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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Reviews: Kamelot, Divide By Design, Renunciation, Nervosa (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Kamelot: I Am The Empire - Live From The 013 (Napalm Records)

Filmed and recorded at the 013 in Tilburg, Netherlands back in 2018 the setlist for this show is similar to the one I saw American/European symphonic metal icons Kamelot play in Birmingham however here there are a few more songs debuted and some very special guests welcomed as this show was being recorded/filmed for this release. Despite being a live record the production, mix and master has been done by Sascha Paeth so the clarity is off the scale meaning you do feel as if you are at the show itself. As the orchestral/choral intro swells and the excitement builds, the members of the band taking to the stage to applause and cheers, the show properly kicks off with Thomas Youngblood's riffs backed by the heavy metal thunder of Sean Tibbetts bass attack and Alex Landenburg machine gun double kicks, obviously there is also the massive synths/orchestrations of Oliver Palotai which are as integral to the Kamelot sound as the metallic music. Phantom Divide features the first guest vocalist in the shape of touring co-lead/backing singer Lauren Hart giving a soaring cleans and growls in opposition to the wonderfully soulful voice of frontman Tommy Karevik. 

Now I know how good Karevik is as a frontman but you can hear from the first song that he's got the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, although the call response stuff never really works on a recording without the visuals. From a newer song they plunge into the moody Rule The World accompanied by much audience participation, we go back to Haven with Insomnia, in fact the Haven and The Shadow Theory tracks make up a lot of this show but the classics such as the double hit of The Great Pandemonium and When The Lights Are Down. The whole show sees the band going full tilt from the off, which with a 21 song setlist is no mean feat, special mentions have to go to Tommy who never fails to hit a note, while also being the amiable MC and crowd stoker-in-chief, as well as drummer Alex who only really gets one or two brief chance to stop blasting at full speed and Oliver who is the on stage composer of all the huge walls of orchestrations even leading when string quartet Eklipse come for My Confession

As I said guests have always been brought in to enhance the Kamelot experience and here there are a fair few as I noted earlier. Ballad Under Grey Skies features Delain chanteuse Charlotte Wessels, the theatrical March Of Mephisto has Arch Enemy screamer Alissa White Gluz who also re-appears on Sacrimony (Angel Of Afterlife) with Amaranthe's Elize Ryd but also she adds the growls to Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy), they even bring out the producer (Paeth) to shred a bit on Ravenlight. After Sacrimony there's a bit of Drum/Key solo which again is not really that interesting on a record but it's the indicator that the end is near as the band power through Here's To The Fall and the always great to hear Forever which elicits the biggest reaction even though it was released 19 years ago, it's still an anthem. The last three songs are from the last two albums but they are future classics for sure Burns To Embrace has a Children's Choir, Liar Liar is a big hitter and the finale Ministrium (Shadow Key) is a grandiose outro essentially to finish things properly. If you love Kamelot's music or are just missing gigs, I'd say that you should pick up this (with the DVD/Blu-Ray) as it's got a very talented and always impressive live band at the height of their powers in front of a rabid audience. 8/10 

Divided By Design: Stages To Osiris (Self Released)

Stages To Osiris is the 5 track debut album from instrumental technical metal band Divided By Design. Liam Stephenson (guitar/programming), Joe Messingham (bass/programming) and Tom Chambers (drums/percussion/programming) make up the band and they create intensely progressive, heavy yet atmospheric soundscapes. Hailing from Leeds, all three members of this band are instrumental wizards, Liam's virtuosic guitar playing seamlessly shifts between crunching djent inspired riffs and clean melodic passages, while Joe and Tom bring a thumping rhythmic assault that can shift into jazz or ene death metal realms at a moments notice.

The tracks are all part of the Orion suite with the second one Reactionary bringing a really heavy touch that moves into some post metal leanings. If I were to make a comparison I'd say Divided By Design share similarities to Animals As Leaders or Plini where the lack of vocals don't take anything away from the amazing complexity of the music, just listen to the insane bass playing on The Negotiation, a song that moves into Tool realms you'll understand the talent on offer. Expanding the sound of this record are Sara Chamber (violin/viola) and Joanna Wislocka Lidgett (cello) as the band take us through this musical journey of different styles with the opening of Collapsing Reality having an industrial throb before the insane lead guitar kicks it off properly, as things shift into a classic prog metal sound that you could find from Dream Theater etc. 

Stages To Osiris is a stunningly progressive, intensely musical offering from this Leeds based band, they would certainly leave you a little gobsmacked if you saw them in a little Leeds pub! For prog metal fans this is a delicious morsel of incredible playing and emotive songwriting. Don't sleep on it. 9/10

Renunciation: The Terminal Archetype (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

From Moscow, Russia Renunciation class themselves as a black/technical death metal band. The Terminal Archetype is their debut EP, four full length tracks and a piano intro the whole point of this release is to grab you by the collar and shout about their music. How they do this is with technically precise yet uncompromisingly aggressive black/death metal, Deliverance From God has raging black metal/hardcore like screaming but some killer lead guitar playing, something that continues on every song, both guitarists channeling Chuck Schuldiner but also the more melodic touches of bands like Dimmu, although Arrogance Of Worms really ups things into the sounds of Obscura as the time changes shift and one songs segues into another the lush twin guitar harmonies leading the charge as the intense boiler room blasts away. Russia has really been upping it's heavy metal game over last couple of years and Renunciation show that they're extremity is up there with any of the countries you'd associate it with more. Ferocious from the start, musically impressive throughout and slickly delivered The Terminal Archetype is a killer start for these Moscow Metal Maniacs! 7/10

Nervosa: Wasteland (Self Released)

No not the Brazilian thrash band this Nervosa are from Cornwall and rather than pointy guitars and speedy riffs, they take a much more melodic and progressive approach, full of introspection and beard stroking. This 6 track album is full of breezy alternative edged rock and ambient progressive textures, it's Nervosa's second full length with many of the tracks having the elongated run times you expect from progressive music. The band cite influences such as Arcade Fire, Porcupine Tree and Muse, which gives you a flavour of what to expect to hear, I'd say they move much more into the Steven Wilson realms than anywhere else due to the intelligent lyricism delivered by Jon Winter's keening vocal that does have some Wilson and Soord-isms to it. Chevron is the first song on the record and it starts out as poppy art-rock number before evolving into some Pink Floyd-esque guitar explorations as Jon and axe man Andy Cunningham weave a thick tapestry of long drawn out notes and echoed riffs towards the end. 

What's immediately noticeable about the album is that every instrument sounds bold as brass (especially the sax) due to the wonderful production/mix of Dean Forrest while Pineapple Thief's Steve Kitch handled the mastering. The second and third tracks on the record are suite called The Wasteland; Part 1 is an instrumental featuring some guitar playing David Gilmour would be proud of, while the second part is a emotive lyric set to an almost jaunty piano rhythm from Bethany Wade, in fact if you've ever heard Cannonball by Supertramp you'll get what I mean about the piano, it's dramatic but also playful, leading things into the hooky chorus as the drumming of Ant Barrett lets the song move from solem to epic in a matter of moments. After this we get the throbbing Prelude the simple bass line of Matthew Duggan aided by some synths and then a minor key chord, it builds from there in a Oldfield like repeating pattern before that bass gets fuzzier as the atmospherics are increased at time just leaving Winter's voice. 

Despite this only being their second album, it's of an incredible skill level, fusing the deft emotive alt/indie strains with electronic prog rocking Wasteland is not the heaviest album you'll hear all year but the musicianship and compositions are brilliantly realised. On Countrycore we get a persistent drumbeat and some synths ripped from the Genesis songbook as Bethany Wade's vocals take the lead rather than just providing the harmonies, that is until the middle/chorus section where those country vibes do really shine through suiting the sense of longing in Bethany's vocal. Finally the record closes out with the 8 minute Circle Of Friends a moody little number that brings back those Porcupine Tree/Pineapple Thief/Anathema sound I mentioned earlier, again using emotive lyrics and this time some slightly jazz-inflected playing, (along with the Echoes bing) that segues into the sax I referenced a paragraph ago, with a clear synthwave sound at the end. I'd never hit upon the UK Nervosa before but I've obviously been missing out. Time to rectify that with a splurge on their back catalog, hopefully too they will end up laying somewhere near us once this is all over. Until then though you need to check out Wasteland if intelligent, poetic prog rock is your thing. 9/10   

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