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Wednesday 1 July 2020

Reviews: Feuerschwanz, The Miser, Echidna, Chugun (Rich, Simon & Matt)

Feuerschwanz: Das Elfte Gebot (Napalm Records) [Rich Oliver]

When it comes to bands who are more light hearted, funny or generally silly I am a mass of contradictions. I love power metal and especially when it does not take itself seriously but find Alestorm extremely irritating. I find a band like Raised By Owls hugely entertaining and very amusing but I find Evil Scarecrow about as entertaining as a cancer diagnosis so I really wasn’t sure what I would make of Feuerschwanz.

Feuerschwanz formed as an antithesis to a lot of bands in the German folk metal and rock scene who were taking what they were doing way too seriously and so they formed as a light hearted counterpart to these bands. They have slowly been incorporating more rock and metal influences into their sound and seem to have reached their nadir on their ninth studio album Das Elfte Gebot. I have to say that I really enjoyed this album. Like a lot of German folk metal acts it is all sung in the native tongue and so whilst the lyrical content is totally lost on this non-German speaking reviewer the tone and mood of the music I found more than agreeable being a very energetic, epic and damn fun mix of German folk and power metal sounding like a mix of bands such as Sabaton, Powerwolf, Brothers Of Metal, Equilibrium, Subway To Sally and In Extremo. 

The songs are all punchy, melodic and catchy to the extreme. From the outset this album shows us what this band is all about with the hooky folky opener Meister de Minne immediately hooking in the listeners. The insanely catchy Metfest follows which is a song purely designed to be played to drunk festival crowds whilst the equally epic sounding title track, Schildmaid and Lords Of Powermet maintain that heady mix of power and folk. Mission Eskalation is the most folky song on the album and will definitely encourage some drunk dancing from the audiences when Feuerschwanz are able to return to the stage whilst the pummelling Totentanz with its thrash riffing shows that these Germans can bring the heavy when they want to.

I reviewed the special edition version of the album that comes with a bonus disc of cover songs from artists ranging from German hip hop, reggae and dancehall band Seeed to the insipid Ed Sheeran to metal to metal acts such as Sabaton, Powerwolf and Rammstein. The Powerwolf cover is quite frankly fantastic, rearranging Amen & Attack to a folk metal song and equally enjoyable is the acoustic folk rendition of Engel by Rammstein. They even manage to inject some energy and enthusiasm into the Ed Sheeran song which is no mean feat.

Overall I did very much enjoy Das Elfte Gebot. It is not a deep and meaningful record but never does it try to pretend to be. This is exactly what it sets out to be which is an immensely fun record. I imagine when festivals do return that Feuerschwanz will be hitting stages all over Europe as this music definitely lends itself to being played in a large field in front of thousands of inebriated metalheads who want to party. 8/10

The Miser: The Miser EP (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Describing themselves as “Trouble partying with Budgie and Atomic Rooster” is pretty apt, and this London based 4-piece have been at it for a few years, although this EP is the first new material since their debut album back in 2018, and they are going to be releasing these 4 tracks in a drip feed over the coming weeks.

What A Pity has a very traditional stoner groove, with slow haunting vocals and plenty of chunky riffage and really lets rip in the middle 8 with a heavy riff, some nice pace changes and a simple but effective solo. Nawks Of War turns the heat right up – it’s faster and flashier, with the simpler construction hiding some nifty playing across the board and you can’t help but notice the razor sharp footwork coming from the drum stool. Definitely more early 80’s metal than Stoner for me, with blistering guitar work to boot - but the fusion of the two works really well. Judgement Day is different again, with a much heavier and frenetic energy, and some cracking but understated vocal work from singer Crocker. Final track Numb is back in Stoner groove territory with a catchy bang-your-head-to-this riff that just damn works, with some nice pace changes thrown in particularly with the bass-led instrumental section at the end.

Although it’s not a word I would use normally for a band with such a Stoner sound, but the 4 tunes on here are surprisingly tight and aggressive sounding. They may love their analogue sound, but the recording and mix are razor sharp and the whole EP is a joy to listen to. It’s tight, it’s pacy and its bloody groovy. 8/10

Chugun: Rogue Planet (Sliptrick Records) [Matt Bladen]

Chugun apparently means "cast iron" in Russian and this Tel Aviv based trio, have a very heavy bottom, perfect for beetroot soup or a hearty casserole. Chugun play death/thrash metal with a nastiness of bands such as the German thrash aggression of Kreator or the Polish death metal assault Vader with some of the explosive guitar solos that Slayer have always relied upon. Chugun are the  Timur Sizov who's guitar playing rips and tears with the tenacity of a rabid wolverine as Nir Baurch's drumming blasts away on tracks such as the ironically titled Happiness which grooves along well  Yani Sizov's growled vocals barking out the 'lyrics' on Idiot's Guide as her basslines thunders on the doomier beginnings of Extinction Cycle, well before it once again moves into blasting death metal. Rogue Planet has 8 tracks of death metal power though it does move into some LOG grooves (Andromeda), but it's standard stuff, nasty heavy and played with abandon. 6/10

Echidna: Escape From Civilisation (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Two points:

1. I'm unsure why a technical death band would name themselves after the egg laying mammal also called the 'spiny anteater'. Maybe they have an affinity with Knuckles from the Sonic The Hedgehog games?

2. In these Covid threatened times their album name should be taken as a good way of not contracting the virus, so you can call it a public health advisory notice.

But on to the music...well that is very interesting, Escape From Civilisation is their second album coming 10 years after their debut Manifests Of Human Existence, it's had a long gestation period but that hasn't had any negative effect on the album, if anything it's made their style of progressive death metal, more experimental, than they were on their debut. They cite influences such as Atheist, Necrophagist, Meshuggah and Cynic and on Age Of Plastic you can hear them really amp up the Cynic quirk even using that electronic vocal/synth sound they are known for. Organix is heavier moving into Meshuggah/Opeth realms. At nine tracks, if the very progressive style of this record isn't to your interest you will struggle due this Thessaloniki five-piece's virtuosity  Nikos and Panos playing the choppy, chugging, intricate riffs that often sprawl into jazz-inflections on tracks such as Yet No One Notices and the mad Empire Of Crime.

Holding down the bottom end is the low-tuned bass of Antonis' providing more than just a rhythm but enforces the various switches and changes of pace Giannis' drumming explorative and destructive in equal measure, Escape shows this the best, though the addition of folky strings is curveball. Rounding out the band is Theo who has a simple death metal vocal but it works along with the intensity of the music behind it, giving you something hooky to latch on to. For extremely progressive extreme metal fans Escape From Civilisation will have you headbanging and mouthing wow like Owen Wilson as it moves from piano, through jazz/folk and destructive heavy metal sometimes in the same song. A heady metal record. 7/10 

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