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Wednesday 18 November 2020

Reviews: Iron Maiden, Tombs, Liminal Shroud, Cibola (Paul S & Matt)

Iron Maiden: Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast - Live In Mexico City (Paralphone Records) [Matt Bladen]

Does the world need a another Iron Maiden album? Probably not. Does 2020 need Iron Maiden? You bet your arse it does! The metal veterans, who have never compromised on their style or sound were due to headline Download festival this year, which obviously, didn't happen, so once again they have dug into their substantial archive for their 13th(!) Live release. Recorded across three nights, in front of a rabid Mexican crowd (South American Maiden fans have long been the most passionate about the group) back in September 2019, this album gives you a taste of Maiden's Legacy Of The Beast tour. Inspired by their official videogame of the same name, the Legacy Of The Beast tour is another 'Jukebox' show and that's exactly what you get here. 

Starting with the high flying trio of Churchill's Speech/Aces High/Where Eagles Dare it's Maiden pumping out the classics first and foremost, however to this fans ears it's great to hear 'newer' songs such as The Wickerman and For The Greater Good Of God included along with two from the Blaze era Sign Of The Cross and the epic The Clansman and for the real nerds The Flight Of The Icarus which hasn't featured on a Maiden setlist since the Somewhere In Time Tour. Now I will say that on Aces High the old 'Air Raid Siren' does sound like he's struggling a little but once he gets into some of the less vocally taxing tracks that magic is still there, his voice ringing out like it did years ago. He keeps the crowd in play throughout, a shame then that they do sound a little as if they were tacked on to a stage recording, now it may be me but the crowd sound a little artificial (though this could be because there was probably bloody millions of them!). 

Now I maligned Bruce a little earlier but having the ability to do this style of singing while also darting around the stage like Tigger on speed for nearly 2 hours (17 tracks on the album) is still mightily impressive. Equally impressive are the instrumental members of the band, Nicko McBrain kicking the crap out of his drum kit like he's 28 not 68!, Steve Harris keeping the band marching on with his fluid basslines allowing while that triple axe attack of Murray, Smith and Gers to bring on those riffs and solos any self-respecting Iron Maiden fan should be able to recognize from the first bar. A two disc set that comes in numerous super special editions, Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast: Live In Mexico City shows that while the world may not need another Iron Maiden live album treding over old ground, now more than ever the world need Iron Maiden, and while this maybe would have been great as a Blu-Ray release as well as a CD, it'll surely get you singing along over Lockdown-mas, fortifying that Iron Maiden remain one of the last bastions (along with Priest and Saxon) of the time when British heavy metal ruled the world. Up The Irons! 7/10 

Tombs: Under Sullen Skies (Season Of Mist) [Paul Scoble]

Tombs have been making loud, nasty noises since 2007. The band, based in Brooklyn, New York have released 4 albums before Under Sullen Skies; their first, Winter Hours in 2009, and the last, The Grand Annihilation in 2017. The bands founder and main man, Mike Hill on Guitar and Vocals is joined on this album by Drew Murphy on Bass and Vocals, Justin Spaeth on Drums and Matt Medeiros on Guitar. This album has seen more collaboration on the writing duties between Mike Hill and his band mates, this is the second album that this lineup has done and collaboration is clearly easier. Tombs started life as a Black Metal band, but have developed and evolved as the they have moved through their career. The Black Metal is still there, but it has been joined by several different styles; Post Metal, Death Metal, Sludgy Doom, and Hardcore. Angel Of Darkness is probably the most straight ahead Black metal track on the album. It opens with blast beats and tremolo picked riffs, it feels smooth and hypnotic, with an Atmospheric Black Metal feel. The song also features chanting and some slower, and very rhythmic riffs that feel quite doomy. 

Opening track Bone Furnace also starts with fairly savage Black Metal riffing, mixed with more mid-paced and driving strait metal riffs. The slower parts are driving and pummelling and fit well with the savagery of the Black Metal riffing. Secrets Of The Black Sun is a beautifully gothic track. The track is mainly clean guitar and clean vocals, it reminds me of some of Triptykon's more Gothic work. The track gets more dissonant and dark as it goes along, but the pacing stays slow and hypnotic. It’s a really affecting track that sits roughly halfway through the album, and is a great break with the savagery of the extreme metal. A lot of the material on Under Sullen Skies has a slight Hardcore attitude to it, but when that is mixed with some of the more doomy style songs you get something that is nice and sludgy, doomy, but also angry and aggressive. 

This is probably best demonstrated by the track The Hunger which is mid-paced but driving, nasty and antagonistic. Under Sullen Skies is a great piece of avant guard extreme metal. The different styles are mixed without anything feeling out of place or incongruous. The overall feeling of this album is dark and brooding, the album fits perfectly with its title, and with the year that it has been made in. I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in extreme metal, or in metal in general. A beautifully dark and nasty album, highly recommended. 8/10  

Liminal Shroud: Through The False Narrows (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Paul Scoble]

This is Liminal Shroud’s first album, the band released their self titled demo two years ago. The band, who are based in Victoria in British Columbia, have been together since 2018, and feature Rich Taylor on Bass and Vocals, Drew Davidson on Drums and Aiden Crossley on Guitar and Vocals. The bands sound is a mix of Orthodox Black Metal, Depressive Black Metal and Atmospheric Black Metal, all of which is tempered with a large amount of melancholic Doom. The Black Metal styles present on this album are similar, with a lot of crossover between them so the specific type of Black Metal is more of a feeling rather than overt differences in sound. Several songs feel closer to one style more than one of the others. The slower doomy elements are present on all the tracks, and surround and enhance all of the Black Metal parts, adding melancholy tunefulness, and a lilting, soft tempo that helps to emphasise the desolate sadness. 

The opening track A Hollow Visage is a good example of the basic sound. The track opens with heavy and deeply sad doomy riffs, before going into some blasting Black Metal that feels equidistant between Depressive Black Metal and Orthodox, low-fi Black Metal. The track then vacillates between the savage Black Metal sound I’ve just described and a slower, mid-paced style of Depressive Black Metal that has some layering to it and a nice bit of melody. The feel for the whole track is sorrowful, pensive and desolate, but also manages to feel cathartic. The Atmospheric Black metal style comes over well on the track To Forget. The song opens with blast beats and tremolo picked riffs, but it’s a smoother style of blasting than on a lot of the other songs. There is a lot of layering in the tremolo picked riffs, and the band have used this to inject a huge amount of morose melody and funereal tunefulness. The song also has a more purposeful and driving section near the end, but the overall sense is of Atmospheric Black Metal rather than Orthodox or Depressive Black Metal. 

Through The False Narrows is a great album. I’m genuinely surprised that this is a debut album, as everything has been done so well. The album is a collection of very well written songs that all work as individual tracks, but also works as a complete piece of work in itself. The way the album ebbs and flows works very well, and helps to make it feel dark, despondent and sorrowful, whilst still having a cathartic feel that in a strange way is uplifting and hints that sunshine is possible after dark clouds and rain. If you like a certain amount of unhappiness mixed in with your savage Black Metal then this is an album for you. 8/10

Cibola: Downfall (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Downfall is the second EP from Toni Åkerman aka Cibola (named after the Seven cities of gold) released this year, amazing what a worldwide pandemic does to the creativity? Everything here is Åkerman from writing to playing to production and he manages to explore numerous realms of extreme metal here shifting between melodic death metal (Split), raging torrents of thrash (Still Bleeding), while also bringing ear bashing grindcore too on Veer. The four tracks here are all ideal showcases for Åkerman as a musician and for anyone that likes their music to mix extreme and melodic textures then Cibola is worth venturing to find. 6/10  

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