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Thursday 2 July 2020

Reviews: Bury Tomorrow, Aleah, Bob Katsionis, Phoxjaw (Liam, Matt & Alex)

Bury Tomorrow: Cannibal (Music For The Nations) [Liam True]

In my case, Bury Tomorrow are one of those bands that you’ve heard of but never listen to for some reason. You hear the hype build up around them but brush it off thinking their a passing band. Fast forward 3 years and they’ve become one of the UK’s top Metalcore bands from the ground up by working their self to exhaustion with a ruthless tour and album schedule. Touring with some of the biggest bands in the scene. Building their fan base and releasing 6 albums in 11 years takes it’s toll, but Bury Tomorrow always seem to bounce back even harder with each album.

It’s been two years since Black Flame released and secured BT at the status they’re at today, selling out shows, gathering large crowds and festivals and their ever increasing popularity. Now ,here comes Cannibal. And I can safely say it’s BT’s best album to date. The entire album is just perfection from start to finish with the technicality of lead guitar Kristan Dawson & rhythm guitar Jason Cameron intertwining to create the raucous and fearless riffs and devastating breakdowns that cause BT to stand out. Choke & Cannibal are perfect starters as they implement the demonic vocals of Daniel Winter-Bates and the almost angelic cleans of Jason Cameron as they interlock their chords to create a sublime start. As the band reaches Imposter they’re tight and as heavy as you can expect. The Agonist & Quake are two glorious songs that utilize Cameron's vocal range to make him front and centre for the chorus’. From Voice & Truth the album is just a vulgar display of the thunderous Metalcore breakdowns the band can create with drummer Adam Jackson being the forefront of all the carnage as the world crumbles around you. When Dark Infinite finishes.

It’s a ballsy album due to the fact that the band have released 5 singles from the album, pretty much half of the album itself, but have kept the best songs unreleased, so you’ll find some perfect gems by the end of the album. And you’ll wonder, have Bury Tomorrow just created not only the best album of their career, but in the Metalcore scene this side of 2009? You bet your fucking soul they have. 10/10

Aleah: S/T (Svart Records) [Matt Bladen]

Now many of you know about Aleah Stanbridge (AKA Aleah Starbridge), the South African-born/Sweden based caught the attention of Swallow The Sun founder Juha Ravio as they writing a record. He used her beautiful, ethereal voice on their song Lights On The Lake from their album New Moon and then went on to form death/doom band Trees Of Eternity in 2009. Since then she also appeared on Amorphis' Under The Red Chord and STS's Songs From The North I, II & III. Now tragically before the Trees Of Eternity album was released, her death due to cancer was confirmed by her partner Ravio in April 2016, he went on to release the Trees Of Eternity album in November of that year in tribute to her, Ravio also went on to form Hallatar with Amorphis' Tomi Joutsen with the songs based upon Aleah's poems and lyrics written with Ravio. Aleah was clearly a hugely talented singer/musician and was also prolific in her compositions as we now have another album to carry the flame of her legacy.

Aleah is a posthumous collection of Aleah's music set to backing from Juha. He set to work on this record on April 18 2020 the anniversary of Aleah's death and the album was scheduled for release on 01 July 2020 her birthday. Now I listened to this wonderful album on it's release day and I will admit to shedding a tear as Aleah's ghost-like, whispered vocals drift over the stripped back acoustic compositions of what are really demo songs. It's a poignant record that really highlights Aleah's wonderful voice and knack of creating images with her lyrics, unlike Trees Of Eternity (which I scored very highly) the music doesn't give you that heavy, introspective backing Juha is known for, it's basically a dark folk style similar to Myrkur's most recent album or the more accessible sound of Laura Marling.

With the acoustic album a more D.I.Y affair. The second disc is a glistening epitaph to Starbridge and features songs in a more electric format which resonates so much to the vibe of Anathema, Portishead and others, mournful piano playing, is cut with thudding programmed drums and pulsating electronics on My Will while Sacrifice has a lilting repetitive guitar and some airy drumming that also features multi-instrumentalist Anilah (Dréa Drury) lending it the calibre of Enya or Clannad. Now most rock or metal fans will identify more with this disc more than the first one as it does share similarities to Steven Wilson's eclectic back catalogue along with the bewitching music of Kate Bush. It's a fantastic, moving record that is a fitting, dynamic elegy to Starbridge, having both the acoustic and electronic albums, you can hear the versatility of her voice and songwriting. I urge you to buy it as it's magnificent. 9/10 

Bob Katsionis: Amadeus Street Warrior (Symmetric Records) [Matt Bladen]

It's probably best for Multi-instrumentalist/Producer/Studio Owner Bob Katsionis to explain how this record came about: "2019 Christmas' period was kinda rough for me. I was struggling regarding my future with Firewind, I was renovating my house, and looking for a place to build my new studio while my father was at the hospital. I found shelter in the place I always do: Making Music." He started writing music based upon numerous suggestions that he should make video game music, he took these suggestions to heart and as an avid gamer he set about not just writing some video game music but writing an album that is the soundtrack to an, as yet, fictional video game. "As the story was developing in my head, so did the music. I structured the album like a video-game, divided to Levels, Boss Fights, and Main/End title themes".

So Amadeus Street Warrior is a conceptual chiptune/16-bit instrumental album, based on a fictional video game from a multi-talented musician with a lot of time on his hands and his own studio to record it with. Not really the sort of thing we cover on a metal blog but while it's not strictly metal, it doesn't stick to the rigid retroism of synthwave either, though with acts such as Carpenter Brut and Gost, receiving tonnes of coverage in 'Steel Tool' magazine, a record like this clearly has a crossover audience. The story is set in San Francisco, 2050 about the son of a US Android Army General and a classical pianist from Austria. Our hero (Amadeus) seeks answers with nothing but a golden flute and his military training, faces his evil mutated father. That all being said what does it actually sound like? Well very much like Streets Of Rage 2, Super Castlevania IV, this is an action adventure styled soundtrack for a game I'd play!

It opens with Into The Asylum which has that introductory style similar to Green Hill Zone, starting things at pace  before things get darker and more industrial on Seline City while on both Boss Fights there is a sense of urgency that you need in those moments. Due to the conceptual nature of the record it really lets you feel the storyline and move through the journey. Bob wrote this record in 6 days (!) using a VST plug-in called "Koji" and recorded it via just a 16 channel MIDI to retain the 90's sound. No it's not metal but Katsionis has so much of that under his belt and his solo music has been so varied that it was a no-brainer that any video game soundtrack would be as good as this. It's not for everyone but if your childhood was lost to the Sega/Nintendo/Commodore etc then you'll get a happy sense of nostalgia from this record. 8/10

Phoxjaw: Royal Swan (Hassle Records) [Alex Swift]

Creatively amalgamating the genres of progressive with post-punk Avant-garde, Phoxjaw has proved one of the wildest yet odd acts to come out of the last few years. And I do mean odd as well – as a disclaimer, this act has zero expectations placed on them dragging them down into one genre of playing style. Over the course of three EP’s that have set fire to the rulebook and changed their sound more often than some acts do throughout their entire career. So, as I mentioned I had absolutely no preconceptions going into their debut and I absolutely loved that fact – even with the most changeable performers you sort of know what to expect after a while. Here? Na, nope, Zilch. All I knew is that anything that graced, or rather shook my eardrums would be experimental, raw, and weird.

A gorgeous piano opens Charging Pale Horses – we’re soon greeted with distorted yet strangely haunting frequencies and eerily disquieting choir melodies. We glide into Trophies In The Attic – which proves infinitely more normal than one might expect…for about ten seconds, as the instrumentals take on a cascading and claustrophobic fear, the sharp arpeggiated melodies clashing in wonderful chaos against the guttural screams of our frontman, the overarching throng of the bass textures, and the melancholic fuzz of the synthesizers. There’s a sense of disorder throughout, yet the progressions feel deliberated as if to set the listener on edge while forcing them to contemplate the complexity on display. Triple AAA emphasizes their skill for a hook – taking a looping effect as a starting point, a forceful vigour is granted to the anthem, which is ironic given how depressing the themes of mental discomfort are, and how the melodic choices emanate a gothically psychedelic feel. Again, Phoxjaw reconciles the impossible and does so in such a way that you can dance to the sound of musical conventions exploding. You Don’t Drink A Unicorns Blood – a hallucinogenic ode to the environment – brilliantly plays with dynamics, swaying elusively from moments of hazy otherworldliness to frenzied exploration into diverse sonic explorations.

Half House proves another insatiably catchy yet eloquently disturbing moment – a seizing moment within the context of Royal Swan yet a totally unique and exceptional piece in the way the ostensibly disassociated musical concepts come together to form a harrowingly beguiling composition. Suddenly changing the mood to a far more optimistic and shimmering outlook, Infinite Badness would be beautiful if not for the eccentrically ironic and forbidding instrumental niches that contribute so much to eliciting tones of feeling and emotion from otherwise fascinating works. The spiralling changes and transcendental crescendos feel like we’re taking a trip down a demented and frenzied thought process – there’s a very Wonderland, Oz feeling to the waterfalls of harmony, juxtaposed with the sense of lurking fear and darkness which pervades from start to finish. In bringing those moods together especially on tracks like the immersive Teething and the curiously titled An Owl Is A Cat With Wings, Phoxjaw creates something truly distinct from their contemporaries. We end the later on the words ‘You’ve got me, we’ve got you’…they have indeed captured my imagination.

Bats For Bleeding proves almost carnivalesque in the taunting harmonies and the waltz through a multitude of uncanny realities, each one different and musically animated. Next, The Monk shocks by becoming one of the most throttling anthems these musicians have ever put to paper, the kaleidoscopic divergences eliciting and soothing moods of deep inner turmoil and angst. We finish on the title track and there certainly seems to be a willingness to bow out on a theatrical note, with the musicianship and eccentricity soaring to an epic and impassioned curtain call. I certainly hope that future albums will continue to confound my expectations before chucking them into a meat grinder. The genre defiance here has assured me that they will. That innovation, oddity, and experimentation drive creativity in music. That combination is revolutionary, exciting, and beautiful. By taking such a bold creative risk on their first album, Phoxjaw embody and inhabit that pioneering state. 9/10

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