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Monday 17 August 2020

Reviews: Veonity, Volcanova, ThrashGangsters, Psychotron (Simon, Matt, Lucas & Dave)

Veonity: Sorrows (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

Sweden has no shortage of cracking Power metal acts these days, and this album is fourth time out for this bunch. With an album title like Sorrows I was expecting a fairly mournful affair and in this respect the traditional instrumental Broken delivers, with its haunting piano refrains reminding me of more doomy opuses, but from Graced Or Damned, the power kicks in and stays with us all the way, albeit with plenty of darkness added to the mix. It’s classic Euro Power Metal – fast paced, strong melodies, Neo-Classical touches to the keyboard work and soaring twin guitar work - and yes, I’m tapping my feet along from that moment onwards.

The darkness begins properly with the moody Back In The Dark, particularly with the somewhat impassioned vocal performance of lungsman/guitarist Anders Sköld. This chap has an impressive vocal range, which he seems to manage effortlessly and I am continually surprised at how rich a sound they have for a four piece, particularly given they have extended into some more technically experimental directions here. I am curious to know if they will take a keyboard playing out with them live. Blinded Eyes Will See, keeps the Neo-Classical theme going and has some absolutely spot on guitar work from Samuel Lundström. They pack a lot in here, and Back Into The Dark and Where Our Memories Used To Grow are great examples of this. 

Acceptance is probably my favourite on here – it’s dark, moody, heavy as hell and with an absolutely blistering performance vocally, with all the instruments firing full pelt and what you always need in Power Metal – a chorus to sing along too (even if few of us have a hope in hell of hitting the top end notes). War verges into more traditional Power/Veonity territory and with its more growled vocal approach could have fallen off the side of a Sabaton album. The closer Fear Of Being Alive brings it all together in the end, as the best elements of the whole album shine through here, and play out effectively with a vocal solo.

This is a significantly darker tone that their previous three albums, with the subtle Symphonic (and in parts verging on the Progressive) elements really help. The rather depressing cover of a stitched up decaying human heart made me think this was not a Power metal band, who let’s face it corner the market in artwork glorifying historical warriors scenes (something Veonity have definitely been guilty of in the past). Refreshingly for the genre, the album is not an full over-complex concept to attempt to unpick, but a series of songs with a tonal commonality, playing with themes of darker, moodier and down beat aspects which to be fair is fairly rare for a normally upbeat major chord dominated-genre. Is this a ground-breaker – no. Is it a strong example of how to do Power Metal a little differently – absolutely, and a refreshing change from all the Vikings, Templars and glorification of war that usually dominate the genre. 8/10

Volcanova: Radical Waves (The Sign Records) [Matt Bladen]

Is there anything better than some thick desert rock grooves on a gloriously sunny day? Yeah I know those glorious sunny days may be a little behind us now due to the change in weather but there is comfort in knowing that you can throw on a band like Kyuss and be immediately transported to Sky Valley. Now Volcanova are another band that bring those breezy Californian vibes and desert rock grooves however they are about as far from the Golden State as you can get as they reside in the arctic tundra of Iceland. That shouldn't put you off though as the Nordic countries do groovy hard rock really well (The Vintage Caravan anyone?) but Volcanova have embodied that surfer/stoner ethos epitomised by Garcia, Homme, Bjork & Reeder. 

Radical Waves is the band's debut album and it features some of the soon to be trademark features of Volcanova's sound as the swirling fuzzy desert rock vibes often are enveloped with crushing sludge riffs along technical virtuosity and three part harmonies, as each member of the band is confident vocalist trading lead vocal turns across this album. From the bouncy Super Duper Van, through the shimmering psych of I'm Off, to the punky Sushi Sam and the crushing Mountain Volcanova are a band who owe nods to the stoner rock legends along with a liberal sprinkling of Sabbath Worship (M.O.O.D) for good measure. Blissful summer grooves to keep those sunny days in the memory Radical Waves is groovy rock record...dude. 7/10     

ThrashGangsters: Perseverance (Self Released) [Lucas Tuckwood]

Perseverance is the debut album from the Teutonic headbangers, Thrash Gangsters, returning after a five year gap since their 2015 demo. The album bristles with all the aggression befitting thrashers from the same lands that gave us Sodom and Kreator, but lacks some of the refinement needed to kick it into the stratosphere. 

If there was one word to describe this album, it’s energy. This is thrash at its thrashiest, with none of that ballad bullshit. Tracks like Cheating Death and Blood For Gang War spend absolutely no time beating around the bush- they’re here to make your head bang, and they achieve that goal and then some. The riffs are crushing, the drums are brutal, and the bass rips through the bottom end like a four stringed buzzsaw. These lads have certainly got the chops to make some killer thrash, which they certainly do, but it’s not perfect. The compositions are great, but there’s a number of little timing slip-ups dotted throughout, as well as a few missed beats with the guitars and bass. Not major problems, but they can tend to be a bit distracting (Perhaps a lack of precision might be expected based on the rather precarious manner in which the fellow on the cover is handling his pistols.). 

The lyrics can also be a little silly at times, but I won’t knock them for it considering that they’re not singing in their native language. Tribute to Dimebag particularly suffers from some rather heavy handed songwriting, but one can clearly see that it’s a heartfelt homage, and the music is still great regardless. 
All in all, Perseverance is a wonderful debut album and a tasty piece of thrash. Despite its shortcomings, I still had an easy time banging my head, and I’m sure the rest of you will too. 7/10

Psychotron: Pray For Salvation - Re-Issue (Self Released) [Dave Marcovecchio]

In terms of metal, 2006 feels like a lifetime ago. A time where old-skool traditionalism sprung forth from the ashes of nu-metals wake, enjoying a few years of mainstream resurgence prior to the djent-boom of the early 2010s. Bands embracing revival thrash or the New wave of Power Metal were two of the types of acts vying for slots in any self-respecting Guitar Hero's Myspace “Top 8” (remember those?). So with a new re-issue of Stuttgart-based power-thrashers Psychotron's 2006 album promising the best of both worlds, surely the listener is in for an absolute blast? Unfortunately, this bag of treats is an incredibly mixed one.

When Pray For Salvation fires on all cylinders it absolutely holds up with some of the best records of that decade. Opener At The Graves gallops off the starting line like a maddened racehorse, and tracks like Circle Of The Damned would not sound out-of-place in the discography of Tim Owens-era Iced Earth (it IS 2006 after all). When the record is focussed and in full thrash mode it hits all the right notes. The drums are absolutely thunderous and Guitarists Matze Braun and Kai Huissel are no strangers to the Jeff Loomis style of chuggy, thrashy riffs. While the influences from their contemporaries does seem very obvious in hindsight, it still serves as a fine example and snapshot of the genre at the time.

Sadly, the record is not without it's flaws, frustratingly all self-inflicted. Some tracks are overlong due to a lot of repetition and a lack of variety in the album's opening half only highlights this. There are moments where the arrangement primes the listener for a soaring singalong chorus which vocalist, Matze Morbitzer, seems to never deliver on. Other downsides include some frankly baffling production choices which, given it's a re-release, feel like absolute oversights. Entire sections are out of sync and sloppy sounding and a weird, arhythmic, percussive scraping throughout the entirety of the otherwise great closing ballad Shattered Illusion turns a potentially epic finale, into something akin to a Nevermore B-Side recorded in a Cheese grater factory.

While Pray For Salvation gets a lot right, its moments of greatness are let down by careless and clumsy mistakes, both creatively and in its production. 5/10

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