsy Norn Iron rockers Baleful Creed return with another album of swaggering stoner rock riffage. Formed in 2009 The Lowdown is their third full length and like with their previous two albums they bring a mix of his Gothness Danzig, the originators Black Sabbath, Americans Fireball Ministry (especially vocally) with an album full of massive punchy riffs, whiskey soaked vocals and melodic hooks galore. On this third record though they make it their most diverse yest adding some desert rock wooziness on the grungy Tramalamapam, which features some cosmic lead bass from Davy Greer, this trip continues on the throbbing One Shot.

They get some some raging punk fury on Riled Up, while Confused brings some big organs dialling up the blues Brit band Pig Iron. It's that stoner/proto-metal sound that Baleful Creed do best though, the twin axes of John Allen and Fin Finlay getting the head nodding with rockers such as Southgate Of Heaven which features drummer Dave Jeffers on the ol' blues harp but also leading the massive ballad End Game. Now I've listened to all of Baleful Creed's albums and while this is probably their most eclectic I'd also say that it's probably their weakest unfortunately, it will appeal to the Planet Rock crowd but to me it sounds like they've lost their fangs a little. 6/10

Smogg: Porblem (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Another solo metal project drops into the box for review. Fuck. I hate these basement/bedrooms produced releases. But okay, I gave it a go. Smogg is a solo metal project by Andrew Kirkpatrick, a “lowly metalhead” dwelling in North Manchester, England. Apparently, he doesn’t play well with others so decided to go it alone. If you ask me, it’s time to get out a bit more, grow a pair and meet some real people. The production is dreadful, muffled and of lo-fi value. The opening two songs are okay, with competent playing and programming and some decent if unadventurous compositions which straddle black and death metal and the odd dip into grindcore. It doesn’t improve in anyway though. The track Devillish is a horrible, no redeeming features and a ghastly drum sound breaking through the inaudible guitar sound. The satirical piece about the legendary Star Trek Commander, Picaaard is little better and I’m afraid it is downhill at pace from here.

Quintessential Disorder is the longest song on the album at 5:46 and opens with an atmospheric intro before descending into a ragged shamble, a blur of synths, crashing percussion and dreadful vocals. By now I was already tired of listening to it and after the topical Self Isolation I skipped to the Extinction Rebellion irritant How Dare You! This apparently gained some attention due to the use of Greta Thunberg’s line. It’s rubbish and I’m sure those concerned with the climate emergency laughed it off in the same way I did. Album closer Nuclear Fury is the best track on the album as it means that there are no more to listen to. Kirkpatrick clearly has issues. There’s a lot of irrational misanthropic anger poured into Porblem. Unfortunately, it is not at all good and whilst I have every respect for those making music, this is time I’ll never get back. 2/10

Reviews: Havok, Ante-Inferno, 1000mods, An Autumn For Crippled Children (Rich & Matt)

Havok: V (Century Media Records) [Rich Oliver]

As we delve deeper into 2020 the thrash keeps on coming with the fifth album from Colorado new wave thrashers Havok, the aptly titled V. Havok were born out of the modern day thrash revival and have a very strong and consistent back catalogue. I know some fans were disappointed with previous album Conformicide due to its more experimental nature but Havok fans rest assured that V certainly won’t disappoint. V is just over 45 minutes of seething thrash fuelled by political and social commentary about the current state of our society. After a short intro (which is very reminiscent of Blackened by Metallica) the doors are blown off in a thrashing rage as Post-Truth Era gets the album off to a flying start. The album is nicely varied throughout with Fear Campaign having a bit of a classic speed metal feel to it with a belting opening riff. Betrayed By Technology and Ritual Of The Mind stomp and stamp all over your face whilst Cosmetic Surgery and Panpsychism are more technically minded with some shifting time signatures and song structures and tight musicianship and Phantom Force and Merchants Of Death are absolute raging thrashers.

 The closing song and longest on the album Don’t Do It is an ever shifting beast being far more melodic with the inclusion of clean vocals after which it drops into some super fast and aggressive thrash before shifting to a calming acoustic outro. The band themselves are on absolutely furious form. The lead guitar playing from Reece Scruggs is slick and flash without being overbearing, the nicey audible bass from newcomer Brandon Bruce is the backbone which holds everything together, the drumming from Peter Webber is as tight as ever whilst the vocals by David Sanchez are indignant with fury and crackling with rage. V is an absolutely stellar release from Havok. The second half of the album is far superior to the first half which has just a few too many songs with a similar style and pace which drags the stride of the album down a bit. It does mean that when the thrashing fury of Phantom Force kicks in though it is all the more effective for it. My criticisms of V are only very minor as it is a kick ass album of thrashing goodness with riffs for days and bags of attitude. 2020 may be a shit year in general but it is proving to be a stellar year for thrash with fantastic albums from Bonded, Annihilator, Assassin, Testament, Warbringer and now Havok. Let’s hope this trend continues for the rest of the year. 9/10

Ante-Inferno: Fane (UKEM Records) [Matt Bladen]

"The Fane is a house of secrets, a house of stories, a vault of the treasured knowledge that mankind has forgotten – the eternal centre of what was and will forever be." With these bewitching words we are drawn into Fane the debut album of Ante-Inferno a frostbitten foursome from the Yorkshire moors. Categorized as Epic English Black metal, if you can hear the glacial technicality of Winterfylleth on Fane then you'll at least know that Ante-Inferno are taking influence from the best. It is 7 tracks of ferocious, glacial black metal, the band casting their runes into the raging winds, to appease the old gods. Opening the album properly is the 9 minute Oath begins frenzied and feels like the band have been unleashed, before it slows for a section that is a little more deliberate, yet as incensed as it is in the first part.

It's a cinematic start but songs like Passing and Return are shorter blistering stabs of black metal, ripping flesh from bone. The latter segues into some ambience towards the end, this continues on the haunting interlude Absence, this allows you to re-centre yourself before Worship explodes once again in a flurry of ankle snapping blast beats. There's a lot of myth and mystery surrounding this album at times it's full of chilling moodiness but it also knows when to go for the attack. This isn't any of your symphonic floaty stuff, Ante-Inferno ply their trade in the more underground realms of the black metal sphere, nasty and visceral Fane ticks a lot of boxes for the cvlt hordes. 7/10

1000mods: Youth Of Dissent (Ouga Booga And The Mighty Oug Recordings)

1000mods are Greece's largest (read: most popular/successful) heavy rock band having built a following over the course of their previous three full lengths and three EP's, on the back of their last album Repeated To Exposure (2017) they toured a total of 42 live dates in 15 European countries, including festivals such as Up In Smoke, Desertfest and Keep It Low. This is their fourth full length record the release timed to coincide with both the London and Berlin Desertfest's this year however this has now been cancelled but instead of delaying the release they have forged ahead with it, not to disappoint their fans and followers. Youth Of Dissent was produced by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Botch and many more), so he's a man who knows about fuzzy, stoner, grungy rock.

Which is a the kind of thing you get from 1000mods, they play a mature melodic style of music that is somewhere between the desert rock of Kyuss and the grunge of Pearl Jam, with a vintage ethos in terms of songwriting and instrumentation. This last influence comes is very apt considering Youth Of Dissent was recorded at both Litho Studio (owned by Stone Gossard) and London Bridge Studio, where Pearl Jam's Ten was recorded. So to the album and it opens with the crunchy Lucid full of grunge riffing it bleeds into So Many Days which is a grooving desert rocker, full of panoramic guitars and trippy rhythms. Having retained a stable line up for most of their career they are able to kick out the jams on numbers like Warped where Labros' drumming is spacious when paired with the furrowed bass of Dani.

He also leads the trippy Dear Herculine with his instrument and his heavily treated vocals, this is really heavy number that gets the head bobbing, Less Is More has big riffs from Giannis and Giorgos as Dani's vocals evolve into some Chris Cornell soul for a Soundgarden-like rocker as Pearl really cranks up the riffs. Youth Of Dissent is very much the album that 1000mods have been working towards over the course of their career, it's their most polished, impressive record yet and very much secures 1000mods as one of the premier European rock bands. 8/10

An Autumn For Crippled Children: All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet (Prosthetic Records) [Rich Oliver

All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet is the new album by Dutch blackgaze band An Autumn For Crippled Children. Not a band I have ever heard of before but from what I have read they are a three piece band who formed in 2010 and perform under assumed names with their identities unknown and have refused to play live. Since their formation they have released a number of albums and EP’s with something released every year and All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet is the eighth full length album from the band and their label debut for Prosthetic Records. I have never heard An Autumn For Crippled Children before so cannot compare this to any of their previous material but what I hear on All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet are the typical tropes of blackgaze but with far less emphasis on the black and a concentration of the gaze. There are a variety of sounds mixed together here from post-punk, gothic rock, synthwave and shoegaze all mixed with the aesthetics of black metal but rarely diving headfirst into pure blackened territory. 

 The harsh vocals, some of the riffs and certain drumming styles evoke black metal but this album instead explores other musical avenues and as such have a more unique sound that a lot of other blackgaze bands. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by the band and it does have a very different mix with fuzzy guitars, thin drums and buried vocals and an emphasis on the bass and keyboards but it works with the material provided. An Autumn For Crippled Children play sad and forlorn songs but in a more up-tempo style than their counterparts from the post-punk stylings of Water’s Edge, the sublime melodies of Everlasting, the emotional drive of Silver and the blackened edge of Craving Silence which is the song with the most black metal qualities on the album. With its unusual mix, alternative style and unique sound All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet is an attention grabbing album. It is a bit repetitive and there are bands who do the blackgaze sound in a style I prefer but this is still an enjoyable album. 7/10

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Reviews: Desert Storm, Make Them Die Slowly, Graveyard Disciple, Dali (Matt, Rich, Simon & Alex)

Desert Storm: Omens (APF Records) [Matt Bladen]

Since 2007 Oxford sludge merchants have been digging canyons with their riffs over the course of four albums and numerous tours with Karma To Burn, Nashville Pussy, as well as support slots to the likes of Orange Goblin, Red Fang, Crowbar and Mondo Generator, they have established themselves as one of the UK's chief purveyors of proggy sludge metal. Coming off the back of their heaviest effort yet Sentinels in 2018, they have taken a slightly different approach with Omens, they still have the crunching heaviness on The Machine with pulverizing foundation from Chris Benoist (bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) it's sludge metal 101 followed by the groovy Lockjaw taking the two heaviest songs on the album.

Elsewhere though Desert Storm have embraced more melodic strains, this album has a conceptual tone to it vocalist Matthew Ryan taking the role as sage narrator as well as brawny screamer, carrying the lyrical weight of this album by himself he weaves the tales here as guitars come from Ryan Cole and Chris White, who also handles bass and keys too. The more melodic tones on Omens means that Black Bile has some gurgling organs, The Path Of Most Resistance starts out with acoustic playing before the song itself moves into almost hard rock realms. Although it's closing ballad Rebirth which is a haunting acoustic track rich in Americana. It's not to say that the band have mellowed, they still play grooving heavy metal but with a few more proggy moments on songs like Pain, Grief And Suffering that really segregates them from other sludge bands out there. Omens is Desert Storm evolving out of the primordial ooze into a more multi-faceted unit. 8/10

Make Them Die Slowly: Ferox (FETO Records) [Rich Oliver]

Ferox is the debut album from Make Them Die Slowly. They are named after the Italian cannibal exploitation horror movie from 1981 with Make Them Die Slowly being the US release title whilst the European title was Cannibal Ferox which is the namesake of the album itself. Trying to find out anything about this elusive band was extremely difficult but upon listening to Ferox I thought that it sounded a lot like Anaal Nathrakh and Fukpig and as it turns out Make Them Die Slowly are made up of anonymous members of both bands (I’ll leave you to figure out which members). Being named after a horror movie the themes on Ferox are very much centred around old school horror movies and the so-called ‘video nasties’ of the 1980’s. The album opens with the intro Profonde Tenebre which is an atmospheric piece full of samples about video censorship and classification.

This kicks straight into Murder Night which sets the tone for the rest of the album being a vicious piece of melodic black metal with hints of death metal. The music on the album is very reminiscent of Anaal Nathrakh being a less apocalyptic and more melodic take on the sound. The album is a ferocious mix of blackened tremolo riffs, death metal chugs, atmospheric synths and depraved throat shredding vocals. Ferox is an enjoyable album though it does come across as a less hideous version of Anaal Nathrakh and lacks the terror and dread of the parent band. Regardless Of This Ferox is still a very solid album with some savage tunes such as Pieces, The Bastards Have Landed and Eaten Alive. An enjoyable horror themed cocktail of black and death metal. 8/10

Graveyard Disciples: Devil’s Night (Self Released) [Simon Black]

This is the debut album for this Canadian Hard Rock/Metal outfit. Like many new acts taking the DIY approach they suffer from a lack of biographical information to make the publicity machine work (if you Google them, you generally get links to a bunch of North American Metal fan club chapters!), but I can tell from their Facebook page that they hail from the French Speaking Quebec. Although the formal release has been delayed due to the Covid-19 situation, they have made the decision to make the material available through YouTube. I’m not sure this will help. I know many acts still think that selling physical disks at gigs keeps the machine oiled, but in this unusual day and age you need to be across as many platforms as you can and hammering the publicity machine, so chaps please run not walk to a web platform near you. (This maybe because the band spilt in early 2020 before the release of this record - Ed)

The sound mix is pretty solid. I can hear what each of the instruments are trying to do, and there’s a nice vocal performance throughout, although I get a sense that singer J.F. Crow is holding back a bit on record and if he really let go could push some of the less successful songs on here to a new level. Dark River is a great track, and definitely the stand out song on the album – a solid traditional rocker with a catchy riff and chorus, plus a guitar sound reminiscent of Greg Macintosh when Paradise Lost are on form. Only Lovers Are Left Alive is another track with a good solid riff structure that I found myself coming back to, and it’s worth calling out If It’s Over, which is a brave attempt to do something unusual, with its haunting keyboard only instrumentals and moody vocals. In summary, there’s an eclectic mixture of stuff on here and in essence when the music’s good, it’s very very good, but when it’s not it’s a bit average. 6/10
Dali: Volume 1 (Self Released) [Alex Swift]

Sometimes you know if an act is going to bring a new quality to their genre from the opening notes. The new EP from Dali is one such example. Beginning on a mystical chant, and Celtic refrain, Borrowed Time grabs the opportunity to develop into something huge – the rhythmic elements eloquently underpinning the sense of anticipation, with the guitars exuding massive grooves. Across its three minute runtime, the piece alters from slow to fast, menacing to tranquil – and if you’ve ever raid any of my reviews you’ll know that I’m a sucker for the unexpected. Close is a cathartic and stimulating anthem about toxic relations – once more the instrumentation is incredibly taut, yet not rigid in a way which may sacrifice the emotion on display. Instead, these musicians draw the listener in and compel them to dance to mosh, to scream to do anything that compliments the feverish tone.

Wasteland is a drowsy and serene Indy tune – there’s a lot less sheer vigour at play, yet the playing maintains its diverse and expressive feel, while the lyricism retains its tendency to paint a detailed and realistic picture, even of something as humble as an empty room. By contrast, You’re Not The One is a primitive and relentless closer which leaves the listener in a state of excitement for Dali’s future work. Indeed, the only criticism I can level at Volume 1 is that there's not enough music here to fully satisfy my quenching for this kind of emotive alternative (How I love when that’s my only criticism). One final word, I recall seeing the band name on gig posters and event line ups, yet for one reason or another have never actually been at any of them. I can promise that when gigs happen again, I won't be so complacent towards seeing them live. 8/10

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Reviews: Vader, Ulcerate, Mantric, Dead Lakes (Paul H & Matt)

Vader: Solitude In Madness (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Hutchings]

Opening with the pulverising Shock And Awe, an absolute barrage of drums and violent riffing greets the listener. This is Vader, the Poles announcing their return with a quite brutal level of intensity. It’s explosive, ferocious and sets the pace for the 11 tracks that whiz by like a surface to air missile in a mere 29 minutes. Yes, this is similar in length to Reign In Blood but exactly like that classic album, the quality means that there is no need to extend or over complicate. Into Oblivion follows the opening song and maintains the crushing pace, shredding guitars soar whilst the bludgeoning drumming of James Stewart is as astonishing as ever, the standards he sets maintained yet again.

With the longest song on the album clocking in at 3:56 (Bones), this is not an album with which to settle in for the long haul. Indeed, you’d hardly have finished your beer before Solitude Of Madness finishes. The battery of demonic driving death thrash continues with the 1:18 Despair, a punk fuelled blistering assault. There is no room for anything other than steaming hot metal here with the band on stunning form. Check out the full-frontal battering of And Satan Wept, the devastating charge of Incineration Of The Gods and the groove laden thrash of Emptiness. Not only have Vader roared back into sight with a quite astonishingly heavy release which is instant and addictive, but this is a welcome reminder and demonstration if it were needed at just how tight this band are.

Vader have been together for the best part of a decade and it shows. The lead work of Piotr Wiwczarek is razor sharp, his vocals welcomingly gruff. This is a man who has been plying his trade since 1983, some 37 years and his experience and drive shows no cracks. Behind Wiwczarek, the engine room of Marek Spider Pajakh’s chunky rhythm guitar riffs interlink with the cascade from Stewart and the pounding bass lines of Tomasz ‘Hal’ Halichi. Four years since The Empire, Vader remain brilliantly vicious, aggressive and as fresh as ever. 9/10

Ulcerate: Stare Into Death And Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions) [Matt Bladen]

Kiwi band Ulcerate are brutal, bloody brutal, a raging torrent of atmospheres, technically impressive death metal riffs that shift seemingly at random but always seem to be coherent. Stare Into Death And Be Still is the band's sixth record and it seems like they haven't chilled out at all since their last album in 2016 the three piece (yes three piece) are still an uncompromising sonic force. Ulcerate's sound is driven by Jamie Saint Merat, who is not only one of the most destructive drummer I've heard this year, he is not only frighteningly mechanical with his blastbeats but he also plays a major role in composing, recording, producing, and mixing the music too as well creating the artwork, an invaluable contribution but he's not the only member of the band though.

Michael Hoggard plays complex riffs and provides the six string dissonance built around his unorthodox chord progressions and instrumental dexterity that juxtaposes the scary drumming with claustrophobic riffs. This just leaves the bottom end of Paul Kelland who growls like a demon and provides the bass rhythms for tracks such as Inversion to hinge on. Ulcerate are about as far from the mainstream as you can get the entire album is based on the concept of “death reverence” which basically translates as “in the silent horror of observing death calmly and cleanly” high brow and unapologetically cerebral, they carve their own niche into the well worn metal sphere with an abrasive sound that is somewhere between Godflesh/Immolation styles death metal, nihilistic death metal and the emotional doom of Warning. It's a hard listen for sure and if ferociously scientific death metal is up your alleyway then this will be an album of the year, though I urge any fan of extreme metal to seek out this distinctive album. 7/10

Mantric: False Negative (Tooth & Nail/Solid State) [Matt Bladen]

Mantric are a Norwegian progressive band who are aimed at fans of "Vola, Leprous, Voyager, Caligula's Horse and Between The Buried And Me" apparently. Well I tell you dear reader that the Leprous, Voyager and BTBAM influences are the ones that are nearest. This record is full of their newly found love of synths which are put to great use on the kooky Blame The Beggar and clean vocals are on every track, along with chunky riffs that are still in place from previous releases. This heaviness comes from vocalist/guitarist Ole Sveen, guitarist/vocalist Tor Glidje and bassist/vocalist John Mjåland all being part of Extol and it shows on The Towering Mountain which has post-punk aggression full of angry vocals and crunchy riffs. As much as I try to classify this album as one thing or another (as we reviewers are prone to do) it's very difficult with False Negative as there is a lot going on here across the 10 tracks with moments of ambient soundscapes, meeting crushing Deftones-like metal on Darling Demon, as the laid back Every Day Is Independence Day is almost wistful. If I'm honest I found it difficult to get my head around this record, but I feel the same way about BTBAM, it's musically dense, brimming with virtuosity but never really grabs me as I thought it would. I appreciate it but I'm not sure if I like it. 6/10

Dead Lakes: New Language (Sharptone) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s no secret that I struggle with the kind of post hardcore that Seattle outfit Dead Lakes play. I’ve got a limited benchmark to work against and as a result it all blends into one. This five track EP is their first on new label Sharptone and it would be reasonable to acknowledge that the band cover a wide range of genres. In fact, metal would be one of the few that the band rarely touch. Every track is wracked with heartfelt emotions, the despair and agony of broken relationships and challenging circumstances, the type of subject matter which appears to be the staple of bands in this genre. It’s neatly produced, full of atmosphere and Dead Lakes are clearly solid musicians. The irony is that there are about as metal as Britney Spears. It’s desperately limp. The tracks here have the pop sensibility that Bring Me the Horizon have morphed into, screamo with melody and underlying angst. Songs such as Paradise and SMS Happiness are routine, but I would imagine that this EP is likely to appeal greatly to fans of the genre as it ticks all the boxes. I’ve listened to it three times. That was enough. 5/10

Monday 27 April 2020

Reviews: Unmerciful, Abduction, Nocturnal Curse, Before Sunday (Paul S, Rich, Paul & Alex)

Unmerciful: Wrath Encompassed (Willowtip Records) [Paul Scoble]

Unmerciful are a Kansas based band featuring Clinton Appelhanz on Guitars and Vocals, Jeremy Turner on Bass and Vocals, Trynt Kelly on Drums, Justin Payne on Guitars and Vocals and Joshua Riley on Vocals. The band have been making horrifically nasty music since 2001; the band took a brief break between 2002 and 2004, but have been constantly active since 2004. In that time the band have produced 2 album 2006’s Unmercifully Beaten, and Ruinous Impulse in 2016. The band play a very aggressive, ultra-brutal style of Death Metal that is similar in style and brutality to Hate Eternal, Dying Fetus, Nile but most of all like Origin. The similarity to Origin isn’t a coincidence, Unmerciful feature 2 ex-members of Origin. The bands sound is very fast and brutal, they do also do slow, but they have that slow tempo, but fast BPM style that a lot of modern Death Metal bands use.

This can be seen on the tracks Carnage Unleashed which mixes this slow style with some very nice, tuneful fast riffs, and on Oblivious Descent where the slow and heavy is mixed with some fast and flowing riffs that have a nice level of complexity to them. The album is packed full of fast, complex riffs; opening track The Incineration is full of fantastic, dense riffs that batter the audience, the drumming is spectacularly fast and intricate, and the bass work thunders and rumbles and adds massive amounts of power to the sound. The track Blazing Hatred has that same complexity but then adds some very interesting rhythmic ideas, with an aggressive staccato style. I should also add that this is a brilliantly produced album, the mix is exactly right, and the individual instruments sound huge, in particular the guitar sound is so good, really thick and powerful, this is also apparent in the great guitar solos that this album has in abundance.

The result of this is a Death Metal album that feels big enough to kick the crap out of King Kong’s big brother, and then stare down Godzilla. Wrath Encompassed is a cracking Death Metal, it feels fresh and modern, whilst at the same time being brutal, viscous and extreme. It is very well written and performed, and as I said earlier fantastically produced. If you have any interest in Death Metal then this is an essential album, if you have only a vague knowledge of Death Metal, then still give it a go, this is the kind of album that will convert people to this genre. Highly recommended. 8/10

Abduction: Killer Holidays On Planet Earth (Impeto Records) [Rich Oliver]

Killer Holidays On Planet Earth is the new album from Italian thrash metal band Abduction are a thrash metal band from Italy and is the second album from the band. Initially formed as a solo project by frontman Elvio Corona (no relation to the virus) who performed all instruments on the initial demo, it is now a fully fledged band with Stefano Olivia on bass and Matteo Defraia on drums. Abduction are very much in the Municipal Waste school of thrash being far more of a crossover thrash band than a pure thrash band.

 It definitely sits in the silly school of thrash with the lyrical content being far from serious with songs about songs such as Uranus AttacksFart ClubIf You Don’t Like Star Wars We Can’t Be Friends and The Baloff Zone which pays homage to the sadly deceased former Exodus frontman and his death to posers attitude. The music on Killer Holidays On Planet Earth is what you would expect. It is fast, frantic and fun. The songs are short, sharp and silly and get straight to the point. The band are a very tight unit and the unhinged shrieking vocals of Elvio suit the tone of the music perfectly. This is a perfectly enjoyable piece of ‘party thrash’ and fans of Municipal Waste should lap it up though it does lack its own real identity. A solid and fun album if you love your crossover but not an essential listen otherwise. 7/10

Nocturnal Curse: Empyrean (1845314 Records DK2) [Paul Hutchings]

Albuquerque, New Mexico is not a known hot bed of metal and it is unlikely to change much despite the arrival of this decent but average debut from four-piece thrash outfit Nocturnal Curse. Crammed full of Pantera and Lamb Of God style chainsaw guitar, the band kick off the 36 minutes with a time-honoured cinematic soundscape before launching into a grinding Impartiality. Echoes of The Black Dahlia Murder are evident amongst several other influences, the drawling growl of guitarist Hunter Teixeira solidly fitting the band’s sound.

Nocturnal Curse stick closely to one style throughout the album and whilst it is fast and furious, by midway on the release, things are becoming a bit repetitive. It’s performed well enough, but Anguish echoed every track before it. The band’s reliance on a single formula is both a strength and a weakness. The strength being an established sound, the weakness the lack of variety. The slow Pantera style chug of My World is one of the more promising songs on Empyrean, in part due to the wall of riffs which encase the song in a rich casing. By no means a poor album, especially compared to some of the turkeys I’ve suffered lately, there is insufficient for Empyrean to stand out in a crowded field. 5/10

Before Sunday: Anticipation (Rockshots Records) [Alex Swift]

Before Sunday command a style imbued with elements of contemporary pop and traditional element. Their work revolves around telling stories of feeling isolated in a big city and being part of a strange and volatile society. It is not capital P political. Rather a lot of their music focuses on starkly personal stories. Living In London swaggers and struts with a sense of cheeky bravado – it’s a great and danceable way to start the album, yet lacks the ambiances and subtleties you may expect for an album with these themes. There’s a certain irony to the way that Before Sunday later their music in electronic beats and glossy production. Big House is a sneering critique on consumerism – ‘a thousand mirrors I’m sure they’re going to drive you mad’ they chant at one point, against a bright and exuberant backing melody, which in turn forces you to pay closer attention to the lyrics. If you don’t care for acts in the vein of Walk The Moon or Kaiser Chiefs, subtle social commentary will be unlikely to convince you to become a fully-fledged fan. However, speaking as someone whose taste for music relies largely on a range of traits commonly manipulated in pop, the optimistic flair certainly isn’t turning me away.

That said, their style can lean too largely on manufactured rhythms and exhausted clichés at times. Unconditional has a tendency to grow on you after a while. However, the funk-infused guitars and confident choruses grow tiresome. Despite that, for every contrived moment, there is a soulful one. Gone proves an immersive and emotional work inspired by pop classics in the vein of Gabriel or Kate Bush, creating an extra dynamic to Before Sunday’s sound. Furthermore, Closed doors substitute the synthesizers with acoustics and organic percussion, lending a beautiful sense of authenticity to what would otherwise be quite an average pop-rock anthem. No Destination must be one of my favourite pieces throughout, bringing horns, strings, and an overall sensation of joy, into a vivid and dynamic mix, about escaping one way of life, and moving to another! By contrast, A Million People is a track of peaks and troughs, consists of fake instrumentation, and is my least favourite moment – occasionally, this record does fall outside of our jurisdiction, yet treads the line between genres gracefully. Its where these musicians lean to far into one style, that they may not necessarily be comfortable with, that I begin to have reservations.

Coming to the final few pieces, Obsessions makes itself another introspective experience, with tones of expression and a gorgeous keyboard refrain. Goddess is the closest we get to art-pop and presents an interesting direction for Before Sunday to potentially explore in the future. Finally, Devil seizes the listener with the frenzied instrumentals and even borders on metal territory in the final few moments, qualifying the record for review, after all. Considering all of this, this act has some interesting concepts at play, both lyrically and musically, yet still have the challenge to cut out an identity and persona for themselves. How they do that will determine their relevance and significance in the years to come. 6/10

Reviews: Warbringer, Bloodyard, Old Forest, Shatter Brain (Rich, Liam, Paul S & Paul H)

Warbringer: Weapons Of Tomorrow (Napalm Records) [Rich Oliver]

Warbringer have been one of the most consistent and enjoyable thrash bands of recent years. Their previous album Woe To The Vanquished (which was also reviewed by yours truly) was an excellent album and to be fair since day one Warbringer haven’t really put a foot wrong but it is with album number six Weapons Of Tomorrow that I feel that Warbringer have really hit their stride. Weapons Of Tomorrow is easily the best album they have done to date and it perfectly marries the ripping old school thrash intensity they are known for with some other influences. Woe To The Vanquished introduced some elements from black and death metal into their sound but here these influences are given even greater prominence.

The album starts out as it should start out and that is in the form of an absolutely ripping thrash anthem named Firepower Kills. It is fast, aggressive and damn catchy and is a definite statement of intent for Warbringer. It is followed by the stomping The Black Hand Reaches Out which brings the pace down slightly but loses none of the intensity. There are plenty of face melting thrashers on the album such as Crushed Beneath The Tracks with its bludgeoning attack and nods to Demolition Hammer, the crunching riffage of Outer Reaches and the all out violence and insane speed of Unraveling which was written for absolute carnage in the mosh pits. The album also has some songs that take Warbringer in a different direction.

You have the melodic and progressive nature of Notre Dame (King Of Fools) and Heart Of Darkness dives head first into blackened thrash territory with its sinister melodies and blast beats mixed with crunching thrash riffage. The most experimental song on the album is Defiance Of Fate which can only be described as a blackened thrash ballad with its dark atmosphere and melodic nature. Warbringer have truly excelled with Weapons Of Tomorrow. Considering how long the genre has been going and how many different bands there are playing thrash metal there is still a shedload of amazing thrash still being released today and Warbringer might have just dropped the thrash album of 2020. 10/10

Bloodyard: Orchard Of Corpses (Self Released) [Liam True]

Lancaster isn’t a place I'd associate with Death Metal, but good things come from places you don’t expect them. After the release of two EP’s the Lancaster quartet have unleashed their debut album, Orchard Of Corpses. And while not being a huge fan of all things Death Metal, it’s a very solid album. The vocals of frontwoman Donna Hurd cut through you like a wailing banshee with the soaring highs and the earth shattering lows produces by her, with her delivery rivalling most vocalists in the scene to date. The instrumentals are absolutely crushing. The riffs are spectacular, the solos are brain melting and the drums vibrate through you like a 747 taking off. In terms of music, there’s nothing bad I can say about this album as it all blends together perfectly to create a cacophony of destructive music that will stand it’s ground and appeal the fans. This brings me onto the only thing I find bad about the album. The production. It sounds dingy, muddy and doesn’t do the band justice. If that’s the sound they wanted to have while recording then that’s their choice, personally lo-fi recording do nothing for me, but each to their own. If you can overlook the sound quality of the album, it’s terrific. Don’t let this pass you by. 7/10

Old Forest: Back Into The Old Forest (Mordgrimm) [Paul Scoble]

Old Forest have been making music since 1998. They took a break from 2001 till 2007 when they re-formed, and have been together ever since. The three piece who released their last studio album, Black Forests Of Eternal Doom, at the end of last year. Black Forests Of Eternal Doom was very well received, and gained a very good review from this blog. So, in a few short months we have a new release from the band, how have they produced a new album so soon? Well, this isn’t a new album, it’s a re-recording of the bands first album Into The Old Forests. The original album was released in 1999 and from what I can tell, wasn’t that well received at the time. So, this seems like an attempt to re-write history, and heal some long standing wounds. I must admit I am not totally sure why they have done this, I can understand wanting to re-record an old album if you are trying to rectify terrible sound (as Suicidal Tendencies did, recording their first self titled album as Still Cyco After All These Years, to try to fix the abysmal sound on their first album), but Old Forest have apparently used the equipment they used for their first try at recording the album.

In many ways you can tell that the album has been recorded with old equipment, but recorded in a modern way; the sound is fairly lo-fi, in the sounds on offer, but it has been recorded at a decent gain level (something that shows up a lot of early lo-fi black metal albums is incredibly low output gain), so it sounds nasty but its a clear, easily heard nasty. This is probably a small improvement on the original, but I don’t think sound level/quality was this albums problem. I think the reason it garnered some unflattering reviews is the material, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t particularly good either. The album is a grab bag of different early second wave styles, theres a little bit of early Gorgoroth, a small touch of Carpathian Forest, but it is mainly early Dimmu Borgir or early Cradle Of Filth. Most of the material is what was known at the time as ‘Symphonic Black Metal’, so blast beats, tremolo picked riffs and lots of keyboards. The style is pretty dated, the keyboards are too high in the mix, and the songs feel a little too simple. For example opening track is a mix of blasting fast Black metal and slower, more melodic and tuneful Black Metal, which is fine, but that is all it does; Fast Bit, slow bit, fast bit, slow bit, end.

This sort of simplicity is all over the album, two or three different parts repeated for 3 or 4 minutes, and then end. There are a couple of tracks that stand out, Where The Trees Are Withered has a great punky main riff, that gives the song a little bit of a hardcore feel to it, in some ways like Carpathian Forest, or Impaled Nazarene. The track Glistening is also quite original, it’s mainly an atmospheric track made up of keyboards and interesting softly chanted vocals. As you have probably worked out already, I don’t really see the point of Back Into The Old Forest. I could understand it if they had just kept it as a project just for the members of the band and hardcore fans, maybe releasing this on vinyl only. The main thing wrong with this album isn’t the sound or the recording, but the songwriting. It sounds like a first album, the writing is naive and quite dated, and that is probably the reason for the bad reviews.

Old Forest have clearly grown into a brilliant band, who produce really great albums, but maybe making their first album available in this way isn’t helping them. Some people might see this as a brand new album, and be rather surprised at the style, and quality. This isn’t by any means a terrible album, but I’m not sure why the band have gone to all this effort. The budget that payed for this re-recording, could probably have been better spent on something like a new Ep, or their next albums demo. It’s ok, passable Black Metal, but it’s nothing better than that, for hardcore fans only. 6/10

Shatter Brain: Pitchfork Justice (Wormholedeath Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Based in Adelaide, Shatter Brain formed in 2018, a collection of members of some of South Australia’s most successful heavy bands. With a sound which doffs the cap to the power of bands like High on Fire, Black Breath and Power Trip, this debut album is a raw and violent release that ignites like an incendiary device thrown by a balaclava clad rioter with opening song Talk In Fear taking no prisoners. Yet despite its sheer aggression, there is a melody which underpins the breakdowns and that allows Pitchfork Justice the opportunity to make a real impact. Tom Santamaria’s snarling vocals reference everyone from Alexi Laiho, Cavalera and Anselmo to the guttural growls of one D Randall Blythe circa New American Gospel. Luckily, they fit the fury that is unleashed on tracks like Lorem Ipsum, which allows the duel guitar work of Matt Disisto and Jack Hartley to shine.

With elements of thrash and groove and the odd piece of crossover thrown into the mix, and a social commentary which we can all relate to, this is a feisty energetic album that powers through the 39 minutes with gusto. It is unsurprising that the band’s first demo was mastered by Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust as the chaos that is unleashed is certainly compatible with the TH sound. Powerhouse tracks including the fire cracker Fencesitter and the punishing closing Death Goes On enhance the quality and whilst it is a little ragged at times, if you fancy brutality from down under, you could do worse than to immerse yourself in this savagery. 7/10

Sunday 26 April 2020

Reviews: The White Buffalo, Enter Shikari, Khôra, Abhorrent (Alex & Rich)

The White Buffalo: On The Widows Walk (Spinefarm Records) [Alex Swift]

Jake Smith a.k.a The White Buffalo has made a career from songs of love, heartbreak, and politics, grounding his humble though brilliantly penned songs in a tradition of folk-rock with elements of punk thrown in. That may not seem like a novel concept, though Smith certainly gives the idea a certain honesty and personal quality. Though his songs are not particularly difficult to broach, it is still hard to imagine anyone besides himself playing them. They invoke long-buried human memories making you feel rage or love, making you laugh or leaving you tearful. I first became a fan through 2017’s Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, an album of positivity, and inspired storytelling. From there, I delved into the Latin and Jazz inspired Death Of Damnation and the scathing exploration into American imperialism and war which is Shadows, Greys, And Evil Ways. On The Widows Walk is less of an album of hard truths and more one of sentimentalities and extending a hand to the listener. Torn firmly from the alcohol and ink-soaked pages where our narrator is contented, the record continues to prove that he is one of the most overlooked and defining songwriters of today.

“Well, they come and go, highs and lows that lead to the dark and light of my mind, but they're so sincere, triumph and fear, coursing, forcing their might” Smith sings on the hopeful piano-led middle section on Problem Solution, bringing to light the album's themes of learning to get through difficult days while trying to make an impression with our lives. The acoustic and electric guitars, as well as the keys working in harmony with each other, lend these sings their sense of warmth, yet they never surrender their sincerity. These are designed to be played with a band or solo, and you get a feeling they would be just as beautiful either way. Proving this is The Drifter, a gorgeous ode to loneliness and memories, the humble composition lending to the contemplation desolation felt by our frontman. No History is an exuberant anthem about not living in the past, throwing hints of Americana and blues into the mix, refusing to get lost in sentimentality, and simply saying “here are the lessons I’ve learned, take or leave them”.

When I say that these songs have a way of imparting personal stories, I mean every word. “I miss the sound of the breeze through the leaves of the sycamore trees. Wading in the waves to my knees on the sandy shore…I miss you more” confesses the sombre yet authentic Sycamore. Even going as far as to mock his own style slightly, Come On Shorty sees The White Buffalo deriding his romantic and mawkish nature, before concluding of course, that he wouldn’t care to see the world in realistic terms: “I'm gonna ride my horse into the setting sun. I want a happy ending gonna’ get me one, find a heart that bleeds strong and true, so I can finally say fuck you.” Even though that song demonstrates a sharp and resolute commitment to self-mockery, the more observable tribute to fairy-tale nostalgia comes with the lovely piano ballad Cursive. Starting off with a worry that people will one day forget to write in that style, the piece grows from simple beginnings into contemplating all the aspects of life worth savouring, which may one day fade away.

There’s always been an appeal towards taking simple morals and creating art out of them – on Faster Than Fire that idea takes its roots in environmentalism. A fast-paced anthem influenced in equal measure by rockabilly and punk, Smith adopts a venomous snarl on this track, while abrasive six strings and a rolling beat emphasise the impeding severity. ‘’The flames ignite, spreading hell across the earth. Our lives are engulfed, with no regard for their worth. Homes and hills and broken wills are blackened by the burn. Death to the dream, there's nowhere to turn” runs one warning shot, making clear that some elements of this world are worth saving, more than money. I started this review by praising our songwriter for his stories and this shines through wonderfully on the title track. Smith, usually one to guard his tales, has elucidated the gentle story in interviews - “We were driving through an east coast seaport town where the houses each had outcropping like balconies. The wives of the sailors would pace around on the roof-tops longing for their husbands to come home safely. There’s so much romance in that.” - That observation, paired with the brooding instrumentation and ruminating harmonies, renders my words almost obsolete, I find. Smith’s words, however, remain vital.

River Of Love And Loss draws on solemn Celtic folk tales about forlorn romance and the ceaseless cycles of nature, the swaying use of traditional instrumentals and haunting symbolism, making this a truly outstanding if chilling moment. The Rapture takes a similar approach, despite being more guided by an instinct to develop into something more than its humble beginning by the end. Pursuing the motif of addiction, there are vague nods to alcohol, yet so subtle are the menacing stanzas and spiralling stridencies of sound, that they could apply to any despised habit be that obsession or mental degradation. Closing out on I Don’t Know A Thing About Love, our addressor reminds us that he’s no experts on the subjects close to his heart and that his views are just one word against many.

“All I want to do is give people, what, 42 minutes of something else – of not thinking about the devastation, and the fear, and the anxiety, and what it is in this new normal, which is really strange’’ Jake imparted when pre-empting On The Widows Walk. He certainly achieved that for me. While at first, this album may not seem as great as the last three, there's a warming aspect about the way they change meaning, and grow on you. As such, these songs get one of my malleable scores, with a promise to revisit. 7/10

Enter Shikari: Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible (SO Recordings) [Alex Swift]

If you had asked me a few years ago, to name a popular act who I saw the appeal of yet didn't personally care for, I would say Enter Shikari, without pausing for thought. I’m not sure entirely why, though I had heard the singles Arguing With Thermometers and of course Sorry You’re Not A Winner (clap, clap clap - Ed) and decided their abrasive and often crazy brand of electronic hardcore was not for me. Then, in 2015 they came out with their first great album – The Mindsweep is a work of pure sonic exploration into electronic rock, with entangled compositions, fiery rhythms, and socially aware lyricism. Indeed, the record even inspired me to look back and see the elements which led to that point. To my disclosure, I realized that these weren't the obnoxious, loud-mouthed band that myself (and radio stations, who never promoted their most interesting songs), had characterized them as. As important as that mid-2000s release was though, it also marked something of a turning point for the Hertfordshire quartet. And 2017’s The Spark, despite alienating some, was a risky experiment in ambient textures, synth-wave, and previously unexplored boundaries. However, if there was any weight to the criticisms that record received, they centered around the lack of bombast and exaggeration in comparison to previous works. Thankfully, Nothing Is True And Everything is Possible takes their experimental urges and combines them with a commitment towards pomposity and grandiloquence. It is not a perfect experience yet proves a logical next stride in a career imbued with startling leaps into the unknown.

‘Is this a new begging or are we close to the end?’ Rou Reynolds sings on THE GREAT UNKNOWN, accompanied by an overture of piano and synthesizers, while the improvisational bass components grant a shadowy dancehall vibe to the already ominous opener. In stark difference, Crossing The Rubicon bursts with dynamism, employing a feeling of exhaling optimism, and emerging from a state of darkness into the glorious light. This is one in a sequence of anthems in Enter Shikari’s catalogue that could have been too preoccupied with mood, yet instead bursts with charisma, not least aided by the multi-coloured instrumentation. {The Dreamers Hotel} – One of the many tracks with titles designed to perplex critics – continues on that investigational path, the seizing effects, and ecstatic drumming, contrasting powerfully with the chorus - one which will be sure to make an impression live. Always retaining the socially conscious side though, the listener is reminded ‘If love is blind, hatred is deaf…and well-fed’.

From there, the experience gets odd. Waltzing off the Face Of The Earth (I. Crescendo), commands with mysterious trumpets, lending a dizzying sense of tradition to the track, albeit one that's laced with the tension of a psychedelic opus. Reynolds continues to lace his rhymes with astute observations about the way the world has tended: ‘There's been a shooting in a Walmart, so put guns on every shopping cart. There are dead kids on the beach. Bigoted parents now decide what teachers teach’ he laments at one point. While musically this may be the upmost level of riskiness the act has aspired to, they’re also vivaciously honest throughout, in a way that transcends their past work. Of course, some moments are better than others. The next one, modern living… and its electronic little brother, Alcoholics Anonymous (Main Theme In B Minor), may transmit well at shows yet comes across as pretentious in the context of a forty-minute record. Thankfully, The Pressures On reassures us that there's still a humility to these songs.

T.I.N.A ignites the brilliant second half – a melancholy yet evocative electronic piece, you can get caught up in its formidable sway, as the ceaseless nature embroils itself around you until all that’s left is the persistent dance which the instrumentation and poetics conjure images of. Elegy For Extinction proves a gorgeous opportunity to showcase the violins and classical elements that have been played with before yet never fully realized on a Shikari record. I would have loved to have seen the idea brought to life throughout rather than as a novelty, yet there’s scope for exploration there. Despite this, Marionettes, I (The Discovery Of Strings), is thrilling in a different way – unfurling as a dialogue between the slave and the ‘vandal’, it demonstrates some of the greatest writing in the already multifaceted discography. Amongst the changes and turbulence which define the composition, we are told ‘the world they created is not mightier than our means to remake it!’. Marionettes II (The Ascent), excellently develops off the pressure of the first part, utilising the knack for ambiance and chaos to maximum effect, in crafting a conceptual piece that brings together the elements of character and world creation into a mighty leap. Satellites* *, is another great emotionally inspiring song, as is the bombastic and satisfyingly sardonic the king. We finish on a reprieve to Waltzing…, a promise maybe that we will continue to see surprises from these boys, long into the future.

Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible is definitive proof that Enter Shikari have another great record up their sleeves, and while this might not be that piece, with all the creative directions they are spinning off into – many never considered likely in the early 2010s, when we first heard their name - there is no reason to believe that their next full-length will be anything other than spectacular. 7/10

Khôra: Timaeus (Soulseller Records) [Rich Oliver]

Although there are purists that would argue otherwise black metal is always at its best and its creative peak when it flirts with experimental and alternative sounds. It should always be seen as a genre with no boundaries considering its non conformist nature and has moved on leaps and bounds since the Norwegian second wave in the early 1990’s. There are a plethora of great black metal bands which twist the formula and mould into new forms of twisted sonic depravity and Khôra are a new band to add to that list. Timaeus is the debut album from the German/Irish band and certainly makes a bold statement with its expansive and experimental sound. The band is composed of three core members but the album features a whole host of guest musicians and vocalists which benefits the multi-faceted nature of the sounds and songs. Timaeus is a dissonant and complex album that twists and turns in many different directions whilst retaining a cohesive nature about it.

 After a brief atmospheric intro the album starts off good and proper with the frantic yet claustrophobic sounding Noceo before it shifts into the slower and more melodic L’Annihilateur before shifting yet again to the complex Harvesting Stars with its baritone clean vocals and unconventional structure. These shifts and meanders continue throughout the album but never sounding forced or abrupt with further forays into experimentation with the abstract melodies of Roe Too Noo (Flow Of The Mind), the dissonant fury of The Purge and the aggressive almost death metal nature of Sempiternal. The album brings us back down to earth at its finale with the gentle progressive nature of The Occultation Of Time and the atmospheric instrumental Void. This is a great album which is a lot to take in initially but the songs are fairly short and precise and never get to the point where you feel they are dragging on too long. This is black metal which dabbles into progressive and psychedelic territories sounding like a cross between bands such as Dark Fortress, Arcturus, Naglfar and Blut Aus Nord. A fantastic debut for a very promising band. 8/10

Abhorrent: Kathabasis (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

Two of my great loves in heavy music are thrash metal and death metal.  When these genres are combined it can be a truly wonderful thing. Both these genres get me overly excited when done well but also extremely critical when done badly. Abhorrent are a death/thrash band from Chile who formed in 1987 (originally as Accurst) with Kathabasis being only the third album from the band. An old school band playing death and thrash metal definitely had this old school thrasher salivating but unfortunately it far from met my expectations. Even though there are some decent riffs and suitably frantic moments throughout Kathabasis overall it is a completely underwhelming release. The songs themselves just seem completely lacking in energy and enthusiasm.

Thrash and death metal are meant to be intense and energetic but this just seems to be missing throughout. The production of the album doesn’t help matters either being horribly flat robbing any decent riffs of any spark. Being such a fan of death metal and thrash metal I can be overly critical but Kathabasis just fails on so many levels for me lacking what makes these subgenres so special to me. There are odd moments and half decent riffs scattered about the album but they are surrounded by such mediocrity and such a life sucking production that they fail to make any impact. Sorry Abhorrent but this did nothing for me. 3/10

Friday 24 April 2020

Reviews: Suffer No Fools, Chugger, Volturian, Cloven Hoof (Reviews By Paul H & Simon)

Suffer No Fools: We Die As We Live (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Suffer No Fools describe themselves as a ‘DIY’ Melodic Metal band, hailing from Hertfordshire UK. This is solid stuff, with lots of traditional metal riffs and pace, lots of in your face lead breaks with a deep vein of the early 80’s post-NWOBHM running all the way through it like … err, a stick of rock. I’m normally quite critical when a record coming along a whole four decades later than this sounds like it’s using equipment from that age, but in this case the lighter touch on the production works and adds to the charm. This is a stripped back sound, with some lovely flat hammered riffs, which doesn’t sound like someone sat into the night trying to make it sound like that on gear most bands could never afford. It works because it has a fresh honesty and charm and that the sheer tightness of the playing grabs all your focus.

The first comment, is this is pretty effective stuff given that they are a four piece, although sometimes the rhythm guitar is a bit too far back in the mix on a few tracks, but fundamentally you get a sense that this is what you’re likely to hear live. The energy in the instrumental sounds takes me back to those early Metallica albums and even with the stripped back sound, there’s also some very effective use of techniques going on with vocalist Ali Kahn’s lyrics. Some really nice harmonies build up in a subtle way that belies their complexity without compromising the stripped back feel – check out single Nothing To Fear, which starts with a vocal only harmonic and then builds in the rest of the band, before dropping you into the energetic pace that is the benchmark for most of their tracks. Or Six Feet Deep – an absolutely solid rocker which had me nodding my head like these guys had been in my life for ages. The only criticism I have is this is not a long album and loses a little bit of its energy and momentum towards the end, but in general short and sweet works for me. 7/10

Chugger: Of Man and Machine (Wormholedeath) [Paul Hutchings]

Blending the groove metal of Lamb Of God, Arch Enemy and Slipknot, Gothenburg melodic groove metallers Chugger have provided a thumping sophomore full-length which comes seven years since debut EP Scars was released. The band have not been idle in that time, releasing singles and gigging furiously across Europe as well as experiencing several line-up changes. Chugger’s influences are evident from the opening blast of Turning Point, an explosive ball of energy that starts of this 35-minute curled fist of power.

There is ample groove to enjoy on Of Man And Machine, and whilst vocalist David Dahl is somewhat limited in range, his ferocious roars complement the chainsaw guitars of Robin Lagerborg and Robert Bjärmyr. The structure of the tracks on this album is limited in variation, although the band’s driving assault allows some compensation. Tracks such as Pigs To The SlaughterThe Algorithm and the brutal closing track The Demons In Me stick closely to the groove metal blueprint but if you enjoy gnarly groove soaked metal that isn’t particularly challenging then you’d be advised to grab a copy of this release. 6/10

Volturian: Crimson (Scarlet Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Badged as melodic modern metal with a twist of gothic chic, Volturian is a band founded by singer Federica Lanna (Sleeping Romance) and songwriter Federico Mondelli (Frozen Crown). Crimson is a polished, well produced album which blends mellow, dreamy female vocals and heavy downtuned guitars with a massive infusion of electronic music. A huge range of styles see pristine and ethereal vocals blend neatly with slower, emotion bound tracks and the more rigid, industrial inspired electronica, all held together by Mondelli's Swedish death metal-oriented guitar riffs (think early 2000 In Flames and Soilwork).

The drumming is precise, and the layers of keyboards add texture and breadth. There is more than a nod to the 80’s new wave and the 90's Europop, with the occasional cloud of gothic atmospheres. The album closes with a heartfelt cover of Roxette's Fading Like  Flower as tribute to the late Marie Fredriksson. With a concept that relies on dark, obscure and Aromantic themes, Crimson is an album that will appeal to fans of of bands such as Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Amaranthe and In This Moment. It may be a little too generic and poppy for most metal fans but if you fancy a new guilty pleasure, you won’t go far wrong with this release. 6/10

Cloven Hoof: Age Of Steel (Pure Steel Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s been three years since Who Mourns The Morning Star was released by NWOBHM veterans Cloven Hoof. Led by Lee Payne, the only original member of the band, Age Of Steel once again sees George Call’s five-octave range straining at the leash and to be fair, his performance on this album is a marked improvement on the 2017 release. His pitch is almost identical to Bruce Dickinson, one of many Maiden comparisons which reek like a old sock through this album. New guitarist Ash Baker joins Chris Coss whilst Matt Bristow’s solid drumming locks solidly with Payne’s thundering bass runs. Payne’s recent progressive rock project East Of Lyra was an enjoyable listen, but this is Payne back in his Steve Harris role, driving each track forward in typically dynamic style.

Opening song Bathory, unsurprisingly about the murdering Hungarian Countess, is a positive start to the album. A powerful, almost thrash metal song, it utilises some additional effects which tie in neatly with the subject matter and is underpinned by ample melody. But then we arrive at Exhibit 1 m’lud. Alderley Edge, not a song about Manchester based footballers but part of the concept which runs through side A of this release. Realistically, it should have been called Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, such is the rampant plagiarism at work here. I’ve searched several other sites for reviews of this album and cannot find reference to it in any of them. So, am I wrong or my ears playing tricks on me? Find out yourself but it is not something that impresses me. The Maiden pillaging continues on Touch The Rainbow, which steals a massive part of The Evil That Men Do, and four tracks in, I’m wondering if Cloven Hoof are simply ripping off segments of the Irons back catalogue for their own gain.

The band do at least move onto their own material on Bedlam, an epic style classic metal track, and whilst Call’s vocals still don’t quite do it for me, they are improved. Ascension isn’t a strong track, Call screams all over it and the flow of the song doesn’t work that well, the synths giving it an 80s feel. Gods Of War blends a bit of Helloween into the Maiden mix, the synths at least adding something of value on this one. The remaining songs are all solid if unspectacular although the title track which closes the album is utter gash. Part of the problem is that Call’s style makes it a challenge to avoid the Maiden comparison. The musicianship is generally impressive, the band tight and the production is of reasonable quality. Overall, Age Of Steel is an improvement on the previous album although I’m deducting points for the blatant stolen riffs. 6/10

Reviews: King Witch, I Am Destruction, Malevolence, Bullet's & Octane (Matt, Charlie, Liam & Simon)

King Witch: Body Of Light (Listenable Records) [Matt Bladen]

Finally! It feels like I've been waiting ages for the second full length from Scottish Heavy Doom Metal band King Witch. But with Body Of Light now here it was on to the decks of death and the volume cranked up ready to annoy the neighbours. As soon I pressed play the gates to the church of riffs were opened with Jamie Gilchrist's exciting guitar playing on the title track, wildly attacking his axe with abandon as the song gets faster in its last section. It's breathless stuff that grabs you from the first moment. Of Rock And Stone is slower Lyle Brown's cavernous drums and Rory Lee's thumping bass driving the massive doom riffage. Instrumentally the band are exciting relying on a heady mix of classic metal and doom that brings to mind Candlemass and Grand Magus as there are numerous sprawling solos and grooving lead breaks spread across these 9 tracks.

However it's not just the riffs that draw you in the snippets of gothic organs on Of Rock And Stone and Call Of The Hunter both add to the atmosphere especially as Call Of The Hunter lurches into some occult low end doom. What immediately drew me to King Witch when I heard their previous album was the powerhouse vocals of Laura Donnelly she has extraordinary soulful vocal prowess that scales a large range and rawness that brings added heft to the already weighty music. Body Of Light steps everything up from their first album the riffs are denser than before, the travels in doom have greater sonic depth (Order From Chaos) as the classic heavy metal sounds are elevated with the aforementioned guitar playing. 

The songwriting too has more emotional depth especially the trio of songs that start with the 10 minute progressively tinged Solstice I - She Burns, through the blasting proto-thrash of Witches Mark before ending with the folksy instrumental Solstice II. It's a brilliant mini-suite showcasing the prowess of King Witch. With their show in The Gryphon postponed for the moment it will probably be a while until I see the band live so playing this at full volume in the garden will have to do! Fantastic slab of epic doom! 9/10

I Am Destruction: Nascency (Unique Leader Records) [Charlie Rogers]

Yee haw, Texan extreme metal. Nascency is the first full length release from I Am Destruction, a brutal, crushing first album. It opens with a rather morbid sample, not one to be played around the faint of heart, then an ominous chugging riff drags the slab of death metal to the table, in a sort of overture for what’s to come. Propagated By Abnormality then drills into your ears with a determined gait, it’s opening riff set at a lumbering pace, followed closely by disgusting swamp monster vocals. The atmosphere feels like something horrific being unearthed. Riffs that grip you, a groove that entices, and hammering drum beats that build to a frenzy. Very impressive.

The groove continues into the next track, Ruinous Phantasm, with uncontrollable bopping along to the bouncy opening melody, and unconscious gurns prompted by the blend of foul vocals. There’s a real sense of pacing and dynamics with the different sections of the tracks, songwriting is evidently important here. Knowing when to unleash a barrage of neck snapping riffs, when to drive the tempo forward to invoke the urge to pit, and when to hold back and let the listener catch their breath is a skill supremely on display here.

There’s not a huge amount of variation across the album, with the focus seemingly on making high quality slamming death metal, and that is not a bad thing. The quality really is high throughout, with no tracks feeling unnecessary or filler, each having their own melodies and feels distinct from the others. I can’t stress enough how much involuntary groove my body was subjected to while listening to this album. ZZ Top are still my favourite musicians from the Lone Star State, but I Am Destruction are coming in as a close second. 9/10

Malevolence: The Other Side EP (MLVLTD) [Liam True]

Composed of three tracks, weighing in at 12 minuets with their first musical offering since 2017’s Self Supremacy, the Sheffield beatdown crew are as balls to the wall heavy as they should be, and also as melodic as you didn’t know they could successfully pull off. With EP opener Remain Unbeaten being a slow burner but as the song progresses it becomes their signature Hardcore sound with the aggressive vocals of Alex Taylor being the driving force penetrating your eardrums. Keep Your Distance is a pure straight up ‘Don’t stop moving until the song ends’ crowd carnage maker, delivering a powerful drop and making you grimace with utter delight. EP ender and title track The Other Side is where the band show off their more melodic side. With the instruments being predominant but without being ear destroying, it accompanies the vocals in such a way that you’ll be replaying this song and quietly singing it to yourself without realizing it. A spectacular end to a brilliant offering from the Northern beat-crew. 8/10

Bullets And Octane: Riot Riot Rock N Roll (Bad Mofo Records) [Simon Black]

LA Based Bullets And Octane have been at this a while, although for some reason I’ve not crossed paths with them much before, which is a shame as I think I’ve missed out. The album title says it all. This is full on in your face rock’n’roll, no holds barred and no apologies. Ripping straight into the proceedings with the title track, what we get are a series of short, punchy and highly effective slugs of tunage that are proof that down’n’dirty ain’t dead. With a full on in vocal performance from Gene Louis, this album does not intend to compromise and takes you with them every step of the way. Even when they take the frenetic pace down a notch or two (such as the punchy boogie Addicted To Outrage), you still get songs that are far from slow, and just as effective as Louis moves from scream to snarl.

Like many bands, they’ve had their ups and downs and flirted with the major labels, and there is a very strong sense that they are still fighting to prove themselves, as this sounds like a band just getting going, not one that’s been at it for 22 years. The production is mercifully not overdone, although a bit more welly on the guitar sound would not have gone amiss, but to be honest this is me being picky on an album that flies by leaving you wanting much more. If I am going to pick a favourite track, it would have to be The Devil, which is an absolute belter: solid rhythm and catchy riff and lyrics and exactly the sort of stuff that made me stick two fingers to pop music four decades ago. Motörhead may have blasted through years ago and shagged their mum’s, but these guys are after your daughters. 8/10

Thursday 23 April 2020

Reviews: The Alligator Wine, Elder, Sacramentum, The Used (Matt & Manus)

The Alligator Wine: Demons Of The Mind (Century Media Records) [Matt Bladen]

It's rock Jim but not as we know it! Dr McCoy would have shouted this at his Captain as soon as he heard this debut album from German two piece The Alligator Wine. Now I said two piece and somewhere in the back of your mind an alarm bell will be ringing that shouts The White Stripes, Royal Blood, The Black Keys etc. electric guitar and drum kits toting bands steeped in blues traditions. Well The Alligator Wine have a drum kit however this is where the comparisons stop, dipping heavily in the psychedelic Krautrock the pulsating drumming of Thomas Teufel brings the percussive propulsion to tracks like Voodoo and dictates the pace and atmosphere on the breathy Crocodile Inn.

However you will find no six string riffs here, Rob Vitacca sings with raw blues vocal but he is more John Lord than Jeff Beck manipulating the ear with huge Hammond stabs bringing a reckless disco vibe to Ten Million Slaves where frantic tribal drumming meets with spiraling electronics, hooked on a Moog bass. Yes folks The Alligator Wine play heavy rock music without any need for stringed instruments, yes you can hear The Doors, obviously but also there's the funk sounds of Electric Six-meets-Captain Beefheart on mind bending The Flying Carousel. Lorane burns with some smouldering attitude of Zeppelin post 1976, most notably Coda, unravelling itself into a torrent of organ driven finale. Lorane could possibly be the best song on the album but it's followed by the Dream Eyed Little Girl which has an EDM beat akin to Depeche Mode or Massive Attack.

The goal apparently was to combine "the vibes of experimental 70s music with a certain, modern pop appeal" and I'd say The Alligator Wine have achieved that here using the analog synths brilliantly (I do love a synth) along with drumming that brings to mind previous touring partners The Picturebooks. As Demons Of The Mind closes with Sweetheart On Fire, you get the feeling that you have listened to something very unique, it rocks as hard as any heavy rock band, encourages you to throw shapes but also gets you to feel at times, an ear to pop and brimming with excellent instrumentation The Alligator Wine have craved a winning niche for themselves in a crowded rock sphere. Do yourself a favour and try something a little different, I could even say boldly go! 9/10

Elder: Omens (Stickman Records) [Matt Bladen]

The guitars on this record languish, huge instrumental sections hold the labyrinthine songs together through their long run times, the title track does have huge riffs (of course) but also has some bleeping electronics and a string section. It's evocative and brings you in to their psychedelic world of woozy doom riffs, wild-eyed guitar freakouts and progressive textures that sit it in the glory days of double gatefold LP's, by which I mean the 1970's for all you young people. The fuzz is dialled up on on the first part of In Procession before it evolves into a bit of Krautrocking (yes more Krautrock), just check out those Tangerine Dream repeating synths towards the conclusion of it's 8 minute run time. Elder were formed in Massachusetts and over the course of five albums their sound has been teased and tested, shifting between various genres with every release.

This is the first studio album featuring guitars from Michael Risberg (along with keys) and untethered drums of Georg Edert. The main heart of the band are the stirring vocals and guitar of Nicholas DiSalvo, along with bassist Jack Donovan rounding out the four piece.  J. At just five tracks long Omens is not an album for anyone with a short attention span, Halcyon taking the most extended trip at 12 minutes of oscillating synths and scintillating Fender Rhodes from Fabio Cuomo. Halcyon is a far out centerpiece for the album, a perfect headphone moment as it soars to the stratosphere. Then like all good prog bands they take a left turn into some bouncy Coheed-like art rocking on Embers a number with jangly guitars and a driving bass line, it's actually a really odd song for the record in my opinion, sounding totally different to anything that features on the record.

Now this isn't necessarily a band thing but is a little jarring after the voyage of Halcyon, it does move into the space rock sounds in the last quarter where it gets a bit Hawkwind via Styx. The last song One Light Resurrection owes its opening to Anathema (listen for it) before bringing back the angst of Embers again. The last two songs on this album for me change the complexion of it a little, I much prefer the band's progressive/psychedelic space rock in the first part of the record (and at the very end with ELP phases) than the more direct/modern sound on the last two songs. A great album for anyone that enjoys expressive, progressive music with a wide scope of genres, Elder resume their position as a captivating band. 8/10 

Sacramentum: Far Away From The Sun (Century Media Records) (Manus Hopkins]

This reissue of Sacramentum's 1996 debut album is the type of reissue fans should actually welcome. It’s not some anniversary edition consisting of the same old record, re-packaged with some bonus material nobody really wants yet fans feel like they need for their collections. The Swedish group has typical roots for a 1990s Scandinavian black metal act, meaning their early work can be difficult to get a hold of, and sound like it was recorded with a microwave. The remastered songs still contain that black metal rawness it wouldn’t be real black metal without, but are also clear enough to decipher each instrument, and have a well-balanced mix. It’s often the early work of black metal bands that becomes the most desired for fans, and having Sacramentum’s debut finally available on vinyl and easy to obtain should please the most cvlt followers, even if others consider this “selling out.” It’s a strong record, and a relic of one of the most interesting time periods and places in heavy metal. 8/10

The Used: Heartwork (Hassle Records) [Manus Hopkins]

Yep, The Used’s new album is called Heartwork. Anyone reading this blog is likely well aware that there’s already a classic metal album of the same title, and is the more memorable album of these two by a long shot. The Used’s Heartwork is a blend of early 2000’s emo and 2010’s screamo, neither of which are styles that have particularly aged well or have much of a place in 2020, with so much exciting, non-whiny music coming out. The songs are meant to sound emotionally heavy, but come off kind of shallow instead. The album lacks a certain cohesiveness, with songs like Big, Wanna Be sounding like band were unsure whether to stick with their own sound or go full Imagine Dragons, and landed somewhere in between. Thankfully, there isn’t another song quite as bad on the rest of the record, but there aren’t any that are a whole lot better. Elements of other styles make their way into the band’s emo sound—but nine of them are desirable genres. Between radio rock riffs, poppy choruses and ill-fitting electronics, the album has just about everything a heavy music listener doesn’t want to hear. It’s a shame to say it, but this record isn’t even worth giving a chance. 1/10

Reviews: Trivium, Barishi, Spirit Adrift, More Human Than Human (Matt & Paul H)

Trivium: What The Dead Men Say (Roadrunner Records) [Matt Bladen]

Trivium were the first 'heavy' band I fell in love with, coming from a hard rock/prog background, their mixture of classic metal/thrash and very of the moment metalcore was a revelation and a gateway into heavier music, they were also hotly tipped as the 'next big thing', though this attitude has changed various times over the years. I've been an avid follower of the band ever since Ascendancy and I have enjoyed every album they have released despite the varying critical reactions they have garnered. In recent time they have hit somewhat of a purple patch since In Waves (though some may disagree), finally nailing their sound, mainly due to Matt Heafy finally fixing on a vocals style he is comfortable with leaving the shouts/growls to his wingmen Corey Beaulieu and Paolo Gregoletto as they deftly balanced all their previous audio experiments on The Sin And The Sentence showing why they have managed to last for 20 years nearly now (though with more drummers than Spinal Tap!). What The Dead Men Say is the sound of a mature Trivium a long way from the youthful angst of Ascendency, they are now at the level of those influences they wore so heavily on their sleeve on their early releases.

Opening with the excellent title track What The Dead Men Say is a perfect Trivium opener the mixture of clean/growled vocals, those keening twin leads from Matt and Corey, it's got a defiance to change that says this is unmistakably Trivium, they haven't made any significant changes from The Sin And The Sentence except refining everything again ramping up the heaviness on tracks such as single the The Catastrophist which shows the slickness of bassist Paolo and drummer Alex Bent (who returns for a second record) as well as Trivium's knack of mixing crushing riffs with huge chorus hooks, Heafy bringing emotion with his powerful vocal. Bleed Into Me has the nod to their past as does the punishing The DefiantSickness Unto You once again shows the incredible drumming of Alex Bent. Scattering The Ashes is a melancholic and emotive, built around a bass throb, however Bending The Arc To Fear brings a technical stomp leading into The Ones We Leave Behind a twin axe attack that keeps things relentless right up until the very end. What The Dead Men Say is Trivium showing why they stand up as one of the best bands of the last 20 years, fulfilling the prophecy bestowed on them all those years ago. 9/10

Barishi: Old Smoke (Season Of Mist) [Paul Hutchings]

The third album from Barishi, a three-piece who hail from Vermont, is an intricate 49-minute collection of eclectic songs, three of which are over ten minutes in length. That doesn’t distract in anyway from the enjoyment furnished by this album, which contains enough bone crushing heaviness to satisfy those in need of the death doom fix. Opening song, The Silent Circle, echoes early Opeth in places, but Barishi are no copycat outfit. This is music that tests the grey matter as well as stirring the sinews, the muscular prompts supported by a cacophony of blast beats and thunderous bass rumbling whilst there is ample melody to underpin the death growling. Mikey Allred’s keys and synths add layers and subtle textures throughout the album. The Silent Circle progresses organically, the pathway natural yet weaving and driving, whilst the band’s sound stands somewhere between the death and black metal junction.

Third track The Longhunter opens with a sound clip before a delicious hammering riff signals the start of the song. Graham Brooks who provides the harrowing vocals also adds the guitar, and his maniacal roaring echoes as the riffs take centre stage, emerging over a thunderous rhythm section. It’s gnarly yet progressive, the combination of death metal and more progressive elements likely to delight fans who still need their fix. The title track concludes the album, Old Smoke beginning with a gentle, measured pace before expanding into a vast emotive soundscape which rolls and swells as the track slowly takes on epic proportions. Jonathan Kelley on bass and drummer Dylan Blake provide solid foundations. This is an album well crafted and superbly delivered with solid production and composition. 8/10

Spirit Adrift: Curse Of Conception - Re-Issue 2020 (Century Media) [Matt Bladen]

Back in summer 2019 I gave Spirit Adrift's second album Divided By Darkness an 8/10, I likened the album to both Grand Magus and Haunt as Nate Garret (of Gatecreeper) has really nailed that fist pumping classic metal sound. Divided By Darkness and it's predecessor Curse Of Conception were released by American label 20 Buck Spin, but now in the UK they have signed to Century Media who have re-released both of the albums. Now I won't review Divided By Darkness as if you want to read it, it's available here: https://musipediaofmetal.blogspot.com/2019/05/reviews-spirit-adrift-irongate-midnight.html.

However I will review Curse Of Conception as it fell under our radar when back in 2017. This is a chance to hear how Spirit Adrift evolved into the band they were on Divided By Darkness. The Sabbath worship of Earthbound  kicks things off with some intergalactic doom, Nate Garrett's vocals echoing over the crunching guitars of him and Jeff Owens, the title track adding wooziness to the doom stylings, Marcus Bryant's bass throbbing underneath. So far so doom, but To Fly On Broken Wings is a grinding stoner rocker leading into Starless Age (Enshrined) which is full of emotion a slow burning number with some great guitar playing and som spatial drums from Chase Mason. This is a little more in the stoner/doom style than Divided By Darkness but it shows the talent of the band. 

I urge you to pick up both of the re-issued Spirit Adrift albums when they are released on the 24th April, you'll be able to get them as ltd. Digipak and colored LP ready for Spirit Adrift's new record this year (hopefully). 8/10

More Human Than Human: What We Leave Behind (Re-Evolution Arts)‎ [Paul Hutchings]

Formed in 2017, Cheltenham based duo More Human Than Human’s latest EP is an intriguing and enjoyable listen. Seven tracks over 29 minutes, and not an electric guitar in sight. But wait! Before you throw down your pint in disgust, I encourage you to read on and delve a little deeper. More Human Than Human have an electronic industrial edge which at times swerves them closer to the likes of Killing Joke and Depeche Mode than more established metal outfits; indeed, there is a dance vibe to much of the EP. The band comprises Tomislav Vučetić, a 51-year-old Croatian veteran of the thrash band Anaesthesia, and his younger London born counterpart, Anthony ‘Badger’ Collins. The former covers lead vocals and bass lines, whilst ‘Badger’ adds drums, synths and backing vocals.

Technology is key to the band’s sound, which they can translate live without the need for additional musicians. After a brief intro track its Bodies that sets things in motion. A pulsing, dark feel with nods to Type-O-Negative and NIN, thumping bass and harrowed but clean and full vocals provide a gothic tint. A change in tone and pace for I’m Invisible, much closer to the punk feel of Killing Joke blended with the gothic undertones of The Sisters Of Mercy, swirling synths wrap around the punchy driving track. This emotion wrought delivery continues with Chain To Break, a ferocious yet haunting song. It’s dance floor delight on Quicksand (Remix), a vibrating track that mixes the best of Pendulum with hard house. I’m no expert in this style but it works for me on every level. Acorn (Remix) concludes things in dark Depeche Mode style, repetitive keys building an Eastern atmosphere which plays out to the finish. What We Leave Behind isn’t going to be for everyone but if you fancy a challenge from the norm, you’d be well advised to seek this EP out. 8/10

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Reviews: KITE, Suffer, SÖLICITÖR, Dissension (Matt, Liam, Rich & Paul H)

Kite: Irradiance (Argonauta Records) [Matt Bladen]

Kite play abrasive, ear bending music, it's not what you'd consider to be melodic either. Yes there are moments when there is a single ringing clean note from the guitars but mostly they stay fuzzy and dissonant. Hailing from Norway Kite's previous record was given a 7/10 review by Paul Scoble in May 2018 and pleaded at the end that another record shouldn't take 11 years and they have gone ahead and released a new one just two years later that is still as visceral as their debut. Irradiance is full of gurgling sludge the title track showing this perfectly with its repetitive riff and 9 minute run time it eeks its way into your psyche while Reveries blasts like an angry Nirvana, the grunge sound also mentioned by my colleague but it's the only track here, most of this album mainly crushingly bleak sludge metal. To be honest it's sludge so you'll understand what the record entails if you've heard it before but things open out into post-metal on Mistweaver giving it a little more depth. 7/10

Suffer: Heavy Silence EP (Self Released) [Liam True]

Hailing from the Black Country, Wolverhampton, Suffer are one of the newest Metal bands in the scene, only forming in 2018. In that time they’ve released one EP titled Slerm, three singles (Two of which are from this new EP), playing shows up and down the county and have finally released a new EP for us. Now I still stand by the remark made by me that the Metal/Deathcore scene is stale. But Suffer take everything from the the past 10 years, down tune it, beef it up and single-handedly create the most gut-churning 22 and a half minute EP that's been released over the past 5 years. With the revolting vocals of Chobba welcoming you in to the insane mindset of the band. The blend of Deathcore and Black Metal vocals provide a stunning backdrop to the almost tectonic plate shifting breakdowns provided by Jack (Drums), Ash (Guitar), Jack (Bass) & Kie (Guitar). The sound that they produce is so unique that it needs to be witnessed to take it all in. And with guest appearances from Tyler Shelton of Traitors & Hayden Shemilt of Old Wharf it just brings the EP together and creates the sickest sound in the Deathcore scene right now. 10/10

SÖLICITÖR: Spectral Devastation (Gates Of Hell Records) [Rich Oliver]

Let’s face it. Current times are fucking awful especially now in 2020 caught in the middle of a pandemic. In times like this escapism is key to surviving and music is a great way to escape the current shitshow that is existence. Music can transport you anywhere you want it to take you and if you just so happen to want to go back to 1983 then SÖLICITÖR are the band for the job. SÖLICITÖR hail from Seattle with Spectral Devastation being the debut album by the band. Fronted by the ferocious Amy Lee Carlson SÖLICITÖR have a sound that is very much rooted in the early to mid 1980’s with influences from the NWOBHM, speed metal, US power metal and early thrash metal. The resulting mix is eight heavy metal anthems bristling with power and bursting with speed. Opener Blood Revelations takes no prisoners and kicks the album off in tremendous style and pretty much maintains the quality for its eight song duration.

The songs are full of gnarly riffs, interesting tempo changes, the snarling vocals of Amy and a good degree of catchiness meaning that these songs have definite staying power. The Red Queen has a more technical edge to it with a nice acoustic outro which has a passing resemblance of Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary Of A Madman. Leathür Streets has more of a classic metal vibe to it whilst the closing duo of Spectres Of War and Grip Of The Fist up the aggression with the inclusion of some blastbeats on the closing track. Spectral Devastation is a mighty fine piece of fast old school metal. It has a nice gritty production to it whereby it sounds rough but not too rough. It is just at the right level of raw and gnarly which perfectly suits the music but everything is nicely audible in the mix. SÖLICITÖR don’t break the wheel but play some bruising old school speed metal in fine style. Dig out your denim and leather, apply your spikes and bullet belts and wreck your necks. 8/10

Dissension: Dissension EP (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

With no biography or background information, it’s always a challenge to check that you’ve even got the right band when doing a review. Having trawled the internet I finally discovered that this version of Dissension hail from Chesterfield/Sheffield. Formed in 2017 the band’s current line-up is Phil Newton, Nathan Mace, Paul Kelly, Neil Charlesworth and Rik Smith. This four track EP is a reasonable effort although the production on the version I’ve got isn’t brilliant. More old school tape style than current modern approach which is fair enough as it suits the band’s raw sound. Defiantly thrash in the style of Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust, it’s a raging inferno from start to finish. Opener Bloodfist is one frantic ball of chaos. Ragged vocals scream as the duel guitars compete with the blasting rhythm section for clarity.

Gravepool that follows next is the weakest track on the EP, some decent lead breaks the highlight of a song that doesn’t quite hang together right. Track three is Killz 4 Thrillz. A bloody awful title is rescued by some early Slayer-esque riffing and the solid drumming. Vocally, its once again loose and uninspiring, and probably about two minutes two long. This leaves the final track, King Of Bombs, a feisty piece of thrash which concludes this routine EP with a glimmer of hope. Dissension failed to qualify in their heat of this year’s M2TM in Chesterfield. That’s unsurprising on this offering, as there are far better thrash bands on the circuit. Having said all that, there are flashes of potential, with the playing at times neat. It’ll be interesting to see how Dissension progress in the next year or so. 5/10