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Monday 1 June 2020

Reviews: Sorcerer, Behemoth, Stargazery, Mrs Piss (Rich, Matt, Bob & Alex)

Sorcerer: Lamenting Of The Innocent (Metal Blade Records) [Rich Oliver]

When it comes to Sweden and doom metal then the first word that comes to mind is Candlemass. Quite right too as they are one of the most influential bands in the genre and the architects of the epic doom subgenre. One band that should be a name to be known for their doom metal prowess is Sorcerer. The Swedish band formed in 1988 and released a string of demos. A long period of slumber followed before the release of their debut full length In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross in 2015. An EP and another album followed and now in 2020 we have the third album by the band entitled Lamenting Of The Innocent and spoilers it’s a bit of a cracker.

Sorcerer have that massive riff heavy epic doom sound but with a huge wedge of classic metal thrown in there for good measure. The music throughout Lamenting Of The Innocent is a cross between Candlemass, Rainbow and post-Ozzy Black Sabbath with its mix of massive, lumbering doom riffs, huge melodies and gargantuan hooky choruses. The vocals by Anders Engberg are quite simply stratospheric and his amazing soaring vocals are a key factor to what makes this album so damn enjoyable. There were many moments where my arm hairs were standing to attention. The scene is set with intro song Persecution which builds slowly and purposely into the pay off that is the massive The Hammer Of Witches which is pure epic, crushing and catchy doom metal. 

The momentum is held up by my two personal favourites - the massive title track which is hugely epic and emotionally charged and Institoris which is very much leaning on the classic metal influences and is very Dio flavoured. The momentum is slightly dulled by the duo of Where Spirits Die which is more of a slow burner being heavily melodic and softer than what has preceded it and ballad Deliverance which features Candlemass singer Johan Längquist. Whilst both are decent songs two slow songs in the middle of the album does interrupt the flow somewhat. Things improve for the last half with the mighty Condemned which is both equally mournful and colossally epic with some slick lead guitar work and the catchy as hell Dance With The Devil with its massive hooks and nice use of chanting.

Lamenting Of The Innocent is an album that ticks many boxes for me - dark atmosphere, incredible vocals, badass riffs, tasty guitar leads, massive hooks and an overall epic and grandiose sound. The aforementioned pacing issues during the middle of the album are my only minor criticism. Other than that I seriously cannot fault this album and this will easily be one of the metal highlights of 2020 for me. 9/10

Behemoth: A Forest EP (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

The A Forest EP from the Polish masters of Blackened Death metal Behemoth is a special four track release that features the title track (a cover of The Cure) twice along with two new originals that follow the spirit of Behemoth's last album I Loved You At Your Darkest. The title track is a reimagined version of The Cure classic done in the battering metal style of Behemoth and features guest vocals from miserablist-in-chief Niklas Kvarforth, however the live version, which also features Kvarforth, from their Merry Christless show in Warsaw, Poland, December 2018, I feel is actually better than the studio one as Kvarforth's presence is more impactful, he makes it sound dangerous especially when he's goading crowd at the end, he's almost unhinged. The two originals are standard Behemoth rampaging blackened metal, Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha rattles along at a blistering pace with some of the melodic elements that have crept into Behemoths sound however Evoe is darker really sitting in the symphonic black metal mold. This will be enough to satisfy the Behemoth hardcore and compleitists but other than that it's a little curio for everyone else. 6/10

Stargazery: Constellation (Pure Steel Records) [Bob Shoesmith]

Since taking up my reviewer’s seat at Musipedia it seems that the Nordic countries must have more rock musicians and bands than nearly any other continent at the moment! So Stargazery are a melodic metal band from Finland formed in 2005. The band used to be called Stargazer but due to the proliferation of other bands using the handle and the obvious Rainbow connection, they took the radical step of adding a ‘Y’ and are now releasing their third album, Constellation, over a 15-year period, so that’s some fairly steady, if not exactly meteoric progress. Their label must have the patience of saints.

A very nicely presented album with a sci-fi/fantasy cover art reminiscent of an old Isaac Asimov novel and a serious looking photo of the Finnish five-piece. The music is highly polished, beautifully produced and well played (and you could argue that after 15 years, they should be getting the hang of it). The album starts with the 2019 single, Sinners In Shadows and you’re instantly hit with that rather bog-standard melodic sound of 80’s bands like Europe or Boston, maybe even a smidge of sugary Iron Maiden or Def Leppard lite. Twin guitars/slightly dated keyboards, layered vocals and harmonies. Think Final Countdown and you’re pretty close. Its shiny, again it’s well made and performed, but it’s also very much stuck in a melodic rock, mid paced, slightly cliché ridden middle ground of chuggy riffs and throw away chorus lines. In fact, the first four tracks seem to slide past without leaving much of an imprint at all and then we get to the ubiquitous power ballad, ‘I found angels’.

And some shoehorning of arena anthem. Then, just when my ‘cliché-o-meter’ starts jamming in the red, Stargazery pull a corker out of the bag with the title track Constellation – fast paced Maiden-eque gallop that makes you sit up and take notice as they flex the musical muscles that they obviously have in their locker, but then unfortunately we’re straight back to mid-pace format of Caught In The Crossfire and Dark Side Of The Moon (no, not that one). Vocalist Jari Tiura has a great voice and the layered backing vocals sit really well but the writing of the songs is frequently leaden and rigidly sticking to a script in places. Stargazery are a very proficient melodic rock band, their brand of 80’s inspired anthem rock, and, while not exactly pushing any creative boundaries would be well worth a listen for fans of early Europe, latter-day Rainbow or (at a push) Journey but when you have bands like House Of Lords, H.E.A.T, FM, and Eclipse among a crowded field, ploughing the same furrow with much more energy and imagination they may want to freshen up the format a bit. 7/10

Mrs. Piss: Self Surgery (Sargent House) [Alex Swift]

Fusing the ferocious punk angst of drummer Jess Gowrie, and the weird, elusive experimentation of Chelsea Wolfe – Mrs. Piss is one of the most exciting projects which you may not have come across. Standing at 18 minutes, Self Surgery injects doses of ferociousness, anger and catharsis into a short though affecting concoction. The two harness their multi-instrumental prowess to create a combination of pure filth – on the surface, you may be stunned by the aggression and griminess, yet you soon uncover a pit of weird investigation and impenetrably black emotions.

Opening on the distorted and cataclysmic, To Crawl Inside you feel your senses racked as animalistic electronics buzz and thrill in a cascade of chaos. “I’m bathing in the filth of the world” Wolfe howls against a background of pandemonium – If at this point you’ve made up your mind, deciding that you’d rather immerse yourself in more amusing musical substances, go no further. The record gets more riotous and scathingly impassioned. Downer Surrounded By Uppers enthrals with arcane fuzz and contrasts in mood or rhythm that create that sense of scratchy volatility. Knelt slows the pace to a lethargic and trudging funeral dirge, focussing on atmosphere and alienation to carry an idea of estrangement. Again, despite this being an aggressive project – more in the vein of Hiss Spun or Acid Bath than Birth of Violence – these musicians have lost none of their taste for brooding progressions and acute subtleties: an element demonstrated by the dirty yet unique production. Furthering the concept of constant change, within monstrosity and turmoil, Nobody Wants To Party With Us feels like a synth pop track that’s just been dragged through the lair of Hades and out the other side – there’s a catchiness present, yet the music surrounding makes the affable qualities feel biting and ferocious, brilliantly demonstrating how these players have a history of perverting traditional structures, or twisting them to their own whims.

M.B.O.T.W.O combines elements of electro and psychedelia, making for a hypnotic yet pernicious thrill. At just over a minute, there’s’ lots of mesmerising detail in a short length of time, though that’s always been a skill they’ve brought to life – abundance through brevity, giving the listener something to feast over, without making them bloated or tired. You Took Everything stands as one of the more different pieces either of these two have ever written – and that’s impressive, given their past. I’ve been racking my brains to describe the multiple different turns we take here, and the only summary I can come to is: Fiercely Odd – that seems to be a running theme, if you want one way to describe this debut then fiercely odd is your term. Self-Surgery cleverly shows Chelsea’s haunting vocal presence, and Jess’ proficiency in creating a distinctive yet memorable rhythm. The doom-laden bass-work, tribal drumming and the long, drawn out notes crafting a beautiful moroseness. We finish on Mrs. Piss wherein everything is encapsulated: the vicious energy, the subtle ambiances and the capturing darkness of the album, wrapped up into one mercurial closer.

I do not know what the future holds for Mrs. Piss. I can only hope this doesn’t stand to be a one-off – nevertheless, even if they don’t bring out anything again, the ideas which make up the project will continue to make their impact on the musicians involved, and while they are unlikely to create anything exactly comparable, the core idea of stretching music to its upper reaches, will always retain its power and importance. 8/10

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