Wednesday 23 September 2020

Reviews: Lik, Neuronspoiler, Marche Funebre, Athon (Paul H, Lucas, Dave & Matt)

LIK: Misanthropic Breed (Metal Blade Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Blasting back with their third slab of punishing death metal, Stockholm’s LIK have continued in the same vein that they finished on with 2018’s Carnage. Describing the state of the world today has become a theme amongst metal bands this year and in Misanthropic Breed, LIK add their own take. “The title of the record is Misanthropic Breed, because it describes the world today and the generations that are emerging,” states vocalist/guitarist Tomas Åkvik. “In a way it's more applicable than ever with the quote ‘It's every man for himself’ being so suitable, and it’s also a ‘hidden’ homage to both Dismember and Entombed." 

Åkvik is joined by guitarist Niklas “Nille” Sandin, drummer Chris Barkensjö and bassist Joakim “Myre” Antman. Carnage was a ferocious album and following that was no easy feat. What is evident from the opening riffs that permeate from The Weird which kicks off this release, is that LIK are in no mood to do anything other than improve on Carnage. The intent, the power and the passion all curled up in a metaphorical pounding fist. And better Carnage they have. The HM-2 riffing hailing back to those early days of the Stockholm death metal legends Entombed and Dismember are still present but so is a melodic side to the band that provides, as Åkvik notes, “the ‘Iron Maiden’ feeling”. 

Tracks such as Corrosive Survival, inspired by the Chernobyl disaster, the bludgeoning Flesh Frenzy and penultimate piledriver Faces Of Death all rage with an intensity that demands the neck muscles twitch, sinews straining. Created despite the Covid-19 lockdown, the band’s anxiety at whether the album is good enough can be dispelled. Producer Lawrence Mackrory’s finish is clean but retaining all the grit of the previous releases. At times darker than previous recordings but always brutal with a clear nod to the old school, this is another blistering death metal release that doesn’t as much knock the door but kick it right in. 8/10

Neuronspoiler: Spoiled For Choice (Self Released) [Lucas Tuckwood]

It seems that as time goes on, traditional heavy metal is pushed further and further into the side-lines, ever replaced by more and more extreme subgenres. Yet every now and then, you get a band that’s got that special sauce that elevates them far above the rest, and this time, it’s Neuronspoiler, back with a fresh new album. Since their debut in 2010 they’ve never once failed to disappoint, and Spoiled For Choice rather appropriately spoils the listener with veritable buffet of excellent tracks. Starting with a thrasher by the name of An Eye For An Eye, this album explodes out of the gate before returning back to more traditional metal tempos, but losing no heaviness in the process. 

The album’s ballad, Wake Up From You perfectly balances the slow refined opening with the soaring heavy climax, before diving straight back into the heavy for the second half of the album, ending with the anthemic Catch 22. On the engineering front, legendary Metallica producer Flemming Rasmussen, as well as ex-Saxon sound engineer Charlie Bauerfeind were recruited, and the fruits of this collaboration are nothing short of mixing perfection. The bass booms through the bottom end, perfectly filling out the already fearsome sound of the guitars amidst a storm of thunderous drums. Soaring above are JR Vox’s weapons-grade vocals, and he belts out some truly magnificent screams here. 

The standout track for me is Angel Of Britannia, an utterly spectacular song that feels like the kind of stuff Iron Maiden should be making these days. While this is an excellent heavy metal album in its own right, I feel that the opening track shows immense potential for a branch out into more thrashy territory, and as a result I felt that the album could have done with a few more faster tracks. Besides this small gripe, this is an excellent album. Absolutely recommended. 8/10

Marche Funebre: Einderlicht (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Dave Marcovecchio]

Things must be pretty grim in Belgium. The small nation known primarily for it's chocolate and a certain mustachioed detective has spent the last few years pumping out quality Doom Metal (Amenra, Thurisaz as well as newcomers Voidian) as if it's very waffles depended on it. So it'll be interesting to see how Einderlicht the 4th album from Marche Funebre stacks up against the crowd. Straight off the bat the band are following the template that made their previous album (2017's Into The Arms Of Darkness) such a success, taking the same blend of blackened-death metal, mixed with some catchier, chuggier doom riffs, while the vocals switch between tortured growls and Candlemass-esque theatrical crooning. 

The similarities don't stop at a surface level either, Markus Stock is once again at the helm of production, even the cover art is from the same photographer (a haunting shot by Brooke Shaden). The band have certainly stuck with the old axiom “If it ain't broke....” Unfortunately, the tracks on display this time around don't quite match up to the bar set by their last releases. With an average running length of 7-10 minutes, the 6 tracks on offer here have an unfortunate habit of outstaying their welcome slightly. Tracks such as the opener, The Eye Of The End, aren't quite ferocious enough to press a listeners extreme metal buttons, but are also too midtempo and frenetic to settle into a hypnotic doomy haze. 

Ultimately this leaves portions of record at times sounding a bit uninspired and “metal-by-numbers” (The Maelstrom Mute featuring a natural harmonic riff that sounds like a latter-day Machine Head offcut). It's not all gloom and doom though as the closing portion of the album, particularly the title track, offer up something a lot more dynamic and interesting. This latter half of the album shows the band defining their death/doom metal formula much more successfully, living up to the albums translated title of “a light at the end”. 6/10

Athon: S/T (Argonauta Records) [Matt Bladen]

The self titled debut album is one that is very much anticipated by fans of the Italian metal band. The band apparently started as a cover's act who played songs by Mastodon, Black Tusk and Red Fang and this sludgy, fuzzy, rawness has imbued their debut record with the sound of their influences mixing stoner grooves, sludge nastiness and some crushing doom metal that has been honed at numerous shows (pre-Covid). Unfortunately their time as a cover band has made much of this album sound too much like their influences, Reverse Satyr especially has nicked a few too many Mastodon riffs. Good enough if the bands mentioned earlier do it for you then you'll enjoy Athon. 5/10 

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