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Thursday 20 August 2020

Reviews: Pantheon, The Vigil, Sandness, Ekko Park (Paul S, Alex, Rich & Lucas)

Pantheon: Age Of Wolves (Neurotic Records) [Paul Scoble]

There are many, many bands called Pantheon. If you do a quick Google search, as I did in preparation for writing this review, you will find lots of different bands using this moniker. This Pantheon is based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Age Of Wolves is the bands first album, the four piece made up of Donnie Larkan on Drums, B.J. Cook on Guitar and Vocals, Buzzy Leistikow on Guitar and Vocals and Jeremiah James Baker on Bass and Vocals, have released one single before this album. 

Musically the style that Pantheon have developed is a mix of Thrash and Death mixed in with some very melodic passages that remind me of NWOBHM or bands like Mercyful Fate. All of this has a blackened quality to it, and it all feels quite Old School; so Blackened, Old School Death /Thrash with some melody and tunefulness. The vocals are harsh all the way through, with a nasty Black Metal quality to them that is very effective. 

The opening track, Serpent Death Cult, is a good example of how packed with melody this album is. The track is mid-paced trash, to my ear there is a similarity to Kreator in the thrash elements, and the track is soaked in a Mercyful Fate like melodic centre. The track is savage in places, but is always tempered with melody and tunefulness. The track Left My Mark also has a very pleasing mid-paced and melodic part that really adds to the second half of the song. The final track Eclipse Of The Worm Moon is another great example of where this album just drips musicality and melodiousness. The track, which also features some beautifully flowing fast Death metal riffs, has a fantastic melody packed section in the second half of the track.

However, this album is not just about great melodies and hummable tunes, as I mentioned earlier there are some very effective fast thrashy riffs, fast tremolo picked Death Metal riffs all over Age Of WolvesLust Of The Beast features some very aggressive Thrash riffs, that pummel the audience, the riffs feel driving and purposeful and drive the song forward. The fact that the fast thrashy riffs are sandwiched between slow and very heavy riffs, just adds to how feral the fast riffs feel. Another track that really pushes the more extreme elements is Choir Of Death. The track has a very aggressive opening which then goes into a more expansive part, the track then puts it’s foot down and we get a savage old school Death metal riff that is superb, beautifully nasty tremolo picked riffing. 

Age Of Wolves is a great Blackened Death/Thrash album. I’m deeply impressed that this is a debut album, it feels like an album from a band with much more experience. Every track is tight and to the point, very little time is wasted. The album as a whole comes in at 33 minutes, which is another Old School quality. The album is savage and extreme in places but is also very melodic and enjoyable. Great album, highly recommended. 8/10

The Vigil: Hypervigilance (Fever Dog Records) [Alex Swift]

Sometimes, especially in the midst of a year like this one, I need a break from music with pretensions and complexity, to indulge in some energetic, virulent and non-diluted rock. I wouldn’t be a true worshiper of this subset of music if I didn’t occasionally have that craving, and The Vigil works powerfully to provide that sound in spades. From the grimy yet memorable Out Of Plans to the abrasively throttling Skeleton Crew, the tone here is one of pure unfiltered fun. Some elements which may take you out of the experience insofar as you’re willing to let them prove a distraction are the distinctly clean vocals that bear more in common with pop-punk than grunge. However, speaking as someone who really appreciates when acts combine pop-centered sensibilities, with an underlying passion for aggression and anger, the singing style definitely grew on me after about two tracks. 

Secondly, I’ll be the first to admit that the specific production style doesn’t do this group any favours, which sounds strange to say considering Dave Draper – famous for his work with Ginger Wildheart - is behind the mixer. I think I kind of understand what they were going for here. The recording has that dulled, muted sound aimed at conveying a retro feel, which works to an extent yet also takes a lot of power out of the otherwise pulverizing rhythm section. If I had to compare Hypervigilance to anything else I’ve heard, I’d honestly say they bear a resemblance to Puppy – one of the most exciting pop-metal acts to emerge over the past few years, or even insecticide era Nirvana. Outside of a few minor gripes here and there, I’d say that this act bears a lot of potentials. There’s not much to these songs outside of that element of raw energy, so I wouldn’t dive in expecting to have your life changed. However, if I can put aside that side of me with desires experimentation and theatricality at all times, anybody can. 7/10

Sandness: Enter Please EP (Rockshots Records) [Rich Oliver]

Enter Please is the new EP by Italian hard rockers Sandness. It follows on from their third album Untamed which was released last year. This is a bit of an odds and ends EP with a brand new song Alive & Kickin' which was the first song written by the band after the release of their third album and they liked it so much they decided to release it immediately instead of waiting for the rest of the tracks for the fourth album to be ready. The rest of the EP is made up of some cover versions and live recordings.

The new song Alive & Kickin’ is some pretty standard sugary melodic hard rock which whilst pleasant enough to listen to doesn’t have much about it that stands out. There are some passable covers of Get It On by T-Rex and Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting by Elton John with the Elton John cover being the better of the pair with a much needed injection of energy. The live recordings are all decent with the songs all taken from last year’s Untamed album.

Enter Please is a decent but rather forgettable and unnecessary release. The new song is ok but it’s not good enough to warrant a whole EP release. This is more of a release for the hardcore fanbase of the band. It all sounds very pleasant but it’s very standard fare melodic hard rock and very disposable. 5/10

Ekko Park: Horizon (D.F.W) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Sometimes, it’s good to take a breather. There I was, blasting some nasty aggressive thrash metal, when along came Horizon, Ekko Park’s brand spanking new album to cleanse my palette. The rockers from the land of kiwis and fantasy movies have been reliably churning out tunes since 2013, and their latest album is sure to please.

Horizon is ten tracks of freshly squeezed radio friendly goodness. I usually stay well away from anything labelled radio friendly, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this record. The riffs are clean, the bass is fuzzy, the drums are superb and the vocals are top notch- the songs are well crafted, and it’s easy to see why they’ve achieved such notoriety among fans of their scene. Listening to each song back to back, one can easily appreciate each song’s little nuances, but I fear that if one was to just catch any of these songs on the radio, it might simply blend in among others of its ilk. Each song is expertly put together, but to the those not intimate with the finer aspects of modern rock, this is just radio music, nothing more, nothing less. Fans of the genre are bound to adore this record, and if a burnout headbanger like myself is able to appreciate its intricacies, I’m sure they will as well.

To those of you dead set against radio music, this album will do little to change your mind, but those of you craving a soundtrack to a casual house party, or just something to groove to while doing odd jobs, I can wholeheartedly recommend this album. Regardless of my personal tastes, this is a finely crafted record that’s bound to keep fans satisfied. 8/10

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