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Saturday 20 June 2020

Reviews: Kyros, Hail Spirit Noir, Stygian Crown, Hadean Cult (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Kyros: Celexa Dreams (White Star Records)

"Citalopram, sold under the brand name Celexa, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. It is used to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia." So you can imagine that any dreams that you have while on this drug would be quite severe, varying wildly from euphoria to nightmare. However does it sound like synth-driven progressively tinged rock? I don't really know but I can tell you that Kyros' style has a certain lucidity to it that would certainly counterpoint a journey into the mind. Previously known as Synaesthesia (it all makes sense now) Celexa Dreams is the band's third full length release and they are very deep in that 80's synth revival that has been brought to a wider audience by Bastille, The 1975, Blossoms Foals and even artists like Dua Lipa and The Weeknd.

However Kyros filter this through some classic synth pop template of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran  and The Pet Shop Boys while also having a decidedly prog sound of bands like Asia and Toto who played synth/percussion driven 80's rock and also hints of both Marillion, Genesis and more recently Voyager on In Vantablack which is built around epic synths and soaring vocals from Adam Warne, some Level 42-esque bass playing from Peter Episcopo and clocks in 14 minutes of progressive deliciousness. It's one of two colossal tracks on this record the other being the 10 minute Technology Killed The Kids III a song that conjures the darkness of Porcupine Tree.

The remaining tracks though are shorter while still carrying emotional weight. Just listen to Phosphene which has the echoing vocal and balladic beauty of White Star Records co-founder John Mitchell, there's some Floydian sax parping on the jazzy shine of Rumour and robotic dreamscapes on Sentry where Robin Johnson plays some of those huge sounding Phil Collins electronic drums. I haven't yet mentioned guitarist Joey Frevola who plays it very understated for most of the record but occasionally is given the chance to shine with rocking numbers such as Uno Attack. The final track is the hair-raising Her Song Is Mine which has some jazz-lounge piano, stirring strings and a restrained sadness to it that closes the album with a heart-wrenching bang. Celexa Dreams is an evocative, beautifully sequenced and performed record from this London based band. It defies expectation and genre constraints and proves yet again White Star Records has it's finger on the pulse of modern progressive music. 9/10

Hail Spirit Noir: Eden In Reverse (Agonia Records)

Mind-Bending, the one (hyphenated) word to describe the fourth full length album from Thessaloniki's Hail Spirit Noir. Billed as a psychedelic/progressive black metal band, I did struggle a little to pick up the black metal references though, the riffs and drumming do come from a similar place as Emperor and Opeth and the end of Alien Lip Reading does contain some screamed vocals. It seems as if they have knowingly moved away from the black metal sound and that it's the Akerfeldt influence that looms the largest with vocalist Cons Marg, who makes his debut on this record, having that sonorus baritone vocal style of Mikael while musically the band have the retro leanings of the Swedish heavyweights.

Hail Spirit Noir take it much further though as they managed to employ two keyboardists Haris and Sakis Bandis (a debutant here) for layer upon layer of fizzing psych synths, massive organ stabs and the sort of space rock sounds you'd expect from bands like Hawkwind and Greece's own Aphrodite's Child melded with the electronics of Jean Michel Jarre and even a loving spoonful of musical wizard Steven Wilson. Even the other instruments ascribe to this obscure style Alien Lip Reading has Theoharis's guitar playing shimmering like 60's surf rock against some theremin, as the drumming Foivos (again on his first album with the band) and driving basslines of J. Demian add some head nodding groove. Certain parts of this record are haunting, such as the Katatonia-like beginning of Crossroads, before it becomes almost like a Ghost track but on others they really ramp up the mind melting for The Devils Blind Spot which has lots of electronica elements pulsating through it as First Ape On The New Earth brings a more black metal assault leading into the closing otherworldliness of closing track Automata 1980 a propulsive, hymn-like tracks that builds into the Vangelis synth attack at the end. Totally bonkers and utterly brilliant, I can't wait to get my arse back to Thessaloniki and watch this band live! 9/10

Stygian Crown: Self Titled (Cruz Del Sur Music)

Epic doom band Stygian Crown's self titled debut album is a statement of intent from this L.A. five piece. They have called their musical style "Candlethrower" with an equal influence from epic doom heavyweights Candlemass and death metal FUCKING LEGENDS Bolt Thrower. Now I was a little sceptical about the the second one but as soon as you hear those massive drums on tracks such as The Hall Of Two Truths and the grind on When Old Gods Die both of which come from  "An album tuned to B, with a 26” bass drum and a singer who doesn’t need auto-tune" (the bands words not mine). But that being so this is a very heavy album with some crushing guitar riffs, throbbing bass, those smashing drums and the bold, loud, classically trained vocals. Stygian Crown were formed by drummer Rhett A. Davis, bassist Jason Thomas and guitarist Nelson Miranda, then adding guitarist Andy Hicks and powerhouse vocalist Melissa Pinion, written in an unorthodox manner Stygian Crown is a cohesive doom metal record with a powerful chug witnessed on the closing Two Coins For The Ferryman the tale of Charon the boatman on the river Styx. Doom metal played with the unrepenting thunder of death metal Stygian Crown is a really powerful debut record from the band of the same name. 8/10

Hadean Cult: Don The Mantle (Self Released)

To ascribe to a Hadean Cult then you would have to worship Hades the lord of the underworld so this would have been the Ancient Greek equivalent of being a Satanist, walking the left hand path against the normal confines of society. That is certainly what Thessaloniki based two-piece Hadean Cult do, their music is imbued by the occult rock spirits of bands like Blood Ceremony, Purson, Lucifer and The Devil's Blood, pairing 70's proto-metal with doom touches, sort of like Blue Oyster Cult but with a bit more witchery. Now as I've said Hadean Cult are a duo, they feature the bewitching incantations of Stoicheia's soulful pipes along with virtuosity of self proclaimed "garage magician" Hadean who plays all of the instruments on this record. Don The Mantle is their debut release that kicks off with the slinky Witches' Circle that slides into the atmospheric 60's rocking of He Will Guide Your Hand while we get some doom folksy on Love With The Void replete with harpsichord, the keys continue on lilting interlude The Wide Black Yonder that leads into the The Broken Crook which is very reminiscent of Rosalie Cunningham's work. There's a warm analogue vinyl production to this record to that makes it sound very authentic to those days of 70's rock, join the cult and allow Don The Mantle to wash over you. 7/10

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