Transcend: Balance I (Self Released)
Montreal based band Transcend play prog, evocative, expansive prog. This EP s just four tracks long but two of them are over 10 minutes in length featuring elongated instrumental passages, stirring solos, expressive drumming, that takes some world music influences on Disillusion and big technical riffs that are bolstered by electronics and orchestrations (with some Oriental sounds on A Parallel Reflection I). Now these electronics and orchestrations come from the synth prowess of keyboardist Alexi Lagogianis who is clearly inspired by Jordan Rudess in terms of stylistic approach, the other two members of Transcend as Devon Butters plays four and six strings adding the crunching riffage that moves into the metal sphere, Disillusion shows this properly with a raging heavy section at about 7 minutes in where the guitars and keys duel in a expansive solo section, before the anthemic chorus comes back for the end.
Now what I noticed about this EP in comparison to their 2011 full length, is that the vocals of Costa Damoulianos, who also plays guitar, have improved massively, he has really nailed it here, moving between a low croon and shouted passion. Where Are You Now shows this brilliantly as Sean Lang's drumming competes for you attention. This 7 minute tracks is a little like Devin Townsend's proggier moments with the album overall giving Haken and Karnivool vibes. These men are ultra-talented as not only have they written everything here but they have also produced, mixed and mastered this EP, making sound pin-sharp as you want with modern prog. Balance I is clearly the beginning of a journey that will be explored more on future releases, the final track A Parallel Reflection I, all 12:49 of it is a stunning conclusion to the record that indicates by it's title that it's only a beginning. This just being the first part (hopefully) there is a lot to look forward to from Transcend. 8/10
Cadaver: D.G.A.F (Nuclear Blast)
Cadaver were founded by Anders Odden and Ole Bjerkebakke in 1988. They were the first Norwegian band to release a death metal album, in 1990. They've changed line ups numerous times but Anders (nicknamed Neddo) is the only consistent member. They have once again returned from death metal history with Neddo bringing along Megadeth sticksman Dirk Verbeuren to reform the band in 2019. D.G.A.F is their first release on Nuclear Blast and it is three tracks of old school death metal, barking vocals on top of Neddo's guitar, grinding against the blitzkrieg drumming of Dirk. The title track slowly builds into some grooving death metal as Jeff Walker of Carcass adding his shouts to the chorus, Deformed Insanity rampages along with double kick flurries and repentless riffage while Disgrace frantically ends the album with the blistering 3 minute blast. Cadaver are back with vengeance, 3 tracks, 10 minutes, of no nonsense death metal. 7/10
Fovitron: Altar Of Whispers (Alcyone Records)
Fovitron classify themselves as "Symphonic Atmospheric Melodic Black Death Metal" which is a bit of a genre mind bender but basically it's Symphonic Blackened Death Metal. A string-led instrumental opens the record with Gothic overtones, evolving into a piano piece swelling into cinematics. The initial proper song is Inner Demons where we get some melodic cleans that moves into exactly what you'd expect from a band like this with a Behemoth/Dimmu Borgir edge to them. Magni's keys bring the symphonic sounds to the blistering drumming from Dammien as band leader Fovitrus (guitar) attacks his instrument savagely with tremolo picking coming at lightspeed while Sovereign's bass work keeps pace. Dramatic organs on Dreading The Night before we get yet more heaviness with more of death metal style here as Wasteland Of My Dreams has more black metal raging underpinned by the strings.
Nuntius Mortis' has a brilliant voice, roaring with rage at the heavier sections while also having enough clarity to actually hear what he's singing about. (Always a bonus). Running at just over an hour the 9 tracks on this record are all quite lengthy (no four minute pop songs here) they all unravel their allure using the symphonic sounds to ramp up the cinematic style they are trying to attain. On Endless Whispers even uses Nancy Mos of Fortis Ventus to add some operatic female vocals to the mix. When black/death metal use symphonic sounds properly it can be very good indeed and this Greek act use it very well giving them very atmospheric edge especially on Remembrance and the 8 minute When Darkness Falls. With the weather so good outside Fovitron bring some Northern darkness via Greece. 7/10
Phe: Glooming Dawn (Self Released)
Riffs, that's what Phe deliver like a UPS carrier. Filthy stoner riffs straight out of the Netherlands. Touching on desert rock psych on The Lion & The Snake which has a spacey guitar break, they also bring doom to We Are Gods. In fact much of Glooming Dawn reminds me of Audrey Horne especially the vocals of Ruud who has the rugged emotion of Ian Asbury and Ralf from Mustasch while also playing some expressive drums on tracks such as The Asylum, which is hooked by Marcel's bass making for a heavy low end, Follow The Moon gets the pace moving again with Paul's staccato riff gets the first part of the track going strong leading into the woozy The Former Baptist Known As Phe. I'd never heard of Phe before this record and it really appeals to me with it's mix of stoner/doom, I'll be checking out their other releases for sure. 7/10