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Sunday, 18 October 2020

Reviews: Infera Bruo, Inferi, Aphonic Threnody, Vice Squad (Rich, Dave, Paul S & Alex)

Infera Bruo: Rites Of The Nameless (Prosthetic Records) [Rich Oliver]

Rites Of The Nameless is the fourth album from Boston black metallers Infera Bruo (which means Hellish Noise in Esperanto). Another band whose existence I have previously been unaware of, Infera Bruo are a four piece, have been active since 2009 and are signed to Prosthetic Records. Although a US based black metal band Infera Bruo have a very Norwegian influenced sound with definite influences from bands such as Enslaved, Darkthrone and Emperor but include in their sound a use of clean vocals in contrast to and at times alongside the harsh vocals and a far more progressive song structure is used throughout. 

The Breath Of Chaos starts things off and is more in the vein of traditional black metal but progressive elements creep in soon enough and these elements become more ingrained into the sound as the album progresses. Frayed has a wonderful mid section which deviates from the rest of the song but is incorporated naturally whilst Cimmerian Shade has some great use of keyboards and some unconventional structures being the most progressive sounding song on the album. The closing epic title track is also a fantastic mix of progressive stylings and all out black metal fury. Infera Bruo have an excellent take on the Norwegian black metal sound on Rites Of The Nameless. The progressive elements keep things interesting throughout the album's length whilst not diluting the raw black metal sound. An impressive release. 8/10

Inferi: Of Sunless Realms (The Artisan Era) [Dave Marcovecchio]

After releasing a re-recording of their 2009 debut The End Of An Era – Rebirth only last year , Of Sunless Realms sees US Melodeath Heavyweights Inferi returning with an unexpected EP of new material. “We have been hinting at a new full length for a while now.” the band says , “However, since 2020 has had its fair share of surprises already, we thought we would do something unexpected and make something happen during this global downtime.” As it stands describing this EP as “Something happens” is a gross understatement. From the off we are treated to an atmospheric intro that mirrors the artworks eerie lovecraftian mood before exploding into a frenzy of razor-sharp melodic riffs, sweeping orchestral arrangements, syrupy bass and piercing blastbeats. 

Vocalist Stevie Bosier flits effortlessly from pounding gutturals to high pitched squawks, while the music is tight, punchy and everything one would expect from a band of this calibre. This ain't no quarantine rush-job, this has had some serious effort put into it. The 4 tracks on offer (5 if you're nasty and count the melancholic instrumental mantra aptly titled The Summoning, as a track in it's own right) showcase a broad range of influences and musical flavours, from slower deliberately paced soaring parts, to a full on assault on the senses. The orchestral touches, while not as in your face as acts such as Fleshgod Apocalypse or Septicflesh, certainly add some flavour and give every track here it's own identity. It's short, but incredibly sweet. 

Of Sunless Realms showcases a band at their peak cramming an albums worth of ideas into a 20 minute runtime that invites repeat listens. Repeat listens it will most certainly get! Every song here is a standout and manages to fulfil the rare feat of being technical, without being soulless and artificial. These 4 tracks show off more life than some of their contemporaries entire discographies. 9/10 

Aphonic Threnody: The Great Hatred (Transcending Obscurity) [Paul Scoble]

The last couple of years have been really good for Death/Doom. Last years Officium Triste’s album The Death Of Gaia was a stunning piece of work and The Drowning’s The Radiant Dark, released at the end of last year was superb, and this years new Marche Funebre album Einderlich has also been very well received. You could forgive Aphonic Threnody for being a little nervous of releasing their new Death/Doom into such a high quality field. However, if Aphonic Threnody are nervous, they don’t need to be as The Great Hatred is stunning, and definitely hold it’s own amongst it’s high quality peers. The band have been in existence since 2012, The duo is made up of Juan Escobar C. (Arrant Saudade) on Vocals, Bass, Guitar & Keys and Riccardo Veronese (Towards Atlantis Lights, Dea Marica) on Guitars. The band have made 2 albums before The Great Hatred; 2014’s When Death Comes, and their second Of Loss And Grief in 2017. Locura opens the album. Slow, deeply melancholic doomy riffs with harsh but not aggressive vocals draw you into the album, there is a softer more minimalist section with keyboard swells and soft, smooth vocals. The track gets heavy again and drifts to an end with beautiful mournful melodies. 

The next track Interrogation opens with soft guitar and whispered vocals before going into a very slow and heavy section with harsh vocals. A huge melody lead comes in and, combined with the relaxed tempo gives the song a hypnotic and trance inducing aspect. The second half returns to the heavy and slow feeling, but this time with a great melancholic guitar harmonies before the song tightens up for a section that feels taut, driving and purposeful. Things come to an end with soft, clean guitars and bells. Title track The Great Hatred has a soft opening before a slow, heavy and purposeful section drives the song forwards. The track then takes a turn towards a more relaxed form with a big heavy-hearted melody. The song then starts to get faster and more driving and forceful before drifting back to softer and relaxed feel that it had before. The song drifts to an end with a soft and ethereal violin. The second half of the album starts with Drowning. Drowning is a huge, deeply melancholic monster of a track. Most of it is huge and heavy, but the tempo is relaxed, dreamlike and hypnotic. The song has a mix of clean and harsh vocals that really help the dreamlike quality of the song, the clean vocals help to give this a slight gothic feel. In the second half of the track the hypnotic feel takes a back seat and the track becomes more driven and single minded, and pushes the song forward. The track returns to the more dreamlike aspect before the song drifts off to an end. The Rise Of The Phoenix opens with a huge riff and piano, at a very slow pace. There are lush harmonies added before the track becomes minimal and introspective with whispered vocals. The song then builds back up, the harsh vocals return as does the piano. 

The song then moves between huge and heavy and minimal and introspective a few times before soft guitar harmonies bring the song to an end. Final track The Fall opens with beautiful guitar harmonies, piano and vocals are added and the track has the hypnotic and dreamlike tempo that this band is so good at. The song becomes more driving and even verges on aggression as the song drifts into its second half, before the song returns to the drifting and hypnotic sense with a mournful guitar solo and the return of the piano. The song and album come to an end with some huge guitar melodies. The Great Hatred is definitely a very worthy addition to the last few years tally of excellent Death/Doom albums. Its achingly melancholic, with a beautiful, hypnotic feel to it. The balance between the heavy aspects and the less aggressive, dreamlike elements is done so well, nothing feels out of place, every note is right. This is an album that is full of emotion, ok it’s a fairly sad emotion, but after a couple of listens it really starts to be affecting. This is also an album packed with tunefulness and melody, I have been humming most of the tracks on this album this week, it really doesn’t take long before the tunes are stuck in your head. This is a stunning piece of Death/Doom, and is highly recommended. 9/10

Vice Squad: Battle Of Britain (Last Rockers Records/Cargo Records UK) [Alex Swift]

One fact I was surprised to find about Vice Squad is they have been part of the UK punk scene, almost since the beginning. The raucous and energetic three-piece was launched in 1979 in Bristol. Now on their 13th studio outing, they have a revitalized charm and strong emotions about the divided country Brexit and endless tory rule has turned the UK into. Make no mistake, this is retro-infused, classic punk, inspired by political discontent and trailblazers in the form of the Clash and The Stranglers. Singer Beki Bondage has a rough voice, evoking movements of Riot Grrrl and grunge. The rhythms are catchy and driving. There’s a strong underground fascination, yet also huge opportunities for singing along. In fact, considering the ambitious elements on display, it’s quite impressive to know that this was recorded and mixed in a do-it-yourself style home studio. In that sense, old-school punk fans will definitely thrive off hearing this call back to the sound that inspired generations and continues to have a lasting impact. 

All that said though, there are borrowings from pop, a strong theatrical presence on many of the tracks, and a powerful, layered production which adds gravity to the vicious, angry style of playing. You Can't Fool All Of The People is a great example of excellent and mature songcrafting. The song is a slow burner with a lot of emotion. I would have liked to have seen more of this complexity, yet even with its homages to the classics, this is still an impressive record. The content is of course about harsh social criticism. Born In A War contains the lines "National emergency, questioning for liberty, see how they treat refugees, that's how they would tread you and me." All the while the song structure keeps the listener locked in a constant state of tension, with the seething verses and the huge chorus. The Battle Of Britain not only protests against the prevailing politics and its grievances but also has a heartfelt, introspective core, which connects the listener with the human side of their struggles, as does the energetic When You Were Seventeen. The line from the former “The government has lied, welcome to Britain!” demonstrates a cynical yet strangely sarcastic attitude, which begs the listener to rise against the “suited hypocrites”. 

Even with the prevailing and conviction-carrying lyrics, you can still mosh to the music. The instrumentals ensure that there are clever subtleties laced throughout, which prevent the songs from drifting into monotony, even with the enduring hooks and melodies. Interestingly, despite a few moments feeling forced the band almost always manages to still have something to say after all these years without appearing frustrated or clichéd for a second. With the Battle Of Britain, Vice Squad present a strong late work. The sound is not being revolutionized, but hey - we're talking about a punk rock band that came around near the centre of the movement. By those standards, this is another battle that these musicians have triumphed in. 7/10

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