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Thursday 25 June 2020

Reviews: Emmure, Exocrine, Cult Of Frey, Battle Born (Liam, Charlie, Paul S & Simon)

Emmure: Hindsight (Sharptone Records) [Liam True]

I’ve never listened to Emmure prior to listening to this record, but I’ve always associated them with Attila. Childish, not a serious band and just downright terrible to listen to. But the opening track (F)inally (U)nderstanding (N)othing instantly changed my perception of the band and their musical abilities. Granted the band isn’t everyone's cup of tea, and with vocalist’s Frankie Palmeri’s past controversies a lot of people might have been turned off with the band. But Hindsight may change that for a lot of people. Beyond the ‘No fucks given’ attitude of the band is a sublime record full of supreme vocal reaches of Frankie. From the clean talking-like vocals to the hideous screams that burrow into your ears like a parasite.

The drums echoing as Josh Miller beats them to a pulp. The chugging guitar of Joshua Travis has a completely filthy tone to it adding to the heaviness of the albums structure. The album itself is full of crushing songs, Pigs Ear is a thrilling electronic background chug of certain death, Persona Non Grata is the slower section of the album but it makes it sound like a car crash with the devastating production. Pans dream is a dirty heavy slow burner which also samples a meme of all things (If you know the meme, then you know). Action 52 is as brutal as the entire album. All things considered the album is produced beautifully and sounds great. There are a couple things I’d change personally, but all in all it’s a terrific album. If you’re an older fan I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed. Me? I’m very impressed and will be keeping this on repeat for some time. 9/10

Exocrine: Maelstrom (Unique Leader Records) [Charlie Rogers]

Fierce, furious, and full of aquatic fervor, Exocrine blast open this record. There’s no lead up, just straight into it. Diving straight into the riffs, the depth of the variation these musicians bring to the table is as vast as the pacific. The sheer variation of sounds brought forward is as bewildering as it is breathtaking. Influences stretching across the abyss, from punishing Deathcore beatdowns, to electronic middle eights, then Archspire-esque link passages, and even some sombre trumpet playing heralding the end. Their sound is akin to an Archspire meets Necrophagist meets Beyond Creation, with all the best bits of Rings Of Saturn, and still having a clear, distinct sound that is their own. The album is incredibly impressive, showcasing some absolutely stellar musicianship, and talent for creating songs that are both exciting and full of wonder. I’ll always have the utmost respect for bands in the extreme metal space that manage to break away from the standard gore and perversion trope we all lean on when the well of new ideas runs dry, and given this album has both a nautical and space theme, it’s a really welcome change of pace.

The production is sublime, with clear space for every single instrument to shine, but also gel seamlessly when the time comes for it. There’s certainly plenty of rope laid out for the band and the engineer to trip over with the compositions, and yet they dance through it effortlessly - changing keyboard tones and samples as if they were frets on a guitar. The end result is a magnificent opera that truly delights the senses. Aside from a small handful of passages that linger a tad long, there’s really not a lot you can fault with Maelstrom, and it will come down to personal taste whether you get on with it or not. For me, as an avid tech death fan with a keen ear for melody, it pushes pretty much all of my buttons. If intelligent songwriting or the occasional sound of a trumpet gives you scurvy, might want to consider giving it a miss. I can’t wait to go and see this band in a live setting, and in the meantime I’m going to get my hands on their back catalogue to plug the hole. 9/10

Cult Of Frey: By The Blood Of Odin Part 1 - Midgard [UKEM Records) [Paul Scoble]

Cult Of Frey formed back in the heady days of 1991 in Bedfordshire. The band recorded an album demo called Sons Of Ing in 1994, before breaking up with said demo being their only recording. Cult Of Frey reformed in 2005 under the name Sleipnir, this time they recorded and released 2 albums, Bloodbrothers in 2008 and Oaths Sworn In Blood And Mead in 2013. During this period the band, made up of Paul Clark on all musical instruments and Tossell on Vocals, also relocated to Yorkshire. So, the band have now changed their name again, this time due to the name Sleipnir already being used by another band, and that band having links to Neo-Nazi organisations, something the 2 members of Cult Of Frey did not want to have anything to do with. This means that By The Blood Of Odin Part 1 - Midgard appears to be a debut album, but is in fact the bands third album.

Musically the band describe themselves as Epic Viking Metal, which is an accurate description as I would say the sound on offer on By The Blood Of Odin Part 1 - Midgard, is a mix of classic, Bathory influenced Viking Metal (definitely not the savage Lo-Fi first wave black metal sound on Bathory’s first 3 albums, this is the style Quarthon pioneered on Hammerheart or Blood Fire Death) and Epic Black Metal; the style of black metal originated by Summoning and perfected by Caladan Brood. The Bathory influence is very evident on the tracks Lament Of The Fallen, or We Forge This Land (In Blood And Steel). Both tracks have a mid-paced tempo that is quite folk influenced, with big riffs and very melodic tunefulness throughout the songs, which is helped by the use of strings and horns. There is a definite traditional metal feel to these tracks, there's a nod to early Manowar in the rhythms and structure. The vocals throughout this album are multi layered and chanted, so they sound like a male voice choir, which is a little odd but I got used to it quite quickly and after a few listens, really enjoyed.

The Epic Black metal style comes through on the tracks We Were Born Of Odin (Once We Were Kings Part 3)The Bravest Ones Are First To Fall and Life In The Shield Wall. These tracks have a similar sound to the more strait Viking metal songs but with the inclusion of Tremolo picked riffs, giving them bags of energy and drive. These tracks add some extra energy to the album and work well with the slower tracks. By The Blood Of Odin Part 1 - Midgard is a very enjoyable album. It’s packed full of melodic and tuneful Viking metal. Whether the tracks are traditional Viking Metal or the style that is closer to Epic Black metal, Cult Of Frey have excelled themselves on this album, a hugely entertaining album. 8/10

(Editor's Note: This album was scheduled to be released 26 June but will now be released in July)

Battle Born: Battle Born EP (Self Released) [Simon Black]

I was really divided on this one when I started listening. Our chosen music genre of choice has never been an easy one to live with, particularly in the critical eyes and ears of the ‘not-we’. We always like to accentuate the musicianship when discussing and critiquing, but often find ourselves being slightly defensive when it comes to the lyrical and vocal aspects of the bands we love. Even the best raise eyebrows from time to time – much as I love Judas Priest, some of their lyrics are positively cringe worthy and Power Metal is often the worst offender here. Battle Born are in danger of falling slightly foul of this, as there’s just too much clichéd use of the word ‘Metal’ throughout the five tracks to let it ride. I mean, it’s really obvious – cropping up a lot in all bar one of the five tracks on this EP. An EP that in almost every other respect plays an absolute blinder of anthemic European influenced Power metal…

The title track opens the piece and starts well, with some good classic Power Metal thundering major chord madness of the kind that always works well in a field in Slovenia where no-one speaks the same native language. The rhythm section of this band is a veritable powerhouse and clearly a key part of what makes them tick. Despite some fairly non-technical power chord work through the majority of the song, the guitarists get to show that there is no small amount of technical skill going on in their ranks when they open up with the solo lick and at 3’29” it’s a short, but effective opener. Second track Bring The Metal Back is a bit more technically complex, but again builds on the powerhouse with some of the more traditional keyboard and guitar technical interplay. Man Of War slows the pace down a little with an effective mid-tempo rocker, with a great catchy anthemic chorus and riff that you can’t fail to tap along to.

Power ballad For Our Home is trying very hard to show these guys have some range to them, and is an effective, if by the numbers interlude and the strongest use of vocals on the whole EP, not for any other reason that the voices is in the right place in the mix on this track. Sovngarde Awaits closes the EP, bringing all the best aspects of the band together – a blistering opening and chorus, a good mid-paced verse to vary the tone, top notch technical playing and vocally throwing every trick available into the mix and some nice non-intrusive pace changes taking to an epic conclusion. It also doesn’t use the word ‘Metal’, and is by far the strongest track on the EP.

I have to remind myself that this is a new band finding their feet and from the perspective of overall effect, the instrumental side of things is clearly in safe hands. They are also a welcome UK addition to a genre dominated by Germany and Sweden. Where the EP doesn’t quite hit the mark is vocally on the first 3 tracks. I’m surprised by this and can’t help feeling that most of this is about the recording and engineering process, rather than what lungsman Jack Reynolds can do. He clearly has got both range, power and a huge portion of theatrical presence, but sounds a little flat in the mix early on but absolutely in the right place on the last two tracks. I’m going to put this down to budget and ask you to bear with them on the lyrics, because despite being torn initially, I know this is a band I am really going to grow to love as they develop. More please. 8/10

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