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Monday, 20 April 2020

Reviews: Forlesen, Ignea, The Vulcan Itch, Deaf Lizard (Paul S, Simon, Matt & Paul H)

Forlesen: Hierophant Violent (Hypnotic Dirge Records)

Forlesen are a 3 piece based in the Bay Area. The band have been together since 2018, and can be seen as a super group; Ascalaphus (Vocals, Guitar, Synths, Harmonium) is also in Botanist, Nero Order and Lotus Thief, Bazaelith (Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Synth) is also in Lotus Thief, Botanist and Palace Of Worms and Maleus (Drums) is also in Kayo Dot and Vesper Moth. Hierophant Violent is the first material the band have released. The bands where the members of Forlesen do their day jobs should give you an idea of the general area that this album inhabits. This is an album that has lots of different styles and moods, you’ll need an open mind to appreciate it, as well as some patience.

Patience? Well, this is an album that doesn’t rush, it takes it’s time. Hierophant Violent is made up of two tracks both coming close to twenty minutes in length. The first track Following Light opens with a six minute fade in of ambient tones and the occasional note from a clean guitar. I’m reminded of the very long, slow fade up at the beginning of Pink Floyd’s album Division Bell. The track is then mainly Post Metal, with a definite nod towards expansive doom. The quieter parts of this track are a little reminiscent of Mono, and in the louder, more doomy parts there is a slight resemblance to Wolvennest. The track uses both male and female vocals; both clean, to great effect. Following Light is a great track, but it is all about patience and letting the track develop and grow in the first half, so that the second half washes over you and takes you somewhere special. The second track feels more direct and purposeful.

Nightbridge also has a long fade in, but this time it’s only two to three minutes. The fade in is brought to a halt by crashing drums, signalling that this track is much more driven and resolute. The track then goes into a doomy post metal section that feels expansive and huge, there is a very emotive guitar solo, before the biggest surprise that this album has comes crashing in. We are dropped into a harsh lo-fi Black Metal section that is very second wave in style and savagery. After this the track goes back to doomy post metal, but this time it’s much more aggressive and harsh, as if it has taken on the feel of the black metal section. The track has a short, clean guitar instrumental section before fading back into the firmament.

Hierophant Violent is an intriguing album. A lot of people won’t get it. For a lot of tastes, it takes far too long to get anywhere. If you are a fan of Pop Punk or any other style of music that requires instant gratification, you should probably steer clear of this album. However, if you are stoical and like your music to have some depth and profundity then this is something you will probably like, it’s evocative, expansive and deeply affecting. It needs time to appreciate it properly, but in my opinion, it’s definitely time well spent. 8/10

Ignea: The Realms Of Fire And Death (Self Released) [Simon Black]

It’s always nice when something new and refreshing lands in my inbox, and this is fascinating. Ignea hail from Kiev in the Ukraine, and this is the second full-length album - or their third if you count re-releasing the first one as an instrumental version. That alone tells you something about the musicianship you are going to get. It’s a fascinating sound they’ve achieved, which quite defies classification, taking influence from a whole range of styles to create something quite distinctive. There’s bits of Symphonic (but very light ones), a lot of Melodic metal, some straight old-fashioned Metal and Speed and a whole bunch of world music influences, most strongly a Middle-Eastern tone, with a few Oriental touches thrown in for good measure. If they need a style name, let’s call it Ignea-Metal, because it is so uniquely their own. If you want an example of how these eclectic extremes can work together jump to Gods Of Fire, which in its three minutes run time somehow manages to display all these characteristics without sounding odd or contrived.

When in metal vein, the tracks are in the main full on and atmospheric, with some nice touches of brutality, supported by Helle Bogdova’s distinctive vocal style that alternates effectively between clean and growled styles. When she sings cleanly it’s with a lovely tone, when she turns on the growl it’s as effective as Arch Enemy. Interestingly the lyrics alternate between English and (presumably) Ukranian, so this is clearly a band who do what they want. For an independent release the production is absolutely spot on – crisp and clear, heaviness where it needs to be and no-one predominating in the mix. The album is a concept, but the switches in language make it difficult to follow that thread, but to be honest I’m too busy enjoying the music to really care about that, although the blurb on their web site indicates that they are deliberately trying to create a balance between the brutal and the fairy tale in their concepts. This is a band that need a wider audience and I really hope you will give them a listen. 8/10

The Vulcan Itch: Self Titled (Lychnopolis Records) [Matt Bladen]

Athenian rockers The Vulcan itch are a hard rocking trio from the Greek capital. This self titled release is their debut record and it brims with attitude from the first moments with some brassy, bold rock riffs, that have a bluesy edge adding some slide guitar here and there, a big chunk of fuzzy riffs and a little bit of weirdness on songs like Lies which gives me an feel of QOTSA due to its groove. It's also one of the better songs on the record. Yes the writing is not really that mature with I Don't Give A Fuck and Hippie Hippie Shit are a little brainless but as the record wears on the songs get a bit better than just bouncy hard rocking. There's a lot of typical power rock trio sounds from bands like Danko Jones and Skam on The Vulcan Itch. There's melodic vocal which moves into raw shouts, focussed bass/drums and punchy riffs that keep the head nodding. It's a good way to while away a bit of time if you want a bit of derivative hard rock, but not much else. 5/10

Deaf Lizard: No Man’s Sky (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

The opening track on No Man’s Sky is a bowel emptying, bone shattering rumble of thunder which at 8:43 and fully instrumental paves the way for a glorious further 40 minutes of fuzzy psychedelic stoner rock. The four-piece from Oldenburg in Germany formed in 2014 and make no bones about their influences on this solid and frighteningly enjoyable debut long-player. There are elements of Sabbath, Kyuss, QOTSA and Monolord mixed into a heady soup which captivates and beats around the head at the same time. After No Man’s Sky there is the nine minute plus meandering Delphi, a startling escapade which builds slowly, a bluesy guitar cutting through the dirty fuzz to grab the attention as well as the mighty closing track, The Lizard. A dirty, low tuned soil scuffer of an intro that leads to a song which echoes and reverbs with a ferocity which is absolutely necessary. It’s deep, soulful as well as trippy as balls in parts. This is an album to blaze one up and put the world to rights. 7/10

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