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Friday, 28 August 2020

Reviews: Gojira, Incantation, Redemption, ROME (Paul H, Paul S, Simon & Alex)

 Gojira: Live At Red Rocks (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Recorded at their support slot to Opeth on 11th May 2017 at Red Rock Amphitheatre, this 67 minute show was originally streamed by the French metallers on 21st May 2020 in the middle of lockdown. If you’ve ever seen Gojira live, you’ll know that they are one of the most compelling live bands around and this set, for a support slot is phenomenal. 

It’s a hit after hit setlist, which was part of the Magma touring cycle. Kicking off with Only Pain, the technical wave of metal hits hard and often. Huge audience reaction is sparked throughout, with highlights including the always blistering Flying WhalesThe Heaviest Matter In The Universe, and The Cell. The irony of Joe Duplantier urging the crowd to be “in the moment” before levelling the place with a monstrous Backbone, as well as a couple of errors left in, create an honest and accurate representation of the band in the live arena. 

Sonically, this is a solid and captivating recording. Gojira are a machine, their headline status in the UK and across the globe has been earnt with hard work. The recent release Another World promises much for the widely anticipated seventh album. In the meantime, put those headphones on, strap yourself in and enjoy the blast wave. 9/10

Incantation: Sect Of Vile Divinities (Relapse Records) [Paul Scoble]

Incantation have been making Old School Death Metal since the days when it was just called Death Metal. The band who have been in existence since 1989, have made 10 albums before Sect Of Vile Divinities, the first being Onward To Golgotha in 1992. The four piece, who originally formed in New Jersey before re-locating to Pennsylvania, features John McEntee on Guitar and Vocals, Kyle Severn on Drums, Chuck Sherwood on Bass and Luke Shivey on Guitar. The band have a reputation for quality, so has Sect Of Vile Divinities lived up to the bands reputation?

The bands sound is rooted in late eighties, early nineties Death Metal. So, fast, tight tremolo picked riffs, blasting drums, screaming atonal solos and deep, gruff harsh vocals. The fast parts feel a little more Swedish Old School rather than Florida Old School. The band are also very good at sickeningly slow and putrid riffs that sound hugely evil and nasty, and are reminiscent of Asphyx or Autopsy. There are mid-paced parts but they are in a minority compared to blasting fast sections and the slow, putrid evil.

Another way this album reminds me of the Old School is the length of the songs. Most of the 12 tracks are pretty short with 4 tracks coming in at less than 3 minutes, so nothing outstays its welcome. Opening track Ritual Impurity (Seven Of The Sky Is One) is a good example of Incantations sound. The track opens with a blasting section of tremolo picked riffs that are battering and aggressive. The track then goes into a sickeningly slow and nasty riff, where guitar harmonies are used to make the track sound horrifically evil and is drenched in tri-tones. The song vacillates between these two sounds, and quickly comes to an end.

When Incantation do fast and savage they do not mess about, it’s fast and nasty in the extreme, close to fellow extremists like Drawn And Quartered or Pissgrave. This is shown beautifully by the track Entrails Of The Hag Queen which has some blisteringly fast, savage parts to it. Another fantastic fast track is Fury’s Manifesto which is thrashy and full of energy, it’s vibrant, forceful and driving. That track also features very heavy slower part, that juxtaposes the fast, and is one of the heaviest riffs I’ve heard in a long time.

Incantation don’t just use the slower parts for juxtapositioning. The track Ignis Fatuus is slow and grinding the whole way through, it features some sickening harmonies and reminds me why the Catholic Church banned the use of the Tri-tone.

Sect Of Vile Divinities is a fantastic album. It’s not that Incantation have found some sort of groundbreaking way to do Death Metal, there isn’t anything on this album that hasn’t been done before, what makes this album great is the quality. Every riff is brilliant, every solo is superbly played and really add to the songs, the drumming is savage, the vocals are near perfect. This is going to be in album of the year lists, possibly at the top. This is an album made by a band at the top of their game, Incantation are clearly masters of this kind of Death Metal, and the rest of us should be happy we’ve got to be their students. 9/10

Redemption: Alive In Color (AFM Records) [Simon Black]

Progressive Metal is a funny old beast. It’s definitely not for everyone, but when at the top of its game for me can be the pinnacle of the best of what the metal genre can achieve. For me the energy of the metal side of things, mixed with the more bombastic side of technical wizardry makes this the sub-genre I reach for when the ‘not-we’ in their naïve innocence make stupid statements like “It’s just noise”. “This is what it can be”, I will respond, “check out how well these guys can play” and at that point reach for something like Dream Theater, or if the poor bastard is from the metal side of things, something more aggressive like Symphony X. The comparison has a reason, dear reader, as Redemption sit firmly between these two Progressive Metal stalwarts sound wise.

Musically this is technically tight stuff, with feet firmly in the metal world, and not the more experimental end of say a Spock’s Beard or Dream Theater in more self-indulgent days. It’s also the first release with new guitarist Simone Mularoni and Vikram Shankar on the ivories (coming so very close on the heels of singer Tom Englund), and it must be said debuting the new chaps in one go with a live release (which includes video formats) is a very brave more indeed. Englund is also not playing guitar with these guys, which is a shame as he’s perfectly accomplished in his own right in this respect, and an extra guitar might have added some additional layering. Not that this album is short of this quality. I’m not particularly familiar with their back catalogue, so with all these factors combined it is like discovering a new act for the first time.

Set wise this is a full show double CD release recorded at Progpower, USA in 2018, so at an hour and thirty-six minutes with 14 tracks, none of which can exactly be classified as short you certainly get your money’s worth. Where Englund shines is song where that anguished tone can shine, but unfortunately that becomes a bit monotonous after a while, and you find yourself wishing that some of the tracks had someone of the range and power of a Rob Allen to add a bit of variety. Maybe this line up just needs to find its feet and cut some tunes together, but sadly this wasn’t quite on the money for me and lacked a little bit of energy. 6/10

Rome: The Lone Furrow (Trisol Music Group) [Alex Swift]

Cinematic and traditional in aesthetics, Rome emanates medieval qualities through their gothic melancholy. Almost entirely acoustic yet utilizing the textures of echo and minimalism to create a strikingly harrowing sound, The Lone Furrow gives the impression of being a new way to embrace the dark, dour and bleak qualities associated with their genre. Despite the absence of rampaging riffs, hostile howls, and gluttonous breakdowns, I’m still very tempted to describe the music on display here as ‘metal’. Take the ethereal gambit of TYRIAT SIG TYRIAS where the guitars exude folklore, while the singing bears a coarse yet commanding quality, and the ardently pulverizing reverb from the percussion lends a sense of shrouded mystery – are these not the elements you may traditionally find in folk metal, or that inspired by Celtic and Norse mythology? 

THE ANGRY CUP continues to prove forceful and imposing with its war-like tribal drumming and a mesmerizing chorus chant that hypnotizes the listener. Soon, gargantuan orchestrals loom, interacting with the chanted cadences of the chilling crescendo. Indeed, the addition of Nergal Darski of Behemoth on guest vocals stands as a particularly apt and brilliant decision. The record becomes even more intriguing once you dig into the lyricism which is poetic and political in equal measure. A multi-lingualist Jerome, who leads the project, laces his stanzas with pieces of French and German, as well as English. With ravaging eloquence, the wordplay deconstructs our relationship with the natural world and our refusal to learn from history, always weaving its messages with so much beauty and subtlety that you could forget that you are listening to a condemnation of death and destruction, on an industrial scale. Throughout, you find that these players have an aptitude disturbing and disquieting the audience in a way that leaves them enthralled. Whether that’s by gently captivating them with a sinuous story as on THE LAY OF IRIA, or making their emotions weep with a sombre moment as on PALMYRA, there’s an intensely enchanting quality to the music on display.
I’m incredibly inclined to say that this piece may be one of my favourites of this year. Detached from any preconceptions of how they ‘should’ sound, Rome has crafted an album that is both dark and beautiful. With that combination and the spellbinding way in which those elements are executed, they may have created one of the most artistic works of 2020. 9/10

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