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Friday 17 July 2020

Reviews: Necrophobic, Thyrant, The Big Dirty, On Hollow Ground (Rich, Paul H, Simon & Liam)

Necrophobic: Mirror Black EP (Century Media) [Rich Oliver]

Mirror Black is the new 7” EP and digital single from Swedish blackened death metal legends Necrophobic. It is the beginning of the promotional campaign for upcoming new album Dawn Of The Damned and features a brand new song as well as a live recording of an old classic taken from their recent quarantine concert.

The new song is the title track itself Mirror Black and it is classic Necrophobic full of blackened tremolo riffs, blast beats, malevolence and death metal violence. It has a nice atmospheric build up and even as the song kicks in it teases us with more build up before the tremolo riffs, blast beats and roar of frontman Anders Strokirk all attack our ears (in a good way). The song has a driving rhythm throughout and like all good Necrophobic strikes the right balance between the black metal and death metal elements sounding both violent and atmospheric in equal measure. The live recording is of the classic Darkside from the 1997 album of the same name and is a well performed and recorded performance with a sound that is suitably raw but still with good clarity amongst all the instruments.

Mirror Black is a good little teaser of what is to come from Necrophobic in the near future. It’s hard to score these little releases as it is essentially nothing more than a teaser and promotional material for the upcoming album but it certainly did its job as it left me wanting more from Necrophobic. Hopefully I won’t be waiting too long. 7/10

Thyrant: Katabasis (Indie Recordings) [Paul Hutchings]

Formed in Andalucía in 2015, Spanish five-piece Thyrant’s second album is an interesting blend of melodic death and more mainstream metal. The band released their debut album What We Left Behind in 2017 but have since changed vocalist with multi-instrumentalist Ocram now on singing duties. Katabasis, meaning ‘Descend’ in Greek, channels a concept of someone going through difficult times and conquering them.

Opening with the dramatic Face The Thyrant, Thyrant make a bold statement. The track is over eight and a half minutes in length and evolves impressively as it develops, demonstrating a variety of styles and tempos, Ocram’s vocals mirror Ihshan’s style of growls whilst the soaring cleans on this release are provided by guitarist Miguel Navarro. The band have numerous styles and the blasting Dunes Of Desolation is a good example. A rollercoaster of a song, Ocram’s aggressive guttural roars rage over a fiery groove laden track which gallops along at pace.

Katabasis then expands into multiple segments. Chapter I – Shipwrecked is an instrumental which leads into another eight minute plus track Black Oceans. A heavy, driving riff leads into a doom-laden morbid song, full of dark fear and intense atmospherics, crushing in its heaviness. Chapter II – Hopeless follows, another instrumental which leads into the Ephemeral Lighthouse, a schizophrenic track that explodes with black metal fury before pulling back into a calming, gentle segment, only for the who pattern to repeat. Thick riffs dominate, whilst Ocram’s roar pushes through the cacophony with chilling drive. Chapter III – Descent stands alone, a crashing third instrumental which echoes with emotion and repeat riffs. This leads to the conclusion of a fine album, Katabasis/Chapter IV: Catharsis which begins with gentle acoustic guitar although you feel that things will get rougher at any moment.

The gentle intro is accompanied by clean harmonies, progressive in delivery whilst a solitary electric guitar cuts through the hum. The song expands into another massively heavy doom driven track, the echo of lonely guitar slowly drowned out by the sheer weight of the song. As it progresses, the groove and drive become infectious and the track expands into something of an epic and a majestic way to conclude an interesting and intriguing release. 7/10

The Big Dirty: The Sex (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Cheesy Sleaze like this is very much a marmite affair for many in this decade and this Northampton based quartet certainly have an uphill struggle ahead of them choosing a genre that drips sexualised objectification that was starting to raise disparaging eyebrows 35 years ago. That said, the genre never went away and still has the capacity to surprise (as last week’s release from Michael Grant proved). The trouble here is Sleaze does not have to mean adolescent sexualisation, which sweats from every pore of this release. Sleazy and from the gutter – yes, but not crass: an important distinction. Casual racism may be back in fashion, but I would like to think we have grown up a bit when it comes to the handling of gender in our subculture (especially when you lived through it all first time round) and I’m afraid songs in this lyrical vein don’t impress now that I’m 35 years past puberty. Which is a shame, because musically these chaps have got an awful lot going for them.

Like its progenitor punk before it, Sleaze wasn’t always renowned for having the tightest or most technically proficient musicianship associated with it, but this is absolutely not the case for The Big Dirty. These chaps can play, with a technical pizazz that makes this old hack sit up and notice. Opener Hold My Beer shows that there is a tightness to the rhythm section from the get go, the energy of which is infectious. The band are not afraid to use the production skills at their disposal to create the requisite atmosphere and there is some at first glance straight down but in fact quite fast and tight guitar work holding this all together. Dirty Rider takes this forward and also shows that vocalist Jonny Rocket (yes, really) has a pretty good range to him, let down only by the content of the lyrics themselves. Whiskey Patrol has again some really tight instrumentals and time switches and from here on in I really try and tune out the words and focus on the lyrics and the hypnotic effect of T Dawg’s drumwork. This is way more technical than anything else I have ever heard in this genre, as Love With The Lights On or Rhythm Of My Drum indicate (the latter being probably the musically strongest track on the album).

If you choose to take this as tongue in someone else’s cheek tribute to the day (á la Steel Panther) and focus on the musicianship, this has a lot going on for it. For a self-produced album the mix sounds a lot more professional than I expected – it really is well laid down and mixed, giving the right balance of players in the mix and the right amount of lift where you need to hear what these boys can do both instrumentally and vocally. Sadly I can’t get away from the fact that I would have cringed at most of these lyrics back in 1985 and in 2020 I really think we can all do better whilst the world goes to hell in a hand basket. 6/10

On Hollow Ground: Blood Is Blood (Self Released) [Liam True]

It’s hard to keep the sound of an up and coming metal band fresh and exciting. Metalcore is the hardest because most bands are generic and copy and pasted. On Hollow Ground however have taken everything from the early Metalcore bands, pumped it full of their own creative juices and turned the aggression up to 100. Opener Our Lives just sends you head first into the minds of the band with drummer Joseph Wood and guitarists Chris Batty & Ryan Scott launching at you throat first while vocalist Jack Flynn spits his vile vocals into your ear drums in an attempt to destroy you.
The moment the band launches into the album they don’t let you breathe. Broken & People Never Learn are as heavy as hell itself. Surviving Life is a small interlude to let you soak up the atmosphere of the album. But then it dives straight back into the madness that is And Getting By. Blood Is Blood & Shutdown are pure Metalcore through and through and Even Though is a brilliant ender to a great album. Metalcore has been making a strong comeback lately, and On Hollow Ground is part of that resurgence. 7/10

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