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Friday 13 November 2020

Reviews: Soulburn, Scarlet, Of Feather And Bone, Intervals (Paul H, Simon, Rich & Matt)

Soulburn: Noa’s D’ark (Century Media Records) [Paul Hutchings] 

Initially formed in 1996 by guitarist Eric Daniels, drummer Bob Bagchus (Asphyx) and frontman Wannes Gubbels (Pentacle), Soulburn’s journey has been far from plain sailing. Their seminal debut album Feeding on Angels was a stripped down doom-laden black metal release. Having regrouped in 2013, Daniels, Bagchus, guitarist Remco Kreft and vocalist/bassist Twan van Geel (also Legion Of The Damned) released The Suffocating Darkness. The conclusion of that era of the band coming with 2018’s Carpe Noctem EP. A refreshed line-up sees Bagchus replaced by Marc Vehaar on drums although it would take a very keen ear to note the difference as Vehaar studied the Bagchus style, which remains very much Bathory and Venom. 

The band’s fourth album, Noa’s D’ark now looms large out of the mist. Daniels is the main writer, and the ten tracks contained within this record retain all the old attributes of the previous versions of the band, whilst continuing to evoke the spirit of the blackened old school. Soulburn straddle the lines between death and black metal with an ease that is unnerving. Full of relentless riffing, blasting drumming and a rhythm section that holds everything together in a vice-like grip, it’s Van Geel’s bilious black diatribes that roar out, curling fingers that grip tightly, closing around the throat. The opening track The Morgue Of No Hope captures everything in it’s seven-minute sprawl. From bludgeoning explosive segments to more harrowing, echoing parts, it’s demonic utterings make it a truly perfect opener. 

Thematically ambiguous, the title is a mischievous play on words, much to Van Geel’s delight. His lyrics will need deciphering through liner notes, but Van Geel admits to keeping them deliberately vague. The sonic blasting that erupts from this album is at times wild, almost uncontained. The brutal speed of Tempter Ov The White Light, the propulsive drive of Anarchrist and the two-minute doom laden Triumphant One all emit a venom that sits within the blackened soul of Soulburn. Draped in darkness, there are moments of despair, light, and harrowing darkness. It’s savage and raw yet contains just enough in the production values to keep it on the right path. Ultimately, the visceral feel sits exactly right. 8/10

Scarlet: Obey The Queen (Arising Empire) [Simon Black]

It really is long overdue you know. My wife asked me once why so many of the bands in the metal scene are male fronted, and my only answer until relatively recently was that there were simply very few female fronted acts around. In the last ten years the reversal of that mode has been phenomenal, and although there’s still a way to go it feels to me now that this trend has been well and truly disrupted. Enter Scarlet, who seems to be very much a solo affair, which brings me to my next point. Scarlet has potentially a bit of a challenge on her hands. When you’re fighting for recognition in a crowded marketplace it really helps to have your own clear brand and identity. A quick internet search on the name Scarlet gives me five different bands, two of which are defunct and none of which are this Swedish act. 

I don’t think this makes any difference – this is something different, and quite, quite brilliant and it’s going to get noticed for all the right reasons. The title track positively explodes with energy and venom for the world we live in, and an absolute celebration of women, from a woman’s perspective in the age of Ignorance that led to the MeToo movement. Scarlet has built a bit of a reputation on not pulling her punches – think early Marilyn Manson, with a snort of Ghost and a splash of Static-X, playing a combination of Rap and Industrial Metal tunes. Diversity is the watchword of this album. From the opening spoken introduction, it spits bile and crashes into a stripped back Industrial Rap sound unlike anything I have quite heard before. 

I Spit Fire actually perfectly sums up what this act are about – shocks, vitriol and the unexpected. It doesn’t actually start sounding like a metal album until track four - #bossbitch, and it doesn’t stay there. Love Heroin is even more unexpected, and shows her vocal skill more or less unaccompanied in this darkest of ballads. I understand the song-writing features contributions from a whole bunch of experienced writers which no doubt contributes to that diversity, but notwithstanding this is an album of shocks and thrills. It’s a record that focuses on the vocals, and the sound also mixes is in bits of Djent guitar and programming that touches (almost) on the Nu-Metal movement. Once in a blue moon an act comes along who manages to take ingredients like Metal, Rap and produces a very different recipe. Mark my words, before long there will be many copycats around. 9/10.

Of Feather And Bone: Sulfuric Disintegration (Norman Records) [Rich Oliver]

My first exposure to Of Feather And Bone was watching them support Tomb Mold back in September last year and they were a truly ferocious act who pummelled the eardrums and internal organs in equal measure. The terrifying intensity they performed with that evening is definitely captured in their third album Sulfuric Disintegration. The three piece band formed in Denver, Colorado back in 2012 and were more of a metal leaning hardcore and crust punk band. As they have progressed they have incorporated more death metal influences into their sound before they truly embraced the death metal ways on 2018’s Bestial Hymns Of Perversion which was a violent and uncompromising album. Now with Sulfuric Disintegration, Of Feather And Bone have certainly upped the ante. Sulfuric Disintegration is intense. From start to finish this album does not relent, pause or take a breath.  It is a completely unflinching and uncompromising blast of death metal which is very old school in sound and delivery but takes a lot of cues from contemporary death metal. 

Influences from death metal masters such as Incantation and Bolt Thrower can be heard but it is the sound and influence of such bands but taken into a far more extreme and terrifying sounding direction.  Frontman and guitarist Dave Grant unleashes bowel rupturing gutturals as well as unhinged screams and howls whilst also providing a maelstrom of riffs that thrash and contort to devastating effect.  He also provides some tasty lead guitar work. Bassist Alvino Salcedo is the rhythmic backbone to this onslaught whilst drummer Preston Weippert erupts onto his kit with devastating precision and shocking ferocity. The album itself is short at just over half an hour and comprises six songs which are all utterly relentless though there are deviations into doomy territory such as on Noctemnania but on the whole songs such as Regurgitated Communion and Baptized In Boiling Phlegm are on a singular mission to crush everything and everyone in their path. 

Even though Sulfuric Disintegration is a single minded album of mass destruction what makes this so enjoyable are the inventive riffs, evil atmosphere and the general unhinged feel of this album. Death metal is normally a genre that reaches out and pummels you from the speakers but with Sulfuric Disintegration, Of Feather And Bone take a sledgehammer to your skull and keep hitting you with blows until your head is nothing but a splattered mess of bone, brains, blood and flesh. It is an absolutely wonderful listen and a must hear album for any self respecting death metal fan. 9/10

Intervals: Circadian (Sheet Happens) [Matt Bladen]

Released via Protest The Hero's record label, Circadian is the latest creation from Toronto-based progressive instrumental act Intervals. Intervals is essentially guitarist Aaron Marshall who has been delivering instrumental rock playing for long time now almost reinventing the genre with every release allowing the explorative, intensely musical compositions speak for themselves. Circadian is the first Intervals album since 2017 and his fourth overall moving away from the pop culture references for more abstract themes of being a "reminder that seeking ideal circadian flow is integral to cutting through the static noise of modern life to find true peace" inspired by Marshall's own search for balance in his life. 

The album is designed to tell a story with the tracks here all combined to flow as one long piece maximising listener engagement in a genre that occasionally suffers from style over substance. There is no such issue here as Circadian ebbs and flows with those playing the record in mind keeping engagement high, Marshall has put a huge amount of time and effort constructing the record almost forensically so it seamlessly blends the varying stylistic approaches that appear on this record with some 8-Bit influence on Vantablack, some pop punk on 5-HTP, more epic prog sounds on Lock & Key which features up-and-coming guitarist Joshua De La Victoria.Johnson is very much the brains but he is joined by the brilliant bass playing of Jacob Umansky and the explorative drumming of Nathan Bulla with sound design from Milen Petzelt-Sorace and Sergei Kofman. 

Along with De La Victoria the album also features guest guitars from Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie) on the dueling djenty String Theory as the poppy tones of D.O.S.E has some funky sax from Saxl Rose (Antonio Hancock) and more than a little bit of Toto. Circadian breaks the boundaries of what you expect from instrumental prog rock, it grabs you from the beginning and keeps you excited until the end and you want to go round again when it finishes. Circadian is brilliant, really brilliant. 9/10

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