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Tuesday 7 July 2020

Reviews: Inerrant, Soul Grinder, Meridian Dawn, Virtual Symmetry (Matt, Rich, Paul H & Bob)

Inerrant: Incarceraging (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

In the time of the virus, the genesis of Welsh-based band/project Inerrant was born out necessity. Paul Fortescue (Ex-Hogslayer) and Gareth Rowley (NIL) had been trying for a few years to get another project together but various things had stopped them. However with Covid-19 running wild both managed to find a way to create music and write an entire album while the whole country was in lockdown. This album has been written as a statement of intent, a rallying cry against the stupidity of governments during this period and as a symbol of hope to the numerous bands that are struggling in this time. They are doing this by spreading their music on a pay what you want basis on bandcamp. Starting what is essentially an anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-fascist multi-genre band who break the boundaries that surrounded it's creation.

The remaining membership of Inerrant reads as a who's who of the Welsh metal/punk/alt underground scene with guitars coming from Rowley and James Britton (ex the much missed Anterior), Marc Real (Die Chihuahua Die) on bass, Lewis Green (Not Since The Accident/ex-Gung Ho) on drums and obviously the abusive vocal delivery of Paul Fortescue, they've also lined up a special guest performances from Tommy Andrews (Chains Of Hate), James Joseph (Holding Absence), Theodore Logan (Pizzatramp), Aaron Roberts (I Am Gravity), Rachel Kate (Devilcry), Thoby Davis (Akb'al), Carin Stenbeck and some artistic collaboration effort for Richey Beckett creating a multimedia format for this album.

The album itself is wrapped in artwork by Dai Yung and the 10 songs contained within is rooted in the hardcore/punk sound, the opening aggression on Anti-Social displays this rapid sound well as does Reason For The Treason but they also have some post-metal and doom influences especially on the hypnotic final song Don't Fall. There's no quarter given on Incarceraging the assault doesn't dampen on Try Not To Hate or brutal battery of The Shepard's Glock, the guitars bite, tear and scratch while the rhythm section work on overdrive throughout rounded off with the uncompromising roar and obstinate, defiant lyrics. With the promise of more material on the way, it looks like Inerrant won't be a one hit wonder, fuelled by the frustration and fear of lockdown Inerrant have come to fight back at the bullshit that has been unravelling because of it. Join the fight! 8/10

Soul Grinder: Chronicles Of Decay (Black Sunset/MDD) [Rich Oliver]

Chronicles Of Decay is the debut full length album by German death metallers Soul Grinder and is the follow up to the debut EP Sadistic Parasite which was released by the band in 2018. Soul Grinder hail from the city of Bremen and feature members of other Bremen-based bands such as Ctulu and Asenblut.

What we have on Chronicles Of Decay is no nonsense death metal from the school of bands such as Vader being blast beat riddled assaults of speed and aggression with the opening duo of Infernal Suffering and Flesh Defiler being two absolutely relentless songs. Soul Grinder do mix things up throughout the album with Ruins Of Existence and March Of The Dead being heavily influenced by thrash especially in the riffing style whilst The Delusionist and Signs Of Decline have moments that are heavy with that sick old school death metal groove. The band also move into slightly experimental territory with the more melodic and atmospheric The Sun And The Serpent being a highlight with its interesting use of choirs and The Withering with use of some baritone clean vocals. My personal favourite was the bludgeoning Morbid Masquerade which has some wonderfully filthy riffs and an almost punky rhythm to it.

Soul Grinder whilst not a name I was familiar with previously have impressed me with their debut album. It pulls no punches and it is a very solid and enjoyable of death metal which whilst for the majority sticks to the confines of the genre also takes some experimental meanderings. This is old school death metal with a contemporary gleam. 8/10

Meridian Dawn: The Fever Syndrome (Seeing Red Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Meridian Dawn was founded in 2012 as a side project by vocalist Antony Hämäläinen (Nightrage, Armageddon, Crystal Tears) and guitarist/bassist Nick Ziros (Into The Moat, Remembering Never), with drummer Johan Nunez (Kamelot, Nightrage, Firewind, Marty Friedman), guitarist Brandon Johnson, and guitarist Christopher "CJ" Cussell. Their debut EP, The Mixtape EP arrived in 2014 and covered the musical grounds between Death and Melodic Metal. Although the group is now a much slimmer outfit, with only Hämäläinen and Ziros full-time members, the band has finally been able to release their debut The Fever Syndrome. Drummer Nunez remains on the stool as a session player for the album.

Nunez’s drumming is one of the highlights on an album that is ferocious and powerful, utilising the contrasting clean and gruff vocals so beloved of the melodic death metal scene to good effect, there is plenty to get stuck into here. I find this genre one of the most challenging to review, such is the generic nature of much of the music. The Fever Syndrome does meld into one at times, but the frantic guitar work over the powerhouse drumming at least allows this release to climb out of the general pool and stand closer to the top. There’s melody in the likes of Luminescent whilst the more intensive fire of the title track and Involuntary Seclusion add real steel. At times reminiscent of In Flames at their best [i.e. many years ago], these united nations of a group clearly know their stuff well. The tracks are solid, well performed with enough to linger in the memory. Not my favourite album of the year but certainly worth a listen if you like this sort of thing. 7/10

Virtual Symmetry: Exoverse (Self Released) [Bob Shoesmith]

Virtual Symmetry are a Swiss-Metal prog-metal outfit who have just unleashed their second studio album since their inception in 2009 (with a live release in between). They have already rubbed shoulders live with Dream Theater and new prog metallers on the block Evergrey. The five piece have also to co-opted from their shared experiences, ‘special guests’ to play alongside them such as drummer Thomas Lang, Dream Theater’s keyboardist Jordan Rudess (who seems to be popping up everywhere at the minute), saxophonist Ruben Paganelli and the services of the symphonic orchestra Sinfonietta Consonus.

For only their second studio outing Virtual Symmetry don’t lack for huge ambition, in fact what we have here is not only the kitchen sink but the entire kitchen thrown at the album, Exoverse. The album looks and feels like a grandiose, cinematic Ridley Scott sci-fi soundtrack from the cover art down to the eight-track, seventy-five-minute cornucopia of symphonic metal in the style of Kamelot or Nightwish meeting Dream Theater’s prog metal in a dark alley. There are literally hundreds of ideas going on here with guests, riffs, solos, grand orchestral and choral twists and turns during every track. It begins with Entropia a six-minute instrumental opener that features climactic synths, progressive noodling, dramatic solos, big organs, neo classical choral voices. It feels like its three songs broken up and stitched back together. 

That’s not to say the tracks aren’t magnificently played, because they are, and I’ve mentioned before but the latest kids on the Prog block, just don’t DO or like linear song structures, which is part of its appeal. But often, songs feel like they’ve ended several minutes before they actually have (Exodus, Safe), and the twenty-three minute closer (Exoverse) could easily be four stand-alone songs mixed into one very long track. Ok, the ballad tracks (Odyssey and Remember), are fairly stock but during the main tracks like, Exodus, Vortex and, specifically, the leviathan Exoverse, Virtual Symmetry attempt to pack EVERY musical idea they have ever thought of into them; guest keyboards, guest sax, guest vocals, orchestral segments, choral accompaniment, metal riffs come & go and to be honest, if you stick with it and listen right to the end it’s not always easy to take it all in first time. I am also pretty sure that the introduction and contribution of the well-known “guests” probably has more to do with marketing than being pivotal to the musical composition.

I should make one thing clear at this point, Virtual Symmetry (as with their guests) are clearly incredibly adept musicians for such a young band and there are several passages of play throughout, when taken in isolation, are fantastic slabs of high end, neo classic and prog-metal (such as the second half of XI) but my slight problem with Virtual Symmetry as a neutral is not their ability to play long complex pieces of music really well (they do that in spades), but the fact that it seems that their ambitions have overridden the overall creative process. In places, there’s almost TOO much style mixing going on. There are times when I have returned to the playlist and thought “Wait, which track is this now?” and on closer inspection is still the same one from five minutes ago but has just gone somewhere completely different. In too many sections, too much is often attempted within each track which, and unless you’re a long-term fan that can deal with the layers and undiluted musical complexity, it can become unnecessarily hard work. Don’t get me wrong, the album is in no way chaotic or unstructured but fantastically produced and brilliantly performed but maybe, if it had been spread out over two albums with a little less of the ‘everything-all-at-once’ methodology it would probably be less so.

I would thoroughly recommend Exoverse to experienced Prog/Gothic/Neo Classical -metal fans but it's possibly a little overpowering for the casual browser. 8/10

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