Dark Tranquillity: Moment (Century Media Records) [Rich Oliver]
When it comes to melodic death metal Dark Tranquillity are legends and alongside In Flames they are one of the pioneering bands of the genre. During their near thirty year career they have continued to shape the sound of melodic death metal and release some of the best albums in the genre whilst never gaining some of the attention and coverage of the other bands. Present day brings us to the release of Moment which is the twelfth album from the Gothenburg veterans and it is the first album to feature two not one but two new guitarists - Johan Reinholdz (of Andromeda and Skyfire) and Christopher Amott (formerly of Arch Enemy). Despite the presence of two new guitarists in the band, Moment is immediately recognisable as Dark Tranquillity. From the moment you hit play you get those unmistakable Gothenburg style melodic death metal riffs and the dark brooding atmosphere that one can come to expect from a Dark Tranquillity album.
Atmosphere is certainly the main feature of Moment with the darkness and melancholy amped up to great effect with songs such as The Dark Unbroken and Remain In The Unknown but some songs have a degree of energy and catchiness to them such as Ego Deception, Identical To None and opening song Phantom Days. Vocalist Mikael Stanne is one fine form with his fantastic harsh vocals which sit somewhere between a higher and lower register and sounds as tremendous as always. One feature which is used to great effect is the increased use of Mikael’s clean vocals which haven’t been this prevalent on a Dark Tranquillity album since 1999’s Projector album. They are used to particularly stunning effect on the CD bonus song In Truth Divided which is a definite album highlight.
Keyboards and electronics have been a key feature of the Dark Tranquillity sound for many years and that continues on Moment with the atmospheric synth work of Martin Brändström giving gravitas to songs such as Standstill and The Dark Unbroken. Moment is another incredibly strong album in the Dark Tranquillity discography. The songs are all at a similar tone and pace so to the average listener this album could come across as a bit repetitive but if you are a fan of this band (like myself) and know their sound then this album will easily be one of the highlights of 2020. 8/10
Communic: Hiding From The World (AFM Records) [Matt Bladen]
With a career stretching back to 2003 (remember then?) Norwegian band Communic have been delivering high quality progressive metal. With five albums under their belt already Hiding From The World is their latest record and it rings out with the all of what has lent themselves to making Communic a well known act in Europe though UK breakthrough has eluded them a little, not that it matters. If I was to make a comparison in terms of sound I'd say they share a lot of similarities with American band Nevermore as they merge biting thrash with prog rock while also bringing in some more extreme metal fury too.
Again this album was affected by the Covid pandemic but Communic have made sure that this album sounds a musically diverse and bombastic as their previous records, by being able to return to the studio (in March) reasonably quickly after laying down the initial bones of it in January (which I guess could be a tribute to the way the Scandi's have dealt with Covid). With an apt title for the world we live in now, the music here doesn't hide from anyone with lyrics that deal with the unpredictability of life and as Oddleif Stensland (vocals/guitar) puts it "(the) overall theme I had in mind during the writing of these songs,dealing with what we leave behind as a legacy when we die".
So with some heady lyrical content as you expect, from a band that shifts between full on heaviness on tracks such as Face In The Crowd and the crunching Scavengers Await with more emotional numbers like the slow burning Born Without A Heart and the excellent muscular balladry of Forgotten. At seven reasonably long tracks (it is prog after all) Hiding From The World is another album of Nevermore/Evergrey-like progressive metal mastery from this Norwegian institution. Album number six is distilled Communic in a bottle. 7/10
In Which It Burns: Silence The Nothing (Self Released) [Rich Oliver]
Silence The Nothing is the self-released debut album from Pembrokeshire metallers In Which It Burns. In Which It Burns are an established band in the Welsh metal scene having played shows all over West and South Wales and further afield and got themselves to the final in the 2019 Metal To The Masses competition. They have three self released EP’s and a live album already under their belt but Silence The Nothing is the debut full length for the band. It is also the recording debut for new bassist Ian “The Squid” Jennings. Having seen for myself that In Which It Burns are a fantastic live band it is unfortunate that this album does not really capture that. The production and mix is quite flat and doesn’t allow the songs to really come alive. There are also songs especially at the start of the album which is very one dimensional with very simplistic chuggy groove metal riffs that go nowhere but it is one of those albums that improves as it goes on.
The songs that are the most effective are the ones that ramp up the energy and intensity levels such as Destruction Of Faith and The Creed whilst they definitely save the best until last with the thrashtastic Victims Of My Rage. Songs such as Just Know This and Hands That Cup The Blood Of The Innocence whilst quite formulaic in nature benefit from a great level of intensity to them. The performances throughout are solid and the vocals by Wayne Mayhew whilst fairly unremarkable they do serve the music well. Silence The Nothing is not a bad album by any means but it is a rather underwhelming one and doesn't to me quite capture the In Which It Burns that I’ve seen performing on stage. With no shows in sight and the band already busy writing album number two let’s hope the new material really captures what the band can be. 6/10
Subterraen: Rotten Human Kingdom (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Matt Bladen]
Coming from France Subterraen are the epitome of the word ponderous, following in the colossal footprints of labelmates Eremit and Juperterian, Rotten Human Kingdom takes gigantic steps like Godzilla wearing concret shoes, 3 of the four tracks here are over 10 minutes with final track Wrath Of A Downtrodden Planet a whopping 18 minutes of glacially paced sludge doom. Due to the elongated runtimes of this record vocals are sporadic with the instrumentals bringing the majority of the power though occasionally they do come in with a ghostly aggression of bands Ghost Bath raging against the virus of humanity and the hope of mother nature taking back control. There is an environmental message here as the monolithian riffs keep your ear ringing from the opening moments and it doesn't relent the downtuned, often one note riffs, driving Rotten Human Kingdom forward with a ruthless march towards the end. Doom/sludge at it's vilest; Clem Helvete (Guitar and Vocals), Chris KKP (Guitar) and Milvus (Drums) have put across their ideological point in the loudest way possible here. 7/10