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Tuesday 28 April 2020

Reviews: Vader, Ulcerate, Mantric, Dead Lakes (Paul H & Matt)

Vader: Solitude In Madness (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Hutchings]

Opening with the pulverising Shock And Awe, an absolute barrage of drums and violent riffing greets the listener. This is Vader, the Poles announcing their return with a quite brutal level of intensity. It’s explosive, ferocious and sets the pace for the 11 tracks that whiz by like a surface to air missile in a mere 29 minutes. Yes, this is similar in length to Reign In Blood but exactly like that classic album, the quality means that there is no need to extend or over complicate. Into Oblivion follows the opening song and maintains the crushing pace, shredding guitars soar whilst the bludgeoning drumming of James Stewart is as astonishing as ever, the standards he sets maintained yet again.

With the longest song on the album clocking in at 3:56 (Bones), this is not an album with which to settle in for the long haul. Indeed, you’d hardly have finished your beer before Solitude Of Madness finishes. The battery of demonic driving death thrash continues with the 1:18 Despair, a punk fuelled blistering assault. There is no room for anything other than steaming hot metal here with the band on stunning form. Check out the full-frontal battering of And Satan Wept, the devastating charge of Incineration Of The Gods and the groove laden thrash of Emptiness. Not only have Vader roared back into sight with a quite astonishingly heavy release which is instant and addictive, but this is a welcome reminder and demonstration if it were needed at just how tight this band are.

Vader have been together for the best part of a decade and it shows. The lead work of Piotr Wiwczarek is razor sharp, his vocals welcomingly gruff. This is a man who has been plying his trade since 1983, some 37 years and his experience and drive shows no cracks. Behind Wiwczarek, the engine room of Marek Spider Pajakh’s chunky rhythm guitar riffs interlink with the cascade from Stewart and the pounding bass lines of Tomasz ‘Hal’ Halichi. Four years since The Empire, Vader remain brilliantly vicious, aggressive and as fresh as ever. 9/10

Ulcerate: Stare Into Death And Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions) [Matt Bladen]

Kiwi band Ulcerate are brutal, bloody brutal, a raging torrent of atmospheres, technically impressive death metal riffs that shift seemingly at random but always seem to be coherent. Stare Into Death And Be Still is the band's sixth record and it seems like they haven't chilled out at all since their last album in 2016 the three piece (yes three piece) are still an uncompromising sonic force. Ulcerate's sound is driven by Jamie Saint Merat, who is not only one of the most destructive drummer I've heard this year, he is not only frighteningly mechanical with his blastbeats but he also plays a major role in composing, recording, producing, and mixing the music too as well creating the artwork, an invaluable contribution but he's not the only member of the band though.

Michael Hoggard plays complex riffs and provides the six string dissonance built around his unorthodox chord progressions and instrumental dexterity that juxtaposes the scary drumming with claustrophobic riffs. This just leaves the bottom end of Paul Kelland who growls like a demon and provides the bass rhythms for tracks such as Inversion to hinge on. Ulcerate are about as far from the mainstream as you can get the entire album is based on the concept of “death reverence” which basically translates as “in the silent horror of observing death calmly and cleanly” high brow and unapologetically cerebral, they carve their own niche into the well worn metal sphere with an abrasive sound that is somewhere between Godflesh/Immolation styles death metal, nihilistic death metal and the emotional doom of Warning. It's a hard listen for sure and if ferociously scientific death metal is up your alleyway then this will be an album of the year, though I urge any fan of extreme metal to seek out this distinctive album. 7/10

Mantric: False Negative (Tooth & Nail/Solid State) [Matt Bladen]

Mantric are a Norwegian progressive band who are aimed at fans of "Vola, Leprous, Voyager, Caligula's Horse and Between The Buried And Me" apparently. Well I tell you dear reader that the Leprous, Voyager and BTBAM influences are the ones that are nearest. This record is full of their newly found love of synths which are put to great use on the kooky Blame The Beggar and clean vocals are on every track, along with chunky riffs that are still in place from previous releases. This heaviness comes from vocalist/guitarist Ole Sveen, guitarist/vocalist Tor Glidje and bassist/vocalist John Mjåland all being part of Extol and it shows on The Towering Mountain which has post-punk aggression full of angry vocals and crunchy riffs. As much as I try to classify this album as one thing or another (as we reviewers are prone to do) it's very difficult with False Negative as there is a lot going on here across the 10 tracks with moments of ambient soundscapes, meeting crushing Deftones-like metal on Darling Demon, as the laid back Every Day Is Independence Day is almost wistful. If I'm honest I found it difficult to get my head around this record, but I feel the same way about BTBAM, it's musically dense, brimming with virtuosity but never really grabs me as I thought it would. I appreciate it but I'm not sure if I like it. 6/10

Dead Lakes: New Language (Sharptone) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s no secret that I struggle with the kind of post hardcore that Seattle outfit Dead Lakes play. I’ve got a limited benchmark to work against and as a result it all blends into one. This five track EP is their first on new label Sharptone and it would be reasonable to acknowledge that the band cover a wide range of genres. In fact, metal would be one of the few that the band rarely touch. Every track is wracked with heartfelt emotions, the despair and agony of broken relationships and challenging circumstances, the type of subject matter which appears to be the staple of bands in this genre. It’s neatly produced, full of atmosphere and Dead Lakes are clearly solid musicians. The irony is that there are about as metal as Britney Spears. It’s desperately limp. The tracks here have the pop sensibility that Bring Me the Horizon have morphed into, screamo with melody and underlying angst. Songs such as Paradise and SMS Happiness are routine, but I would imagine that this EP is likely to appeal greatly to fans of the genre as it ticks all the boxes. I’ve listened to it three times. That was enough. 5/10

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