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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Reviews: Sigiriya, Khemmis, Validor, King Corpse (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Sigiriya: Maiden Mother Crone (Burning World Records)

It's been a long wait for any new music from Swansea Space Stoner rock band Sigiriya, in fact their previous album Darkness Died Today came out in 2014. Now that's due to many factors that include personal trauma, mental and physical health issues, and scarily their new drummer Rhys Miles coming very close to death. This has meant gaps in touring and writing meaning that Maiden Mother Crone the band's third full length has been in development hell for a while. However once it started to develop the album finally got recorded  at UWTSD Studios in Swansea by Adam Howell, with some extra tweaks by vocalist Matt Williams at Sunnyvale Studios, then it was mixed and mastered at The Bridge Studios & FX London by Richard Whittaker, who has mixed for Solstice, Orchid and Lord Vicar amongst others.

Finally Maiden Mother Crone was ready to unleash and it's surely the most mature record of the bands career, you can feel every hardship, every silver lining, every single herdle the band have had to face filtered through mind expanding stoner/doom rock. The record is both darker and lighter than anything previously, the woozy intro of Mantis opening up into a cavernous riff from Stuart O'Hara, the head nods independently whether you want it too or not. Behind this there's a menagerie of sounds, not just the crushing rhythmics of Rhys Miles (drums) and Paul Bidmead (bass) but I can hear some Middle Eastern percussion and strings before the track gets almost primal with it's thunderous riffage. Cwm Annwn is sonically more akin to groovy doom Matt 'Pipes' Williams using his gruff vocal style similarly to Orange Goblin's Ben Ward keeping it melodic but never straying from grit.

Now a few of you may know Acrimony the band that featured every instrumentalist on this record and yes there are still remnants of that sound here but ultimately Sigiriya are forging their own identity with meaty rockers like Cwm Annwn and Tau Ceti relying on the, tight as a medicine bottle lid, rhythm section of Miles and Bidmead, as does the hypnotic, almost Metallica-like Dark Call. While O'Hara can take some flights of fancy on the more psych influenced songs such as the closing double whammy of Arise (Darkness Died Today) which has a bit of bubbling organ and Crushed By The Weight Of The Sky an 8 minute spacey climax to this fantastic record. The Welsh stoner/doom scene has always been excellent, but Sigiriya are rightly still near the very peak of the mountain. If you have even a passing interest into stoner rock then you need Maiden Mother Crone. 9/10         

Khemmis: Doomed Heavy Metal (Nuclear Blast)

Now I like Denver Doomsters Khemmis. I really do. But this EP is a little...weird. Though it's weird times so it can be expected. It starts with three studio tracks, A Conversation With Death from their 7”split with Spirit Adrift and Empty Throne from the Decibel Magazine Flexi Series, the third is a dirtier version of RJD's Rainbow In The Dark which is really a doom band playing classic metal, though Khemmis have always had that traditional metal influence to their music. It's pretty decent, shitting all over Killswitch's Holy Diver. A Conversation With Death is more like the Khemmis people will be used to, dual guitar/vocal led doom with nods to The Sword, although it crawls with a sense of purpose with a gothic overtown that does get thrown out of the window due to the double tapped guitar solo explosion in the last part of the track. Empty Throne meanwhile is filthy, grinding dirty doom of the highest order. For completionists (and those that don't live in the USA) these two tracks will be well received. However there's more, the second part of the EP features three live cuts from the bands Two Nights Of Doomed Heavy Metal in 2018. If you've never seen the band live then it gives a good indication of the monolithian yet traditionally influenced power of Khemmis as live act. A curio for sure but one that will appeal to Khemmis' newly found wider audience. 6/10

Validor: In Blood In Battle (Symmetric Records)

In Blood In Battle was the studio debut of Greek Heavy/Power Metal band Validor, released in 2011 it was followed by Dawn Of The Avenger in 2012 and Hail To Fire in 2016. Now as they gearing up to record their fourth album, the voice and rhythm guitar of Validor: Odi “Thunderer” Toutounis, decided to re-record their debut release which was done with very little money in 2011. This audio improvement was put in the hands of instrumentalist/producer/label owner extraordinaire Bob Katsionis who has not only produced/mixed this record but also played the lead guitars, bass and keys with Apollo Giannoulis supplying the battery. All drum, bass, and rhythm guitar parts have been re-recorded but the vocals and solos have remained intact to keep things sounding a lot like the original release.

So who are Validor? Well they are a epic heavy metal band who play music fans of Manowar and Virgin Steele will love, Odi's vocals are very Eric Adams-like giving a low croon on the acoustic opening The Riddle Of Steel, yes folks this is fantasy themed heavy metal, with tales of swords and sorcery that will also bring to mind Blind Guardian especially on the galloping Sword Of Vengeance where Apollo's drumming is immense giving the song a propulsive feel. The Last Emperor starts with some cinematic orchestration before another fist pumping metal anthem gets you shouting along as Stealer Of Souls has some tasty lead guitar solos before Through The Storm ramps up the theatrics.

In Blood In Battle is a record that really shines due to its disregard for the fashions of 2011, this is epic metal done as well as any of the American originators (as they always are) and the re-recording really accentuates the musical force they are while retaining the raw ferocity of the original album. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come and that album four is their best yet! 7/10

King Corpse: Sacred Crimson (Self Released)

Ah sludge, a hard genre to discuss without mentioning the NOLA template laid down by Eyehategod and Crowbar and to be honest King Corpse rarely deviate from that template. Despite being from the Black Country Sacred Crimson sounds like those very early sludge metal albums that emerged from the Louisiana swamps all those years ago, especially in the production, which is god awful. Maybe it was meant to sound raw, or maybe it was the copy I had, I don't know but the production means that everything has the same level of distortion as everything else, there is no crispness anywhere. What also makes this album a bit of slog are the vocals which are nothing more than a tuneless drone most of the time with a bit of shouting here and there. I'll be honest when we saw the band live at HRH Metal earlier this year they were about average, I believe my colleague gave them 6/10, well it's live where they excel as this EP lasted all of about 3 songs before I switched it off. Maybe if you love sludge metal you'll lock in and just nod your head but I couldn't I'm afraid. 4/10

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