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Friday 5 June 2020

Reviews: Currents, Paralysis, Making Maps, Sickening Horror (Paul H, Rich, Bob & Matt)

Currents: The Way It Ends (Sharptone Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The opening track of this album had me dreading the next 37 minutes. It Was Never There is the kind of ghastly echoing emotional metalcore that leaves me cold. Luckily, A Flag To Wave contained much better if predictable music. A massive sound, huge drums, and bass with chainsaw guitars, that Djent style bouncing rhythms and roaring and clean vocals all wrapped up in a maelstrom of feelings and passion. Poverty Of Self maintains the powerful approach, a brutal assault all wrapped up in an explosive three-minute ball of passion.

Currents formed in 2011, in Fairfield, Connecticut with a current line-up of vocalist Brian Wille, guitarists Ryan Castaldi and Chris Wiseman, bassist Dee Cronkite and drummer Jeff Brown. The Way It Ends is their third full length album and their second with Sharptone Records. Whilst not familiar with their music, this release is one of the few metalcore style albums that kept my interest. Their linear musical approach incorporates a variety of styles and patterns and whilst there are segments which drift into the lighter side of the genre, much of this album maintains a brutally heavy approach. Short, sharp, and intense, tracks like Kill The Ache, Origins, and the multifaceted delivery of Split, with its huge driving bass cannot fail to impress.

Wille’s ability to switch between cleans and guttural growls is a definite highlight, the man has some lung power. Elegant and controlled, there is a solid balance between pulverising metal and the melody which flows through the ten tracks (excluding the intro on purpose). Much as I loathe most of the metalcore which is out there today, Currents have hit the proverbial nail on the head with an album that is intense, vibrant, and relevant. 8/10

Paralysis: Mob Justice (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

Crossover thrash as a genre has been going since the mid 1980’s and whilst not as popular as the thrash genre it spawned from it has had a loyal following since its inception. It has had some spikes in popularity in recent years from bands such as Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust who ushered in a new generation of fans and even more recently with Power Trip who reinvented the genre with a harder and meaner approach to the sound Paralysis are a band that have clearly been influenced by this harder more aggressive approach to crossover thrash and they and give their own spin on it.

Mob Justice is the second album from these New Jersey thrashers. East coast thrash has always had a bigger punk influence in the sound of the bands and Paralysis have a very clear influence from the NYHC (New York Hardcore) sound. This is a combination of thrash riffs with a very hardcore delivery from the barking vocal delivery to the bluntness of the music and the inclusion of some hardcore breakdown moments. There are some monstrous riffs here from the crushing Oblivious, the speedy Tombstone, the pounding Nihilist and my personal favourite the riff-fest of Onward To Slaughter.

The album does get a bit repetitive after a while even with a short 29 minute duration but it is saved by the sublime collection of riffs on display and the facebreaking intensity of the music. If you like your thrash on the meaner and more aggressive side of things then Mob Justice is a great album. Just on the whole it is lacking on the memorable side of things but it is still a fine listen for those of a thrashing nature. 7/10

Making Maps: Sapling (Self Released) [Bob Shoesmith]

With 7 tracks averaging six to seven minutes in length each, it’s difficult to tell whether Sapling was intended to be a long E.P or a short album, but as the South Carolina four piece’s own bio directs, it’s an album, so we’ll go with that. One of the things that reviewers are often pushed into doing (usually by the bands themselves) is identifying bands that the reviewees sound like, as it gives the reader a yard-stick. In the case of Making Maps that’s not necessarily as straight forward a task as you’d think as they, unusually, don’t liken themselves to others and their style doesn’t naturally draw comparisons, which is a very good sign in my book. Sapling is, according to the band “… the first chapter in a progressive rock concept story based on my life and my family's history. Lyrically, it draws from real past events as well as Greek and Biblical mythology” and their own interpretation of themselves adds to highlight the rather fuzzy profile of who Making Maps are and what they’re about. The narrative for a ‘concept’ album is slightly confusing (we don’t know who the author actually is and the juxtaposition of biography, real events AND Greek mythology? Not so much a ‘concept’ but a general scrap book of ideas).

So, a confused identity aside, the music sits on the softer and more delicate end of prog I think it would be fair to say. Vocalist Samuel Traquina is very easy on the ear and in the more upbeat songs he has a proximity close to Geddy Lee if I were to make a comparison (although not quite such a piercing falsetto that Lee goes to) he is very well supported by Alissa Castro on backing vocals – think Animate by Rush and you’ll find the closest kindred vocal style, particularly on the rockier Tonight. The opening track, Notes On My Pillowcase is a great prog track that takes you on an interesting, diverse journey, there’s no long passages of timing changes or interminable soloing, it’s just a good song that, with repeated listens, draws you in and floats you along. What I do like about Making Maps’ Sapling is that it’s subtle, almost understated, interesting and willing to experiment with sound, instruments and ideas that flow through each song.

I particularly liked Exequilae a rather random, out of place interlude and complete change of direction to a David Sylvan-esque soft West African drum style overlaid with some delicate percussion and sounds that are very intriguing. I have no idea how this track fits into the ‘concept’ but it’s a very cool two and a half minutes’ listen. I also like that on repeated listens you continue to pick up subtle snippets and layers that you may have missed that don’t overpower or intrude, such as some very sweet cello moments, Hammond style organ, synths and distorted rock guitar that drops in and out, BUT, they’re not all played all the time giving the album fixed format, they find ways to interpret the songs the way they want to as in the very listenable Cutting Roots.

Making Maps have given me a conundrum with their debut album. There’s much to admire in the diversity of the instrumentation, the clever, delicate and personal song writing – even if the concept is somewhat difficult to fathom - with softer edged and pleasant tracks. But there are some technical flaws that are difficult to push aside (which is the curse of getting a musician as a reviewer I guess). There are slight timing issues throughout, transitions between passages are often a little clumsy and the distorted guitar sound is over processed and a bit jarring. The overall production is a bit rudimentary and not blended at all well. That said, I like what Making Maps are attempting here. All the songs are very listenable, interesting, have a delicate touch and avoid cliché. A tighter, more polished product would get a higher mark from me, and I would very much like to hear what happens next based on this offering. 6/10

Sickening Horror: Chaos Revamped (Pathologically Explicit Recordings) [Matt Bladen]

Formed in the back streets of Athens, Greece all the way back in January 2002, Sickening Horror are a virtuositic death band who remind this writer a lot of Coroner due to their progressive take on the death metal genre. On this fourth album however they have streamlined their approach with the thrashier sounds coming in Outburst and Fragments Of Time while they still maintain a mastery over their instruments that means all of them are as individually important to the songs. For example Transmutation has some nifty bass work from Orestis Ntomis as does Chaos Revamped, while the intricate leads on Cubical Void show how good George Antipatis' is as a player, with the solo section on Monarch and others also showing this even further. Vocally too his growl is toughened but audible singing songs that deal with a satirical look at the world. Finally drummer Vasilis Antipatis works like a machine laying down a barrage of percussion on more atmospheric tracks such as Dawn Of The Sick where the tonal shifts are all directed by the drumming. Chaos Revamped is a blistering progressive death metal display and as the final track Fire Imploded fades out with a stomping riff you just want to press play again and crank up the volume. 8/10

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