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Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Reviews: This Is Endless, Awake By Design, Fixation, Raider (Paul S, Simon, Liam & Lucas)

This Is Endless: Formations Of A World Below (Endless Records) [Paul Scoble]

Formations Of A World Below is the first full length album from This Is Endless. The band, who formed in 2016, have also released one EP in the year that they formed named Inherit The Sun. To say this band have some experience of extreme metal would be an understatement; the band features former and current members of Akercocke, Voices, Ted Maul, Pantheist, Order Of Apollyon and Meta-stasis to name just a few of the bands that members of This Is Endless have played with. Musically This Is Endless play what I would describe as broadly Death Metal with elements of Hardcore, Deathcore and Melodic Death Metal. 

Opening track Skin Cyst is a good example of the bands sound. A droney, dissonant intro goes into choppy mid-paced Death Metal, there's a nod to old school Death Metal in how the riffs are written, but it feels quite modern in execution and production, it’s very interesting rhythmically, the riffs are highly structured. The track then goes into a section that is all out blasting, and this is one thing that the band really excel at, all the blast beats are very fast and are pleasingly savage and brutal. We then get a slow and bastard heavy part, before a great solo and then the song blasts to the end. Although there is a decent amount of complexity in the individual parts, the songs themselves are quite simple. All the tracks (with the exception of the sixth track, Noise Track, which as you’d expect is an instrumental noise track) have the same juxtaposition of blasting fast sections and slower, mid-paced or very slow parts. 

Creature Of Habit is another example of where this really works well. The fast parts are beautifully fast and flowing, juxtaposed with some great slow and heavy parts, and also features a fantastically pounding ending. Insect has some very effective fast parts that have a bit of Grindcore feel to them, whilst its slower parts are a little bit reminiscent of Meshuggah. Into The Hive is another interesting track, it’s more melodic than a lot of the material on this album, it feels more like Melodic Death Metal and is packed with melody and tune-fullness. 

It’s not all good though; there are places where this album doesn’t work as well. The tracks The Damned And The Weak and Imprinted In Life both feature parts where it feels a little lacklustre rhythmically (which is usually one of this albums strong points) and it all gets a little bit deathcore, which is a shame as these riffs don’t really go anywhere and it lets the songs down. 

Formations Of A World Below is a very strong Death Metal album. It’s packed full of great riffs, blasts and solos, and is a great listen. It’s a shame that there are a few parts that are lacking in drive, where the aggressiveness drops; but it’s only in a few parts, and considering this is the bands first album, this is probably just me being picky. All in all, a very strong album. 7/10

Awake By Design: S/T (Self Released) [Simon Black]

This is the third time round the course for these boys, and it’s been quiet on the Awake By Design front since 2018. Although they are best known for being quite Symphonic, this feels much more of a Power Metal album with Symphonic seasoning, perhaps from the influence of produce Karl Groom (Dragonforce and Threshold). With a run time of an hour and twenty minutes and a total of thirteen tracks, this album takes its time.

The opener The Coming Tide is an inoffensive start to the album, hinting at the technical capabilities of the chaps, but somehow not ever quite grabbing you by the throat and taking you with them. To be fair that’s pretty much the case for a few of the opening songs on the album and it’s not until we get to Nothing Hurts, which is definitely one of the stronger tracks on here and benefiting from a strong sense of structure and pace that things start to liven up. Is there anything wrong with what gets us to this point, no. Technically these guys are on the ball and can certainly play, but up to this point the structure and energy is lacking. This is a slow burner of an album in many respects. You aren’t going to appreciate it on the first listen, so don’t rush this one and you do appreciate it more 2nd and 3rd time around, so don’t write it off too early.

Calling You Home is a promising ballad but which doesn’t build to a crescendo in the traditional way at the point you expect, because this song is nearly seven minutes long, but when it gets there it does so in a satisfactory way, albeit with a surplus of a minute of running time that could have been stripped out. Echoes For Eternity is a bit more satisfying, with some nice galloping breaks and some strong drive and energy and again a good ballad in The Unspoken Truth takes so long to get where it needs to that it has lost me by the time it gets there, despite some lovely keyboard sequences. As Strangers Divide with its catchy keyboard and guitar harmonised riff brings some much needed energy back to the album, followed by a pile driving bit of work from the drum stool, bringing to a great instrumental crescendo and again is a track I keep coming back to. If there were more like this I would be much happier. 

To be fair, there is more energy in the remainder of the album, but for some reason this album doesn’t quite gel for me overall, which is odd as all the ingredients are there. The production is spot on, the musicians and vocal performance are excellent, but the songs don’t punch hard and clearly consistently. I guess the challenge I have with this album, is that it needs some serious tightening up and the indulgences reigning in a little this could be a tight and punchy piece of work. 6/10

Fixation: Global Suicide (Indie Recordings) [Liam True]

Fixation are a newer band to the scene, releasing their first EP Global Suicide, tackling subjects like the climate crisis, political injustice and mental health. Starting the EP off with first single Neurosis it’s apparent they’re reintroducing the earlier style of Thirty Seconds To Mars with the gritty guitar tones, taking their own sound but paying respect to their elders with subtle differences. The soaring vocals of Jonas Hansen are some of the most emotionally charged I've heard in a while, as you can tell he’s putting every fibre of his being into this entire EP. While only being 4 tracks and covering just over 20 minutes, the band creates an atmosphere not felt in modern Metal/Hard Rock for a few years.

While the band does rely on the melodic sounding synths in the background, but it can easily sound this good without them, it’s just an added extra to make it feel more intense. Behind everything you have the remarkably talented Mats Holm on the drums creating the pounding backdrop. Then there’s duel guitarists Tobias Ă˜sterdal & Martin Selden who perfectly resonate into your eardrums with the crushing tone they provide. Then there’s Martin Gravdal on the bass who uses his ominous deep polished sound to create the balance of the EP.

There’s only one flaw with the EP that I cannot stress enough. It’s only four songs. Granted it’s not a full studio album, but when the final chime of What Have We Done lingers through your ears, it’s over. And there’s nothing else like it. With it’s unique sound it’s grasped the soul of modern music. Don’t miss your chance to jump on the hype train for Fixation. Global Suicide is just the start. 9/10

Raider: Tokyo EP (Self Released) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Tokyo is the new EP from South Wales hard rockers, Raider, featuring a wonderful homage to the rock and roll of the 1980s. Kicking off the EP comes the title track, which begins with a nice atmospheric intro blending rising electronic ambience and triumphant riffs, before kicking into gear. Featuring some fantastic vocals, it’s a slick little track, perfectly encapsulating its theme. Track 2, Boys Will Be Boys, bursts out of the gates with quick and heavy riffing reminiscent of Motley Crue. the speediest track on the EP is a satisfyingly heavy number that grabs you by the throat, and doesn’t let go till it’s bloody well finished. The fretwork featured in this track is electrifying, which, combined with soaring vocals, make it my favourite track of the EP.

Track 3, Going Down, is a slower, far groovier affair. Featuring a wonderful yet somewhat short jazzy interlude, incorporating clean piano, even groovier basslines, and some foot tapping drums. The momentary calm sweetens the payoff, when the guitar roars back into life with a vicious solo before the final reprise. The final track, Begging For More, is the definitive anthem of the EP, which feels perfect for a live setting, with a melodic chorus and slower tempo. Here the synth provides a nice extra layer to the thick riffs during the chorus, but some may find it a tad cheesy. A nice album closer, I find this song to be the one most emblematic of the 80s hard rock this band draws their inspiration from, but I’d say it’s overall my least favourite out of the bunch.

The fretwork and vocals on display here easily warrant a purchase. This is a wonderful little EP, and definitely worth a listen if you’re hankering for that glammy 80s feel. 8/10

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