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Tuesday 29 September 2020

Reviews: Finntroll, The Pilgrim, Mad Sin, Mestis (Reviews By Nicola & Matt)

Finntroll: Vredesvävd (Century Media Records) [Nicola Williams]

Folk metal has managed to grow up, hold up and infuse itself with darker genres, all whilst still retaining the charm that draws so many in. At least this is certainly the case for Vredesvävd; Finntroll's new near-perfect album. A beautiful scene is set by Väktaren, an inviting symphonic ambience that would not go amiss on the title screen of a major adventure-themed film or video game. Then on to business with the first-release of the album in Ormfolk; seeing the classic hammering folk sound becoming collided with a punk-esque tempo. Vid Häxans Härd delivers an acoustic intro that would have any listener believing they were about to embark on a softer journey. 

However, this is masterfully built upon by introduction of thundering drums and blast beats; and a chant by lead singer Vreth that signals significant Tempo change. Ylaren closes the album with a hypnotic groove, and choral vocal offerings, that leave things on a satisfying footing. The album translates to 'Wrath-Woven', and this is certainly lived up to by taking the listener on a varied journey. Each twist and turn is just as exciting as the next. For all the variance; Vreth handles it well. The cohesion of the album does not get lost through the changes and this is what simply adds to its magic. 9/10

The Pilgrim: From The Earth To The Sky And Back (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Matt Bladen]

Created as a folk/rock/Americana project by Black Rainbows frontman and Heavy Psych Sounds founder Gabriele Fiori and Black Rainbows drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, From The Earth To The Sky And Back is their second album of Woodstock-inspired, 60's influenced folk rocking that creates a warming campsite vibe of long travels through the desert but also the free-and-easy vibe of San Francisco in the summer of love. Evoking the mysticism of bands like Spirit, The Allman Brothers and CSN&Y (Sitting Down On The Porch) this album of folksy musical exploration is built on layers of acoustic guitars and banjos along with the locomotive drumming getting the grooves down as it takes the listener through a psychedelic journey. 

The Pilgrim's spirit trip also moves into the realms of Jerry Garcia's seminal trip-rockers The Grateful Dead on Obsessed By The West Parts I, II, III, IV. It's a song title that could sum up this entire record as things move into Morricone-style before you get touches of jazz on Fool Around and we're even taken into the drug-addled realms of The Stone Roses on Riding The Horse while I'm Just Scared gives a touch of The Smashing Pumpkins. From The Earth To The Sky And Back has been written as an accompaniment to hazy summers and it would be a ideal soundtrack to the fading light of summer with a roaring fire and a some good friends, if you can't do that at the moment then listen to this record and look forward to the good times, because really isn't that what music is for? 7/10

Mad Sin: Unbreakable (Century Media Records) [Nicola Williams]

From the energy upheld throughout Unbreakable; it's hard to believe that Mad Sin aren't a new outfit. In fact quite the opposite, the psychobilly rockers have been delivering their twisted blend of punky rock n' roll since 1987, with this latest offering being their first studio album in 10 years. Following a sweetly short intro; the album pace is set by the aptly named Are You Ready?, ploughing straight into rhythmic double bass and punchy lyrical repeats. This is followed by the interestingly-timed Moon Over Berlin; which marries in a more prominent country influence; and is one of the album's only chances for the listener to come up for air. 

Choral additions on Till Death Do Us Part remind the listener that the band are very much rooted in punk. Whilst a cover of Madness' House Of Fun provides a unique offering of the classic, but one that I would argue isn't entirely needed on a 16-track record. Overall, this album is almost certainly going to be distinctly different from most of your current collection. It's theatrics make it much like an audible version of scenes from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Whether your taste or not, Mad Sin have most certainly filled Unbreakable with their stereotypical hooked catchiness; a trait that would likely make them a treat to see live. 6/10

Mestis: En Vivo (Sumerian Records) [Matt Bladen]

Mestis is the newest project of Javier Reyes from the instrumental progressive metal act Animals As Leaders, he has released two solo albums relying more on emotional/personal output rather than the much more technical showy style he plays along with Tosin Abasi in his main band. En Vivo is a live album with each track recorded in a  different US city, but the way the album is mixed makes you think this is one long live release with every song recorded in the same place. This is truly a testament to Reyes' playing style as his fluid technicality lets the songs bleed into one another with a bewitching ambience. 

The songs here come from both of his solo albums and show Reyes' flair for songwriting influenced by both his 'djent' (is that a dirty word?) styled band but also his Latin heritage with fingerstyle flair coming through on songs such as Uno Mas More while more classical guitar style playing come in on Mt. Pleasant. En Vivo is musically dense record featuring extensive use of Reyes' eight string guitar which is used to full effect when full sound bar chords are needed especially on more textured songs like Sedosa which also features drummer Chris Allison (Plini) unleashing a little. Even if the more virtuoso aspects of this album go over your head there's a lot to enjoy if you want expressive instrumental music. 7/10   

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