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Monday, 27 July 2020

Reviews: Goldray, Sepulchral Curse, The Acacia Strain, Defeated Sanity (Matt, Paul H, Liam & Charlie)

Goldray: Feel The Change (Akashic Records/Cargo Records UK) [Matt Bladen]

From the very first moment Feel The Change lives up to its namesake, it sharpens and lifts everything Goldray are about to another level. The driving riff of Oz that opens this record with insistence as the synths phase behind and you get the "whoop" before that otherworldly voices brings the shamanistic lyrics to a track with a Middle-Eastern quality found so often in latter-period Led Zeppelin, it's a quality that doesn't detract rather enhances the song as you can hear that guitarist Kenwyn House draws a lot of his playing style from Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and other masters of the psychedelic guitar sound that is rooted in the blues but often transcends into something more, such as Peter Green (who died while I was reviewing this album). Oz slows into some dreamy echoes before an incendiary guitar solo finishes you off at 7 minutes it's a serious statement to open the record, in opposition to the darker, bluesier title track where Leah Rasmussen shows off the other side of her vocal style with some soulful Janis Joplin yearning, which is in opposition to track one's Ann Wilson histrionics.

So far then so good as the second album from Goldray is yet more of the same but as I said with much more rounded and balanced soundscape without sacrificing the psych-rock experimentation. The album was written by House and Rasmussen and mixed by Pedro Ferreira at Spinroad Studios in Gothenburg, Sweden and there's a definitive Swedish sound here, that retro rock style that the Scandi's do so well is being taken back to it's British roots of early Floyd and Zep with some Big Brother & The Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane thrown in from over the seas. Now we've written about Goldray before and they truly embody the music they create Leah bewitching as the "High Priestess Of Hard Rock" and Kenwyn always stripped to the waist and cranking out riffs in drainpipe denim. And as funny as it sounds you can hear that visual style on this record, the two part The Forest starts out folksy before kicking out some heavy proto-metal jams as it goes back into the psych ether at the end.

I mentioned about those Eastern influences coming out more on this album and How Do We Know has almost a chanting vocal where Rasmussen channels Grace Slick over the slinky musical backing. But for all of the zonked out psych passages on this album, sometimes you just need a thumping rock riff and The Beat Inside provides with a bit of Hawkwind simplicity with the synths twisting and tweaking like the mighty Space Rockers. We gave Goldray's debut Rising a strong 8/10 as it delivered where needed but it was really live that their songs came alive, Feel The Change goes the other way, these songs have been crafted on stage and then unleashed onto a record giving a much more accurate picture of what Goldray are and as Phoenix Rising climaxes you want to dive deep into their album again. 9/10 

Sepulchral Curse: Only Ashes Remain (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The blurb that accompanied this release descried Sepulchral Curse as ‘Finland's best kept secret’. That’s obviously an unquantifiable statement but one thing is for certain, Sepulchral Curse’s debut long player, Only Ashes Remain is something that is exceptionally good. Retaining classic Finnish death metal traits of bands such as Demilich, Adramelech, Convulse, Demigod, the quintet from Turku have deftly crafted their music into a package of irresistible death metal. Whilst not familiar with their two EPs which were released in 2014 and 2016, there is something about this release that snares the listener like a fly on a spider’s web.

Maybe it’s the swirling combination of powerful death metal and darker, doom-soaked passages that catches the attention. Or maybe it’s the howls which are presumably from drummer Tommi Ilmanen (?) (Yawning Void) providing contrast with Kari Kankaanpää’s (Solothus, Yawning Void) unearthly growls or maybe it’s simply the passion and freshness which the band have breathed into this album.

Tight and meticulously composed, there are numerous subtle elements which draw the listener close. The Black metal influences are evident but do not overpower at any time, this contrast something that may challenge the band in later years of development. For now, it’s worth sitting back with eyes closed and allowing the maelstrom of Sepulchral Curse to wash over you. Blistering death metal which ebbs and flows, a variable pace that never loses momentum, with latter tracks descending into murky, domains of doom. It’s an album that gives more on each listen. Engrossing, fascinating and simply stunning. 9/10

The Acacia Strain: Slow Decay (Rise Records) [Liam True]

The Acacia Strain have been a band I’ve never really been into. I’ve tried with past albums Wormwood and Coma Witch but nothing seems to hit the mark for me. Unfortunately Slow Decay doesn’t change anything for me. The blend of Deathcore & Metalcore is something to behold and is something a lot of bands can dream of producing, but it falls flat. Sure the grizzly vocals of Vincent Bennett are foundation shattering and stomach churning. The face melting guitars of Devin Shidaker and Tom Smith are phenomenal and deserve as much praise as they can get. The heavy as balls drumming of Kevin Boutot is fierce and hits harder than a wrecking ball. But none of it matters because the album, while pretty damn good, is predictable and boring. There’s nothing new and no new elements. If you’re a fan of the band then don’t skip the release by any means. But if you’re wanting a new Metalcore/Deathcore band then check out their earlier material. It’s fresher and much better. 5/10
Defeated Sanity: The Sanguinary Impetus (Willowtip Inc) [Charlie Rogers]

Hailing from Germany, Defeated Sanity are a name known to most on the death metal scene as their career has spanned nearly 3 decades. With their 6th studio album on the plate today, I was eager to finally give these acclaimed brutal tech maestros a listen. I almost wish I hadn’t. Evidently not keen on starting the record on solid ground, Phytodigestion accelerates the album from a standstill by introducing the snare and kick first in a sort of snowball effect - a blastbeat builds gradually from nothing, and as the bass and guitar enter the drum volume dips to match the crescendo created. 30 seconds in and I’m already bewildered. 

The following riffs appear to be discordant for discordant’s sake - phrasing makes very little obvious sense and what appears to be the focus is directly on trying to sound both as brutal and as technical as possible. The resulting sound is an unlistenable cacophony of swirling guitar noodles, frantic bass counter melodies, and relentless machine gun drumming. It’s apparent that the individual musicians are clearly extremely talented and versatile at their instruments, displaying some incredible fingerwork and athleticism, but the riff-writing varies from incredibly basic to over the top technicality and not much in between. I’m left jarred by the clashing styles, floundering in a sea of monotonous shred with no hooks to reel my attention back in. It doesn’t help either that the vocal style seems very bland, mainly sticking to incomprehensible gurgles devoid of any flair.

On the upside, the last 3 tracks of the album do cobble together some semblance of melody, and there’s glimmers of hope that you’d be able to remember even small passages. Propelled Into Sacrilege is probably my favourite track from the release, being the least tiresome to listen to, and occasionally crossing the line into enjoyable. It isn’t enough to encourage me to check out the rest of their albums however, which is a shame given how high their technical mastery of each instrument is. You’d probably enjoy this album if you get on with over the top brutality, but if you need strong melodic hooks, give it a miss. 3/10

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