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Friday 20 November 2020

Reviews: Jinjer, Decaying Days, Sole Syndicate, Tungsten (Reviews By Liam & Simon)

Jinjer: Alive In Melbourne (Napalm Records) [Liam True]

Fresh off the release of their third studio album Macro and starting a world tour starting in Australia the Ukrainian four piece played one of their last shows in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to live shows. Previously release for the Knotfest online streams that happened over the summer the band had decided to release the concert as a stand alone live album. And it’s an absolute mammoth of a live album from one of metals up and coming big bands.

Everything about the performance is beautiful. The setlist is sublime, featuring hits such as Teacher, Teacher which sounds combines the vicious growls of vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk with her soaring cleans and almost R&B sounding delivery at the start of the track. Ape starts as a Djenty masterpiece that blends together with their Prog Metal elements to create a powerful sound that the band & crowd thrive off as guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov winds his fingers around the fretboard and where Tatiana shows off how deep her vocal range can hit with her stomach churning gutturals cause you to quiver with disgust against the tight band. Drummer Vladislav Ulasevich hones his abilities as he whirls around the kit to create the devastating beats that come to true fruition on I Speak Astronomy as he shows his choice of breaks mid beat to cause the band to sound tighter. 

Bassist Eugene Abdukhanov shines through with his bass tone echoing off fellow stringer Ibramkhalilov as they bounce off one another to devastate your eardrums. The real challenge for a live album is to get the balance of the band and vocals to not overpower each other which leaves a sour taste in your mouth. But the sound is phenomenal and as tight as a live band I've heard. While the vocals come through strong on the recording, it’s not the sound that causes it, but rather the raw ability on Tatiana’s voice that comes out during her clean highs. Everything from the setlist, the crowd to the sound of the band is the combination for a perfect live album. And with the band ending on super hits Pisces & Captain Clock, not only do the crowd go home happy, but you finish the live record fulfilled and satisfied that during the shit show that is 2020, Jinjer have crafted an experience to help you leave those thoughts behind.

Alive In Melbourne is 75 minutes of Jinjer laying waste to the Australian crowd, and if there’s ever been a band that needs more attention and that you need to see after live music returns, Jinjer should be atop that list. 10/10

Decaying Days: The Unknown Beyond (Self Released) [Liam True]

Melodic Death Metal is a dying breed of music as there’s not been a decent output from that genre since At War With Reality back in 2014. Decaying Days however have surpassed that with their second full length album. It’s a nasty, dark fuelled whirlpool from the German quintet. Aeons & A Distant Memory gel together to create two beautifully choreographed descent into hell as the guitar tones of Daniel Maurer & Tobias Muller battle together to omit a perfect grisly sound for the album. Bassist Hannes Burger’s deep sound rings throughout Into Your Eyes & Reflections as his bone crunching bass sound echoes throughout the two songs. 

Interlude is exactly what is sounds like, a small piece of filler in a killer album, but even that’s great. The acoustic sound is delightful before the band rushes back into their heavy ways. Drummer Nico Ehlers makes his mark across the album with his tempo changes sounding immaculate and so clean he makes it sound easy. From start to finish the band hit the nail perfectly on it’s head to topple the Melodic Death Metal genre on its head. And vocalist Manuel Klein fits perfect with his almost Nergal sounding shrieks being the glue that holds the album on top of the genre. It’s a perfect way for the band to introduce us to their second output. But only being 8 songs long and just under an hour, you’ll be left craving more. 8/10

Sole Syndicate: Last Days Of Eden (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

This sophomore album from this bunch of Swedish Melodic Hard Rockers is very much influenced by the times we find ourselves in, balanced by a love of classic 80’s rockin’ and strikes the balance well between the nod to the past whilst sounding fresh and relevant for the right here and now. It’s worth dwelling on that core influence for a moment, because as someone who lived through it first time round I am always cautious when younger bands try this. There are a hell of a lot of tributes from that era around right now. Some get it right, some get it horribly wrong, especially when they spend too much time trying to create a sound that came out of the era. There are two dimensions to this and that really was simply down to the conditions bands found themselves in back then. You have the rough and ready sound, which more often than not was down to bands having only very brief and expensive time windows at their disposal and out of date equipment - so what you got was material recorded close to as live, with minimal overdubs (say Thin Lizzy). 

Or alternatively the other extreme, when a band got more successful and spent too long in the studio over-producing the hell out of the product (Def Leppard). For me somewhere between the two is the sweet spot and Sole Syndicate’s sound captures this balance perfectly. The sound is fresh and raw, but there’s just the right amount of polish and production to add shine without losing that vital and essential energy. It’s an 80’s influenced Modern Metal record, and a good one to boot. Add to this some great performances – no frills, just what’s needed built on a foundation of robust song-writing and a really stand out vocal performance front man, guitarist and band leader Jonas Månsson. The album crashes explosively in with Wake Up, flowing effortlessly into …And The Truth Will Set You Free, with both of these songs picking up on the common theme of the challenges of the modern post truth world wrecked and polarised by social media. There’s anger and bile against the current Age of Ignorance, but empathy and companionship as well. The album has several tracks that seem to suggest that of we could all just rock out together all will be fine – none more so than the anthemic We Came To Rock and the cracking ballad Glory Days

This is probably the strongest track on the album, not as it first appears a harkening back to days gone by but an emotive appeal for a return to the simpler times gone by. To be honest, they were no less scary times in the 80’s if you are reading this boys – we all just got drunk and rocked out because it stopped us having to think too hard about the impending nuclear holocaust (and some of us never stopped doing both by the way…). This album is trying to suggest we do the same now, whilst also maintaining our voices to bring about meaningful change - something we often felt we lacked back in the day (see Bring Us A Hero for a cracking example of this). Album closer When Darkness Calls, brings all these elements together, with one of the most emotive choruses I have heard in a while and is a strong close to a fine record. 9/10

Tungsten: Tundra (Arising Empire) [Simon Black]

For those not familiar with this Swedish Symphonic bunch, the band was started by ex-Hammerfall drummer Anders Johansson. It’s very much a family affair, as his two sons provide the bass and guitar duties. It’s energetic and lively stuff, with some great catchy melodies and given Johansson’s background, readers may not be surprised to discover the net effect to me feels much more like anthemic Power/Medieval Metal. As is so often the case, it’s a concept piece around the central character of Volfram – a Nordic guardian of time and balance.

Lock And Load is a lively opener, and sets the tone and pace. Volfram’s Song is classic Power stuff - catchy melodies and hooks, with that melody driven by a driving keyboard riff that is pure Mittelalter-Metal. For those not familiar, these are those Medieval/Folk riff’s that always follow the same rising and falling intonation structures, which allow someone with zero knowledge of a band’s back catalogue to sing along with the Ooo-Aaaay-Oooh-Aaay-Ooo-Oooo-Aaay-Ooos in exactly the right place in a field full of metal heads in Europe without the embarrassment of obviously not knowing the lyrics. Ale-filled drinking horn obligatory.

This follows into Time, which in particular exudes that that folky feel favoured of the Pirate end of the spectrum, and a tendency for the vocal and riff melodies to synchronise, which is why I struggle to agree with classifying this as Symphonic. Divided Generations is more stripped back and has a Modern Metal feel to it, with guitars held back until the chorus and is definitely one of the more interesting moments on the album. There’s a couple of tracks like this – Paranormal a bit later on pulls the same trick and this leads me to the main challenge that I have with this record – that it lacks tonal variety.

There really are two modes and after a while the flip back and forth between Power/Medieval and this stripped back Modern feel gets repetitive, although I cannot fault any of the songs each and of themselves. That’s why when tracks like I See Fury come along, with a bit more welly and some more aggressive vocals in the chorus, I find myself feeling relief – not because it’s a particularly good track, but because there’s finally some variety. There is a big difference between having a distinct sound, and lacking variety and sadly the latter is the predominate sensation one is left with. 5/10

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