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Friday, 21 August 2020

Reviews: Fellwarden, Terminal Nation, Lionville, Humavoid (Paul H, Liam, Steve & Matt)

Fellwarden: Wreathed In Mourncloud (Eisenwald Tonschmiede) [Paul Hutchings]

The Watcher has painstakingly crafted the follow up to 2017’s Oathbreaker over the past three years. That album was a beautiful and majestic piece of work, inspired by the rugged landscapes of the North of England. I was bewitched by it. And now, the force behind East Anglian black metallers Fen has returned with Wreathed In Mourncloud, and the result is as spectacular as Oathbreaker
Written between 2017 and 2018, and recorded at various points across 2017-20, Wreathed in Mourncloud is inspired by countless wanderings amongst the crags and fells of England’s Lake District At times pure emotion, at other times a journey of discovery, it is a stunning record. The Watcher provides vocals, guitar, bass, and keys whilst Fen drummer Havenless provides the thundering drumming and percussion. 

Opening song Pathmaker reassures, every level and detail that made Oathbreaker such a distinctive album is once more at maximum. The ethereal Scafell’s Blight haunts, punishing drumming, clean vocals and growls and frenetic tremolo riffing all combine to provide an atmospheric track that sends the spirits soaring. The synths of A Premonition change the feel without losing any intensity. It remains dramatic and emotive. 

The final three songs move into the epic category. The title track which is over ten minutes in length ebbs and flows, at times ferociously aggressive but often delicately haunting. Similarly, the explosive sections in An Elder Reckoning are frantically driven, and yet control and calm always remains. The concluding track, the longest on the album at over 12 minutes Upon A Stone concludes this stellar release with a beautifully constructed finale. 

Wreathed In Mourncloud is a gargantuan piece of work. Superbly delivered, the mix of black metal and more alternative sounds ensuring that this is an album that you can get lost in. Once drawn in, it’s simply a case of allowing the soundscapes to wash over you. Masterful in production, mastered by Greg Chandler at Priory Studios Wreathed In Mourncloud is a magnificent successor to Oathbreaker in ever dimension. 10/10

Terminal Nation: Holocene Extinction (20 Buck Spin) [Liam True]

If Napalm Death had been formed in the modern day, this is what they’d sound like. Blanding the sound of Grindcore and Death Metal, Terminal Nation are a force to be reckoned with in the modern age of extreme music. Finding a good Grindcore band in the scene today is hit and miss. You either get a stand out band or one that drifts away. TN are the one stand out band I've heard for a while since BAT. Holocene Extinction is only 13 songs over the course of 35 minutes, but when you put the album on and listen from start to finish, it doesn’t even feel like that amount of time has passed. While the average time for a song on the album is about 2 minutes, there are a few songs that hit the 4 minute barrier, not really seen in many Grindcore bands, but somehow TN can pull it off with a smooth production sound that makes the band sound more aggressive. 

You have the wailing guitars of Dalton Rail & Tommy Robinson providing an anarchist backdrop. The blast beat filled powerhouse of Chase Davis on drums. The powerful sounding bass of Chase Turner echoing though your bones. And you have Stan Liszewski spewing forth his bile upon your ear drums to make an abhorrent noise that Barney Greenway would be proud of. As far as Grindcore albums go, this is one of the best ones since Cattle Decapitation’s Dark Atlas. It’s a monumental step in the modern style of extreme music. And they’ve placed their names on the map. 9/10

Lionville: Magic is A Love Rating (Frontiers Records) [Steve Haines]

Imagine, if you will, Marty McFly bobbing along in his Delorean in 1985 and he sees a young glam metal band hitchhiking. He picks them up and suddenly the flux capacitor goes on the fritz and they end up in 2020. Now, get that band to write and record 100 songs then you take the most average ones – not crap but equally not going to set the world alight – and put them on an album. There you have my potted summary of what this album sounds like. Pretty much a whole album of Winger B-sides that feel like they’ve been plucked from any John Hughes film (the background ones, not the major credits tracks).

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not at all unpleasant and would be a fine and inoffensive background to a party but there’s nothing here to get your teeth into. I spent my formative years enjoying the heyday of glam metal/soft rock so it’s a genre I enjoy and remember fondly – unfortunately Lionville have taken every cliché – the ‘finally we’re together’ lyrics, the echo vocals, the obligatory piano-driven ballads – that would have worked well in 1988 but even though there is a thirst for musical nostalgia, its about 30 years too late unless you put a new spin on it and unfortunately they don’t.

The songs are well played musically, vocals are fine and production values are good. Unfortunately, it’s so derivative and entrenched in the 1980s that it almost had me heading to the back of my wardrobe for the double denim, fingerless gloves and booking a backcombed perm (ask your parents!). Not crap, but not special either. 5/10

Humavoid: Lidless (Noble Demon) [Matt Bladen]

When modern progressive metal, in this case influenced very strongly by Meshuggah and other djenty acts, is good it can be really enjoyable. However when it's bad, it is a major struggle. Unfortunately for Finnish act Humavoid they do move more towards the 'struggle' aspect. Firstly I have no issue with the palm muted riffs and grooves here, even though they are repeated ad-nauseum meaning that the album is one big mash of 'chonky' riffs and aggressive shouted vocals, no the issues I have is their over-reliance on the massive piano chords and jazz influences that come through on every song. It's supposed to make the songs unpredictable but what it really does make them very jarring as on some occasions you have no chance to settle into the feel of a track before you're taken off on another course, into some obscure time signatures, industrial-like pulsing synths, plonking classical piano (Aluminium Rain). A lot of this was improvised, especially the drums. 

Despite this if the modern prog sound with some added oddness is your thing then you'll enjoy Humavoid musically, where I struggle is with the vocals they are very binary, it's a banshee-like scream, a guttural growl, from Suvimarja Halmetoja (vocals/piano) and Niko Kalliojärvi (guitar/vocals) shifting between them both but when Halmetoja gives us a does of a clean delivery it's really strained and even slightly atonal which makes songs such as What You Hide a struggle. I admire the chutzpah of Humavoid trying something very different but for me Lidless is a little off the boil. 5/10

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