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Monday, 27 April 2020

Reviews: Warbringer, Bloodyard, Old Forest, Shatter Brain (Rich, Liam, Paul S & Paul H)

Warbringer: Weapons Of Tomorrow (Napalm Records) [Rich Oliver]

Warbringer have been one of the most consistent and enjoyable thrash bands of recent years. Their previous album Woe To The Vanquished (which was also reviewed by yours truly) was an excellent album and to be fair since day one Warbringer haven’t really put a foot wrong but it is with album number six Weapons Of Tomorrow that I feel that Warbringer have really hit their stride. Weapons Of Tomorrow is easily the best album they have done to date and it perfectly marries the ripping old school thrash intensity they are known for with some other influences. Woe To The Vanquished introduced some elements from black and death metal into their sound but here these influences are given even greater prominence.

The album starts out as it should start out and that is in the form of an absolutely ripping thrash anthem named Firepower Kills. It is fast, aggressive and damn catchy and is a definite statement of intent for Warbringer. It is followed by the stomping The Black Hand Reaches Out which brings the pace down slightly but loses none of the intensity. There are plenty of face melting thrashers on the album such as Crushed Beneath The Tracks with its bludgeoning attack and nods to Demolition Hammer, the crunching riffage of Outer Reaches and the all out violence and insane speed of Unraveling which was written for absolute carnage in the mosh pits. The album also has some songs that take Warbringer in a different direction.

You have the melodic and progressive nature of Notre Dame (King Of Fools) and Heart Of Darkness dives head first into blackened thrash territory with its sinister melodies and blast beats mixed with crunching thrash riffage. The most experimental song on the album is Defiance Of Fate which can only be described as a blackened thrash ballad with its dark atmosphere and melodic nature. Warbringer have truly excelled with Weapons Of Tomorrow. Considering how long the genre has been going and how many different bands there are playing thrash metal there is still a shedload of amazing thrash still being released today and Warbringer might have just dropped the thrash album of 2020. 10/10

Bloodyard: Orchard Of Corpses (Self Released) [Liam True]

Lancaster isn’t a place I'd associate with Death Metal, but good things come from places you don’t expect them. After the release of two EP’s the Lancaster quartet have unleashed their debut album, Orchard Of Corpses. And while not being a huge fan of all things Death Metal, it’s a very solid album. The vocals of frontwoman Donna Hurd cut through you like a wailing banshee with the soaring highs and the earth shattering lows produces by her, with her delivery rivalling most vocalists in the scene to date. The instrumentals are absolutely crushing. The riffs are spectacular, the solos are brain melting and the drums vibrate through you like a 747 taking off. In terms of music, there’s nothing bad I can say about this album as it all blends together perfectly to create a cacophony of destructive music that will stand it’s ground and appeal the fans. This brings me onto the only thing I find bad about the album. The production. It sounds dingy, muddy and doesn’t do the band justice. If that’s the sound they wanted to have while recording then that’s their choice, personally lo-fi recording do nothing for me, but each to their own. If you can overlook the sound quality of the album, it’s terrific. Don’t let this pass you by. 7/10

Old Forest: Back Into The Old Forest (Mordgrimm) [Paul Scoble]

Old Forest have been making music since 1998. They took a break from 2001 till 2007 when they re-formed, and have been together ever since. The three piece who released their last studio album, Black Forests Of Eternal Doom, at the end of last year. Black Forests Of Eternal Doom was very well received, and gained a very good review from this blog. So, in a few short months we have a new release from the band, how have they produced a new album so soon? Well, this isn’t a new album, it’s a re-recording of the bands first album Into The Old Forests. The original album was released in 1999 and from what I can tell, wasn’t that well received at the time. So, this seems like an attempt to re-write history, and heal some long standing wounds. I must admit I am not totally sure why they have done this, I can understand wanting to re-record an old album if you are trying to rectify terrible sound (as Suicidal Tendencies did, recording their first self titled album as Still Cyco After All These Years, to try to fix the abysmal sound on their first album), but Old Forest have apparently used the equipment they used for their first try at recording the album.

In many ways you can tell that the album has been recorded with old equipment, but recorded in a modern way; the sound is fairly lo-fi, in the sounds on offer, but it has been recorded at a decent gain level (something that shows up a lot of early lo-fi black metal albums is incredibly low output gain), so it sounds nasty but its a clear, easily heard nasty. This is probably a small improvement on the original, but I don’t think sound level/quality was this albums problem. I think the reason it garnered some unflattering reviews is the material, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t particularly good either. The album is a grab bag of different early second wave styles, theres a little bit of early Gorgoroth, a small touch of Carpathian Forest, but it is mainly early Dimmu Borgir or early Cradle Of Filth. Most of the material is what was known at the time as ‘Symphonic Black Metal’, so blast beats, tremolo picked riffs and lots of keyboards. The style is pretty dated, the keyboards are too high in the mix, and the songs feel a little too simple. For example opening track is a mix of blasting fast Black metal and slower, more melodic and tuneful Black Metal, which is fine, but that is all it does; Fast Bit, slow bit, fast bit, slow bit, end.

This sort of simplicity is all over the album, two or three different parts repeated for 3 or 4 minutes, and then end. There are a couple of tracks that stand out, Where The Trees Are Withered has a great punky main riff, that gives the song a little bit of a hardcore feel to it, in some ways like Carpathian Forest, or Impaled Nazarene. The track Glistening is also quite original, it’s mainly an atmospheric track made up of keyboards and interesting softly chanted vocals. As you have probably worked out already, I don’t really see the point of Back Into The Old Forest. I could understand it if they had just kept it as a project just for the members of the band and hardcore fans, maybe releasing this on vinyl only. The main thing wrong with this album isn’t the sound or the recording, but the songwriting. It sounds like a first album, the writing is naive and quite dated, and that is probably the reason for the bad reviews.

Old Forest have clearly grown into a brilliant band, who produce really great albums, but maybe making their first album available in this way isn’t helping them. Some people might see this as a brand new album, and be rather surprised at the style, and quality. This isn’t by any means a terrible album, but I’m not sure why the band have gone to all this effort. The budget that payed for this re-recording, could probably have been better spent on something like a new Ep, or their next albums demo. It’s ok, passable Black Metal, but it’s nothing better than that, for hardcore fans only. 6/10

Shatter Brain: Pitchfork Justice (Wormholedeath Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Based in Adelaide, Shatter Brain formed in 2018, a collection of members of some of South Australia’s most successful heavy bands. With a sound which doffs the cap to the power of bands like High on Fire, Black Breath and Power Trip, this debut album is a raw and violent release that ignites like an incendiary device thrown by a balaclava clad rioter with opening song Talk In Fear taking no prisoners. Yet despite its sheer aggression, there is a melody which underpins the breakdowns and that allows Pitchfork Justice the opportunity to make a real impact. Tom Santamaria’s snarling vocals reference everyone from Alexi Laiho, Cavalera and Anselmo to the guttural growls of one D Randall Blythe circa New American Gospel. Luckily, they fit the fury that is unleashed on tracks like Lorem Ipsum, which allows the duel guitar work of Matt Disisto and Jack Hartley to shine.

With elements of thrash and groove and the odd piece of crossover thrown into the mix, and a social commentary which we can all relate to, this is a feisty energetic album that powers through the 39 minutes with gusto. It is unsurprising that the band’s first demo was mastered by Joel Grind of Toxic Holocaust as the chaos that is unleashed is certainly compatible with the TH sound. Powerhouse tracks including the fire cracker Fencesitter and the punishing closing Death Goes On enhance the quality and whilst it is a little ragged at times, if you fancy brutality from down under, you could do worse than to immerse yourself in this savagery. 7/10

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