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Friday, 10 April 2020

Reviews: Ad Infinitum, Brant Bjork, Kingsmen, Dark Passage (Simon, Matt, Liam & Rich)

Ad Infinitum: Chapter 1: Monarchy (Napalm Records) [Simon Black]

Ad Infinitum (or at least this incarnation – they are the third band to have used this name since the 1970’s) are a 4 piece symphonic metal outfit from Switzerland, and this is their debut disc. With fifteen tracks spanning just over an hour’s running time, you certainly get your money’s worth, although the version we got sent did include purely instrumental versions of a couple of the tracks. What makes it work is that it’s neither overtly technically showy, nor boring - keeping the listener interested by subtly varying the tone between the tracks – moody and orchestral one minute, brick heavy the next, or a couple of times in the same trick, to really keep you on your toes. The subject matter is quite dark, with lots of mediaeval obsession and plague-orientated social commentary, just in time for a global pandemic…

Singer Melissa Bonny has been around this symphonic block before, having cut vinyl with the likes of Evermore and Rage Of Light and is one of the highlights of the album, with a haunting crystal-clear voice and melodic tone perfectly suited to this sub-genre, but more than capable of belting out a good gut wrenching scream when needed. The sound mix here is absolutely spot on too, highlighting the musicians without distracting the listener from some really strong musicianship on here, although the song-structuring itself needs a bit of work to keep the audience focussed.

Single Marching On Versailles neatly snapshots what they are about, with a good counterpoint of tones, and those crystal vocals complemented by some nice guttural backing vocals from the rest of the band. However, See You In Hell is definitely the strongest track, taking a balladic sound you start with but twisting it into darkness with haunting lyrics and some really haunting guitar work, before knocking your round the head with some brick-heavy rhythm and instrumental breaks, which they wisely don’t allow to get too long and self-indulgent, and the addition of a couple of pure acoustic tracks at the end to show what Melissa can really do is a brave move, but one that really works. A promising start. 7/10

Brant Bjork: S/T (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt Bladen]

It's fair to say Brant Bjork is something of a stoner rock/desert rock originator, having had tenures in Kyuss, Vista Chino and Fu Manchu his drums have driven some of the most mind expanding music ever to come out of the Californian desert. Well Bjork is back with his self titled ninth record, taking cues from his earlier albums he has rediscovered that laid back Cali Desert Sound fusing blues, psych and classic rock together for a mind-altering trip through this man's mind. Bjork plays every single instrument here with the unfussy blues Shitkickin' Now, the rockier Jesus Was A Bluesman, the fuzzy Mary (You're Such A Lady). However there's a funkier edge to Stardust & Diamond Eyes as the album is closed out by the acoustic Been So Long all driven by the laid back vocals of Bjork and his musical dexterity. A desert rock legend doing what he does best, Brant Bjork shows that the man has been there and done it all. 7/10

Kingsmen: Revenge.Forgiveness.Recovery (Sharptone Records) [Liam True]

In an age where the majority of the Metalcore genre in built entirely on being heavier, more breakdown orientated and having the harshest vocals, Kingsmen are bringing back the glory days of the genre by being focused on the more melodic side of the music and having more chorus’ rather than being straight up breakdowns. While bringing the chorus’ and the riffs back to all new heights, they still have the core fundamentals of Metalcore, but they’ve slightly improved their take on it.

With the low growls and high vocals of Tanner Guimond their debut album is set to be one of the biggest hits for 2020 already. The instrumental skills of Tim Lucier, Michael Perrotta and Adam Bakelman just make the record come together while being destructive and powerful to make an amazing Metalcore record. While already having supported some big name bands already, they’ve proved that they’re able to showcase themselves in a headlining show. Just wait for the time to come and in the meantime, get this album. 8/10

Dark Passage: The Legacy Of Blood ((Rockshots Records) [Rich Oliver]

The Legacy Of Blood is the debut album by Italian heavy metallers Dark Passage. Dark Passage perform a style very much rooted in classic heavy metal with nods to power metal and a distinct influence from Iron Maiden. The singer vocally bears more than a resemblance to Blaze Bayley. Dark Passage perform old school heavy metal with lyrics very much based in fantasy, history and folklore. Unfortunately it is just not very interesting at all. On the whole the songs are overly long, fairly plodding and just have no distinguishing features. The album also has a heavy reliance on pointless intros and interludes usually with cringe inducingly bad voice acting. The album is also chock full of acoustic passages designed to add to the medieval feel of the album but they end up just breaking the flow. The Legacy Of Blood is not a terrible album but just very flat and unengaging. I found my attention wandering off multiple times whilst listening and by the end I couldn’t really point out any highlights. The Legacy Of Blood unfortunately left to legacy on this listener. 4/10

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