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Friday, 28 August 2020

Reviews: Halestorm, Harmonize, Dying Vision, Reasons Behind (Steve, Lucas, Rich & Mike)

Halestorm: Reimagined (Atlantic Records) [Steve Haines]

Hale siblings Arejay and Lzzy started making music together over 2 decades ago but it is only since Halestorm’s debut album landed in 2009 that they have been making waves with their female-fronted hard rock. In fact, they were the first female-fronted rock band to win a Grammy for their song Love Bites (So Do I). The band have made a habit of releasing EPs of cover versions between studio albums and the current gap following 2018’s Vicious is no exception – it’s just that the artist they have chosen to cover is, well, themselves. With the notable exception of a cover version of I Will Always Love You which itself has been a Halestorm fan-favourite at some live shows in the past, the Reimagined EP features songs from across the band’s back catalogue, all of which have been largely stripped back while losing none of their impact thanks to Lzzy Hale’s delivery of the tweaked vocals. In stripping back tracks like I Get Off and I Miss The Misery, the band have had to largely abandon their familiar chugging, driving guitar style and this leads to some fantastic musical layering that makes for a wonderfully nuanced result. 

I Am The Fire goes from a supercharged rock track to a classically acoustic version that works well delivering a new take on an already great song. When stripping back tracks it can lead to a quandary – one that the band faces with the haunting ballad Break In – how do you strip back what is already down to the bare bones? Answer: you don’t. Instead, you find someone who is known for similar vocal stylings and throw her into the mix to provide a whole new dynamic. Step forward Amy Lee from Evanescence whose voice combines beautifully with Hale’s to, again, give a nuanced take on the already impressive original. While the Halestorm covers by, umm, Halestorm showcase the band’s abilities to unplug and rework songs to great effect, the cover of I Will Always Love You is unquestionably Lzzy Hale’s platform to shine even more than with the full band tracks. 

It is a great take on a well loved song. Existing Halestorm fans will enjoy the way that songs they know have been reworked and new listeners will hear a cross-section of Halestorm’s musical history in a way that shows what a great band they are and those listeners could, indeed SHOULD, invest time going through the band’s back catalogue if they enjoy this brief introduction. 8/10

Harmonize: Warrior In The Night (Self Released) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Today did descend upon me an armour-clad fellow brandishing a ridiculously long sword, his hair blowing in the wind. Shining in his hand was…. a CD. Warrior In The Night by Harmonize to be specific, lo and behold it is some wonderful power metal. Hailing from Cyprus, these obscure headbangers have been at the grindstone since 2012, keeping their swords sharp, and keeping that classic power metal spirit going, and managing to add a certain amount of spice to the age-old formula. 
The first several tracks are a standard power affair- you get a hefty dose of powerful, mid-tempo riffage, combined with some nice harmonising vocals. The songs deal in the fantastical, telling tales of warriors battling the evil forces of darkness- you get track names like Never Back Down, which is quite emblematic of this genre. 

However, one would be doing themselves a disservice to dismiss this album as nothing but power metal cheese, as there’s actually a fair bit of experimentation on display here. Later tracks include growled, rasped vocals on top of the clean ones, which add a darker tinge to the songs, as if showing that the darkness is corrupting the Warrior depicted on the cover. The tempos begin to slow, the riffs get a little more sombre, and a heck of a lot heavier, especially the track Crawling Among Shadows. It’s an interesting thematic choice, and I find it adds a lot of character to this album, and keeps it from falling in line with others of this genre. 

The spoken word outro also contributes to this album’s rather in-depth lore. In all, I was quite surprised by the twist of Cain this album manages to pull, and I think it’s worth a listen just for it alone. If you’re inclined towards power metal, I would not hesitate to recommend this album. 9/10

Dying Vision: The Death And Its Slaughter (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]

The Death And Its Slaughter is the new album from London based extreme metal band Dying Vision. It is self-released and the second album from the five piece and is a further example that there is some absolutely fantastic metal in the UK’s underground scene. Dying Vision perform a mix of black and death metal which leans very heavily on the melodic side of these subgenres but whilst being highly melodic does not sacrifice any of the violence and aggression of the black and death metal sounds. The vocals sit somewhere halfway between the throaty rasp of black metal and the guttural roars of death metal and often flits between the two styles. The music is highly energetic and goes straight for the jugular, rarely coming up for breath during the album's 35 minute duration. 

Opener Dark Passenger builds up atmosphere for the first minute before unleashing hell on the listener with Horrifying Pattern Of The Mind maintaining the bludgeoning. Most songs lull the listener into a false sense of security with a more atmospheric and melodic opening such as Lost In The Darkness and Human Condition before switching to the bands relentless yet highly melodic style. The most melodic sounding song and probably my personal favourite is the fantastic Burning Shadows whilst the driving Testimony Of The Fallen is a close contender as is the epic album closer and lead single Plague Bringer. Whilst not a band on my radar previously, Dying Vision have definitely caught my interest and The Death And Its Slaughter is a fantastic album. They manage to perfectly merge fury and melody in a highly enjoyable way and are definitely a band I will be keeping an eye out for. I’m always looking for UK extreme metal bands to champion and Dying Vision most definitely deserve any applause sent their way. 8/10

Reasons Behind: Project M.I.S.T (Scarlet Records) [Mike Chapman]

With eclectic taste in music this album seemed perfect for me, be it synthwave, goth, EDM or metal my mind is open. When genres collide it has to be blended to be appealing, it turns out the blend Reasons Behind are offering just aren't to my taste. Project MIST is a concept album about life and reality, a theme I very much enjoy, add to the mix the melodic vocals of Elisa Bonaf and you do have a winning formula. The production is clean and punchy, the riffs tasty but the use of electronics just doesn’t sit right for me, a personal gripe of course. As a fan of the likes of Enter Shikari & Crystal Lake I can attest to my love of electronics in metal, but with those bands the synths feel woven into the sonic soundscape of their respective back catalogues, with Project MIST they feel a background addition and don’t bring anything to what would otherwise be a very solid symphonic metal album. 

I cannot criticise the songs themselves, Reasons Behind have crafted a very likeable album with an interesting concept, but none of the electronics feel essential components to them. From a symphonic metal standpoint Reasons Behind have hit the mark. Fireflies In The Wind is a song that definitely got stuck in my head, the guitarwork cuts through nicely and feels meaty making it hard not to get your head banging, Living A Lie was another standout track for me, the drumming attracting particular attention. As always I urge you to give this album a try, Reasons Behind have certainly given us an enjoyable listen, there is a lot to like here, take a listen and decide for yourselves. 7/10

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