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Thursday 18 June 2020

Reviews: Lamb Of God, Vampire, Black Orchid Empire, Chaosaint (Liam, Rich, Bob & Matt)

Lamb Of God: Lamb Of God (Nuclear Blast) [Liam True]

Lamb Of God are one of the popular bands this side of the 2000’s, there’s no doubt. With every album they get inherently better, build a bigger fan base, churn out more riffs and chorus’ than you can handle. While between 2000 – 2009 they were a machine, bringing out 5 albums in that time, however since 2009’s Wrath they’ve gifted us with three studio albums, each being better than the last. Now fast forward to 2020. The release of their self titled was pushed back from May 8th to June 19th, and I’m wasn’t complaining, because you know LOG put all of their effort into every album they release. I didn’t listen to any of the single releases of the song as I wanted to sit through the album in it’s entirety because the Groove Metal adventure I knew that was coming needed my full attention. The album itself is reminiscent of VII: Sturm und Drang, through both from the sound and production of the band, with in my opinion was their best sounding record they put out. Memento Mori starts of as a soft ambient interlude with the clean sounding guitars of Mark Morton & Willie Adler with whispers of children telling you to wake up while Randy Blythe serenades you before lunging into his vitriolic roar of ‘Wake up!’.

From that moment the album doesn’t stop. It produces the classic LOG sound. Their signature breaks. The riffs are fresh, clean and the solos are better. Checkmate is full of urging you to ‘Make America Hate Again’ (Possible nod to Thy Art Is Murders song of the same name) while mocking the ‘American Dream’. The main thing you may be listening to is the drums. As it’s Art Cruz’s first studio album with the band he has a lot to prove. Sure he can play live with them and do it flawlessly, but this is where it all boils down. And he fucking smashes it. Through Gears and New Colossal Hate he negotiates his way through them with frantic tempo shifts and sublime double-kick polyrhythms. Willie & Mark are a cohesive unit of duel guitars providing the sharpest hooks and face-melting solos you could only dream of producing. Though Randy Blythe’s supreme vocal work is the forefront of the record. His vocal ability is insane, and replicated identically in a live setting. Hands down LOG’s self-titled is the best album in 2020 so far. While there are still may more albums to come this will be held high and band will need to work hard to beat this impressive work of glory and art. 10/10

Vampire: Rex (Century Media Records) [Rich Oliver]

Vampire are another metal band who take the retro sound approach and do it very well. Rex which is the third album from the Swedish band has a sound very much rooted in the mid 1980’s but unlike a lot of the retro bands who channel classic and melodic metal influences Vampire very much have a far more nasty and evil sound. There are three bands who very much inspire the Vampire sound and that is Celtic Frost, Slayer and Mercyful Fate. This is retro sounding blackened thrash with nods to classic metal and early death metal. It’s a lot of varying influences but Vampire make it work with gnarly riffs, melodic leads and reverb drenched harsh vocals.

The songs throughout the album are nicely varied with the title track, Pandemoni and Rekviem being the gnarly thrashers whilst songs such as Inspiritus, Moloch and Anima are far more melodically led with a greater emphasis on those Mercyful Fate influences plus some nods to Iron Maiden. Whilst there are bands very much trying to define a contemporary sound for metal in 2020 it’s also great to hear bands take things back a few decades and play music directly influenced by the bands they love. Vampire may be playing a retro sound and style but they are damn good at it. Being a massive fan of thrash and ranking Celtic Frost amongst one of my all time favourite bands there was no way I was not going to enjoy this. 8/10

Black Orchid Empire: Semaphore (Long Branch Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

Before I put my fingers on the keyboard today, I have sat with my Espresso and done extra due diligence on my research (working from home brings some benefits!) and there’s much to admire about London based Black Orchid Empire’s workman like progress leading up this, their second album, Semaphore. From being spotted at the Emergenza UK unsigned competition in 2013 through several singles, a well-received debut album and lots and lots of ‘gig miles’. They are attacking their craft with deserved self-belief and a very admirable, almost old-fashioned work ethic. No “I just wannabe famous” posing for them or hanging on the coat-tails of bands they wish to mimic. A talented three piece who have clearly worked hard at getting it right in all departments.

In these days of strict music genre adherence and a slave-ish creation of multiple sub-genres in the music business, I always smile to myself when a band can successfully straddle categorisation. Don’t be mistaken though, NOT being in a clearly identifiable genre can also lead to listener or record label apathy or even a confused fusion of ideas. Not so Black Orchid Empire. With one metaphorical foot in the Prog-Metal of Tool or TesseracT and one in the indie power rock of Royal Blood or Amplifier and even a nod to old school Police (the band obviously not the actual Rozzers) to these grizzled old ears. An opening Sci-Fi/spoken passage leads into track after track of very well balanced, tight, powerful song writing and excellent musicianship.

Lyrically and commercially they’re no slouches either. I hear a lot of bands who are musical technocrats and focus on long bursts of self-indulgent shredding and time signature gymnastics to the detriment of the actual song, but have forgettable back of a fag packet lyrics. All areas of Black Orchid Empire’s game have carefully created. Black Orchid Empire’s biggest strength is balance. Only one song sails over the four-minute mark, there’s tight, technical ability, well-crafted hooks and some admirable wordsmithing. Their time on the road has clearly provided an empathetic musical understanding and the collective sound is razor sharp. As well as being a talented guitarist, Paul Visser’s vocals are perfect for their fusion of style, a mix of James Maynard Keenan (Singularity) to an impressive and emotive Matt Bellamy (Winter Keeps Us Warm). This balance means they can compete on any stage with the power and technicality of their Prog-Metal cousins in Dust or Death From Above, or deliver the commerciality that often gets forgotten, in the face of technicality in Faces and Crash.

Semaphore is a remarkably good album. As I said at the outset there is much to admire about the band’s whole work ethic and sharp progress. In his day of bands seeking the instant gratification of social media and not willing to truly put the work into their craft, Black Orchid Empire show that there is no shortcut to quality and there is quality in abundance in this album. I am already recommending Semaphore to some of my rock DJ mates and possibly one of the best things I’ve heard in 2020 so far. 10/10

Chaosaint: In The Name Of (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

In The Name Of is the latest EP form Aussie Alt/Groove metal band Chaosaint, who formed as Exhale back in 2001 smack bang in the middle of Nu-Metal, before Jon Cribb (rhythm guitar) reformed the band as Chaosaint in 2015. It's got gruff aggression in the vocals, some LOG styled stomping groove riffs, with the more melodic styling of Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold on tracks such as the title track which has a clean solo and some slinky guitar playing. On this record the band have stated they wanted to add some of the 80's metal vibe to the record drawing from as they say "Metallica, Ozzy, Iron Maiden and Motorhead" while saying that they "began jamming on this in 2016 and turned it into the fist-pumping melodic thrash anthem you hear today." Well these are certainly some fist-pumpers ideal for anyone who likes either of the two bands I've mentioned earlier. From the blistering kick off Knives Are Drawn, through the 80's thrashing of Darkness Following and into anthemic finale of Blackened Days, In The Name Of is a great piece of very modern heavy metal with the promise of more to come due to the lockdown they have started work on a full length. On the back of this EP that bodes very well for this revitalised groove metal act. 7/10   

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