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Friday, 3 April 2020

Reviews: Drakonis, Loviatar, Bonfire, Woorms (Rich, Lee, Simon & Matt)

Drakonis: Blessed By Embers (Hostile Media) [Rich Oliver]

Blessed By Embers is the debut album from Belfast black metallers Drakonis. Formed in 2009 by members of Waylander, Drakonis have thus far released three EP’s but are sure to get heads turning and banging with this debut album.

For a debut album Blessed By Embers is an incredibly accomplished and mature sounding release. It has an absolutely massive sound which leaps out of the speakers at you and its intensity rarely lets up throughout its duration. Drakonis perform a very melodic, epic yet suitably vicious brand of black metal with nods to other metal genres such as death metal, gothic metal and doom metal. The first single and opening song of the album Threnody starts things off in epic style with a forlorn melody underlaid with atmospheric keyboards before chaos is unleashed upon the listener with razor sharp riffs, furious blast beats and throat shredding vocals all swirling around this mesmerising melody. You get more even more furious tunes such as the relentless Fear Of The Wretched and the intense yet melodic title track. As They Rot slows the pace down but ups the atmosphere and the malevolence whilst closer An Anthem Of Ashes is the most melodic and epic song on the album.

To say that Drakonis impressed me would be an understatement. This is an absolutely glorious release and ticks so many boxes in what I like in heavy music. Influence wise you can hear nods to Dark Funeral, Rotting Christ and Cradle Of Filth amongst others and whilst there are bands that have done a similar style to Drakonis before there is more than enough room for similarly styled bands when they sound as good as this. A fantastic album that is equally chaotic and grandiose. In this worrying and uncertain time for musicians I want to do my best to support up and coming and underground bands by purchasing their music and merchandise and Drakonis will most certainly be added to my shopping list. 9/10

Loviatar: Lightless (Prosthetic Records) [Lee Burgess]

Looking for something light and fluffy to take your mind off all this state-imposed quarantine? If the answer is yes, then you’re shit out of luck my metal friends. Today I bring you Loviatar and their ultra-grim album, Lightless. First off, although this comes under the banner of Post Metal, be ready to open your minds to something a little different. This is post metal if the demon-king of the genre shat forth offspring with the genetic make-up of Sabbath and Paradise Lost. Sounds good, right? You’re damn right it does. This is bleak, doom-ridden, heavy stuff, make no mistake. It’s a melodic album with long winding songs that lead you down a path to seemingly endless misery. The catch here is that unlike most post-metal, Lightless doesn’t give way to electronic scratchy FX or throaty high pitch screams. Loviatar offer us a very different with singing, melody and a complex understanding of song structure. 

Gone are all the trappings of traditional post metal utilised by Russian Circles and my personal favourites Cult Of Luna and in comes twinkly riffs and pretty guitar leads, followed by mournful vocals. This is really good stuff. I mean bloody awesome. You really have to respect a band for taking on what many elitists consider to be an untouchable corner of the metal world. Well, this lot obviously decided to get serious and tear up the big old rule book. By infusing a hefty dose of doom into proceedings, what you have here is a record that simply shines, in the darkest possible sense. A stand-out track on this album, Silica is just gorgeous. Its aching lyrics and crushing layers of sound blend magically and deliver a song that is at once troubling and wonderous. This is mid-way through the album, so with a song so painful, it’s kind of good to know that the rest is going to give you some peace, namely in the following track, All The Witches You Fail To Burn, a haunting instrumental tune with a touch of the Gothic. 8/10

Bonfire: Fistful Of Fire (AFM Records) [Simon Black]

I had to admit to a certain amount of caution when it came to reviewing this album. I’ve never been a particular fan of Bonfire, having found them to be very much the followers rather than the leaders of a sub-genre now well past its time. However, old is the new ‘new’ at the moment and with all these new acts who weren’t even born when Bonfire were at their peak, breathing life into a whole bunch of musical sub-categories we all thought had gone the way of the mullet, acts like Bonfire have their work cut out for them. After all how can you rise above the crowd when you’ve not been seen as particularly distinctive in the past? The answer to that is hard work, doggedness and a refusal to be put down. Oh, and finally having a singer who can absolutely shred really, really helps - if Alexx Stahl had been around in days gone by, then they may have made a hell of a lot more of an impact. 

The album sounds rich and well-produced as you would expect - there’s some great performances and nice guitar work, but it’s those vocals that really are the strongest part of this outfit’s current offering. I hope he sticks around – this band have had to handle more line-up changes than Lady Gaga’s touring wardrobe assistant, and despite what a band says positively at the time, that kind of churn stops a band from getting to the creative shorthand that line-ups with longevity achieve. That is showing in some of the song-writing. Where it’s good it’s very, very good, but where it’s not its predictable. The album opens with just that level of predictability – The Joker sounds like it was left over from a 1986 session (albeit with all the positive performance mentioned above), but then you get Gotta Get Away, The Devil Made You Do It and Ride The Blade – three tracks that sound so much more gutsy and fresh, with a grittier, edgier sound to them and vocals that really are top notch. 

When An Old Man Cries follows, but is a fairly predictable (and thankfully only), ballad and to be honest falls rather flat. The remainder of the album continues in that vein, alternating between tracks that are grittier and refreshing, with the more mundane that would not have had much impact even when this sort of stuff was top of the patch. If they had either kept that tougher edge throughout, then this album would be getting a much higher score, but nonetheless it’s far from bad. 7/10

Woorms: Twitching, As Prey (Sludgelord Records) [Matt Bladen]

Southern Louisiana trio Woorms are purveyors of mind-melting sludge metal, consisting of Joey Carbo (guitars, vocals, keys, samples), John Robinson (basses, backing vocals) and Aaron Polk (drums, percussion), they play music that is, in a word, punishing with numbers like the fuzzy Unicorn CornEscape Goat and the towering Silence And The Saints which swirls into the psych realms woozily at its end. Twitching, As Prey is the second full length after their massive slab called Slake from last year and they haven't tried to change anything at all relying on low, slow riffs, shouted vocals and industrial sparseness on Fire Is A Bad Master which is very invasive leading into the agitated Because They look Like Crosses and the string-laden finale of God Botherer. Mind altering and heavy as a battleship filled with lead Twitching, As Prey is another weighty release from Woorms. 7/10

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