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Wednesday 29 July 2020

Reviews: Septicflesh, Warkings, Dun Ringill, Zetra (Rich, Paul H, Matt & Bob)

Septicflesh: Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX (Season Of Mist) [Rich Oliver]

I have always found the mix of heavy metal and symphonic music an awe inspiring mix. Like many, my first exposure to this mix of sounds was the Metallica S&M live album. Of course now symphonic metal is its own subgenre championed by bands such as Nightwish and Epica but I have been massively drawn to the extreme metal bands that incorporate symphonic elements into their sound. Dimmu Borgir were one of the extreme metal bands to successfully mix these sounds but there are a whole host of bands who now do this from Fleshgod Apocalypse to Shade Empire to Hollenthon and the band who in my opinion do it the better than anyone else - the mighty Septicflesh.

Septicflesh have always had more of an air of authenticity with their symphonic death metal sound being that guitarist Christos Antoniou is a classically trained composer. Septicflesh have been seamlessly mixing the intensity of death metal and epic symphonic compositions since their 2008 album Communion and have upped their game with every subsequent release culminating in the jaw dropping Codex Omega album in 2017.

When this show was announced I may have done a squeak of excitement followed by a bout of extreme jealousy for anyone who would be lucky enough to attend. The show took place in the Metropolitan Theater in Mexico City and saw Septicflesh performing alongside the Symphonic Experience Orchestra, Enharmonía Vocalis Choir and the National University of Mexico Children’s & Youth Choir. The result quite frankly is absolutely breathtaking. The album is perfectly mixed so that the band, the orchestra and the choirs are all perfectly audible and never drown each other out. Epic is a word that does this show an injustice. It is completely beyond epic and at times overwhelming just how amazing the performances are. I think nearly every hair on my body was standing on end at points (and I have a lot of hair!). The set is made up of 14 songs with material taken from the Communion, The Great Mass, Titan and Codex Omega albums.

It would have been nice to hear some material which predates this era of the band and given the symphonic treatment but I really can’t complain about the material which we are given. After a massive, awe-inspiring intro from the orchestra and choirs we are hit by the double whammy of Portrait Of A Headless Man and Martyr and it really doesn’t let up from there. We get set staples such as Pyramid God, The Vampire Of Nazareth and Communion whilst songs such as Lovecraft’s Death and The Great Mass get an airing. The highlights for me though were the absolutely massive The Enemy Of Truth which is just staggering in the levels of epic it reaches whilst the rendition of Prometheus is staggering with a wonderful lead in by the orchestra and choirs. The most hair raising moment of the concert though is the jaw dropping Anubis which has the crowd singing along to the main melody of the song being just as loud as band, orchestra and choirs.

As well as hearing the live album I’ve also been able to view a stream of the actual concert footage and it is a wonderfully shot and edited concert with the grand surroundings of the Metropolitan Theater being a suitable venue for such an awe-inspiring concert. Frontman and bassist Spiros Antoniou commands the stage whilst being his usually affable self and drummer Krimh must be applauded for his spectacular performance who literally drums like his life depends on it. Guitarist Sotiris Vayenas makes a rare appearance on stage providing clean and backing vocals whilst his guitar parts are handled by regular touring guitarist Psychon. In a nutshell Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX is an absolutely must-see concert DVD. The album works well alone by itself but it’s always good to watch the concert and see the full experience. Live albums can be a bit hit or miss but the love and care that has gone into this release speaks volumes and is one of the best live releases I’ve had the good fortune to see. 10/10

Warkings: Revenge (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Power metal based on historical wars and heroes. Sound familiar? Now if you haven't heard Hammerfall then surely you would have heard of Sabaton and if you like those bands well then you'll want to seek out Revenge the second album from International metal band Warkings. It's the follow up to their debut Reborn which saw the Roman Tribune (vocals), a Viking (bass), a Crusader (guitars) and a Spartan (drums), form a bond in the Halls of Valhalla and steal their souls from the Lord Of The Abyss. Now according to the legacy surrounding this record these legates of Odin are now followed by demons. How this has led them to forming a band and playing chest beating power metal I don't know but every band needs a gimmick! The membership of the band is a closely guarded secret though the Roman Tribune may be from the epicentre of The Holy Roman Empire or in classical history Noricum (that classic degree is paying off!).

Still the storyline and gimmick of the band doesn't detract from the powerful metal anthems on this record, with a lyrics drawn from Antiquity on Fight In The Shade, named after Dienekes' quip at Thermopylae, but based around the Cherusci tribes victory over the Romans at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in AD 9 and Battle Of Marathon based on the first decisive Greek victory over the Persians. From the strutting mid-paced rocker of Maximus, through the galloping Warriors and the thrashy Odin's Son which features additional vocals from "The Queen Of The Damned" who's an ancient Helvetian. Revenge maintains the classic power heavy metal sounds of Hammerfall and Manowar with the odd ballad (Banner's High) thrown in for balance. Revenge is a better album than the debut with a bit more a focus and lot more heaviness too, especially on final track Warking which closes out the record with a fist pumping anthem, historical power metal silliness that will get your head nodding. 8/10

Dun Ringill: Library Of Death (Argonauta Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Formed in 2017 when The Order Of Israfel took a break, rhythm section Patrik Andersson Winberg (Bass) and drummer Hans Lilja (also in Lotus) began to work on new music with Patrik's old band mate from the Doomdogs era, vocalist Thomas Eriksson(Intoxicate and ex Grotesque). Including guitarists Tommy Stegemann (Silverhorse), Jens Florén (also in Lommi & ex- live guitarist for Dark Tranquillity) and Patric Grammann (SFT, Neon Leon) completed the line-up. Having released their debut album Welcome, Dun Ringill moved forward, the result being Library Of Death.

The opening track to this sophomore release is called Raven’s Tear. A six-minute doom-laden track laced with Nordic folk elements, it is a marmite song and not one that I’m ready to spread on my hot buttered toast. Inevitably as with much doom, the song is a lumbering piece with rather strained ragged vocals. The title track doesn’t do Eriksson any favours, with some out of tune moments but the crashing riffs and thunderous delivery are encouraging. My Funeral Song changed everything though. A gentle, atmospheric build up with some haunting strings is marred by some of the worst opening vocals I’ve heard for a long time and even though the track is a dark, raw piece of work, with some harrowing violin and cello in the mid-section, it’s a bit of a struggle.

Regardless of the haunting vibes of evil wilderness and dark woods that the band create, once you’ve ruined it, it’s impossible to really listen to it with any conviction. Despite the inclusion of guest musicians including opera singer Glenn Kjellberg, Per Wiberg from Kamchatka, Matti Norlin from the band Lugnet and Philip Lindgren (ex-Hypnos), this album turned into a real struggle with Dance Of The Necromancer in particular utterly bewildering with its random flute and brass sections. I tried but Library Of Death degenerated into one of the most disappointing releases I’ve heard this year. 4/10

Zetra: E.P. (Death Waltz Recording Company) [Bob Shoesmith]

Firstly, a quick question, when does a single become an E.P or an E.P an album and vice versa? When I’ve opened the debut release from London based duo, Zetra (described as an, and called E.P) there are nine tracks… so it’s an album called E.P then, or an E.P that has been stretched out? Not sure. Either or, it’s kind of a moot point at this juncture but this anomaly will warm you up nicely for the slight air of mystery and the quirky world of Zetra. There is little information to find out about our intrepid duo other than they are Adam (guitar & vocals) and Jordan (synthesizers and vocal). They have a had a smattering of minor releases of tracks, demos on cassettes (which you can still find on Bandcamp) and are entirely self-recorded on an eight-track machine and using an Atari ST which seems currently, given the easy accessibility of digital recording tools is quite the definition of “underground”, an aesthetic that will appeal to those who like their music a little more hand-made and indie.

The EP itself tells the tale of ill-fated Russian cosmonaut, Vladimir Komorov who perished on Soyuz 1 - affording him the distinction of being the first human to die in space so quite an interesting concept to throw your musical ideas behind for a debut. The album/EP frequently returns to a spacey vibe with an opening introductory forty-four seconds of A Death In Space (a slowing breathing apparatus sound with an ethereal synth note behind it) which sets an atmospheric scene for their story perfectly to the Mission Control radio transmissions in Normal Behaviour to the sampling and ethereal sci-fi sounds in the final two tracks, ‘Descent’ and ‘Accendent’. What Zetra then provide is a further 35 minutes or so of fairly well-constructed storytelling around their chosen tale. Often bands 'concepts' can get buried or blurred in the music and remain a mystery to everyone but the bands themselves. Zetra stay in the zone thematically throughout however, which is commendable for a debut and the theme/music compliments each other well. Musically what we have is a collection of slower paced, shoe-gazey, reverby electronica where Tame Impala meet My Bloody Valentine, with added Gary Numan-esque synth fills supported by gritty, fuzzed out guitars. When they nail their ethereal sound, like in the stand-out Phaethon, they are intriguing and listenable.

The issue here is that every track sits firmly in the doomy, dreamy slow pace zone and becomes aurally, very samey after three or four tracks which can make the overall experience drag despite some worthy ideas and decent story telling going on. Its crying out for something to take the attention somewhere else – a trick Type O (a Zetra declared influence) introduced early in their career – a change in tempo or structure somewhere amongst the doom just to keep the listener on their toes. An interesting debut that has a better production than the DIY description would have you believe. Interesting but samey. 6/10

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