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Tuesday 29 December 2020

Reviews: Sound Of Memories, Ward XVI, The Foundation, Deliberate Miscarriage (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

In this set of reviews I'm recapping some albums that we either missed just before the festive period or that were released over Xmas.

Sound Of Memories: The Sand Within (Domino Media Group)

First up are French death/thrash metal band Sound Of Memories who owe a major debt to the Swedish Melodeath acts such as Arch Enemy and In Flames, mixing melodic technicality of classic heavy metal, with death metal aggression. Formed in Paris (a long way away from Gothenburg) the band experimented for a few years before settling on the style you hear on this second full length record. Despite not being from the Swedish capital they play very good melodeath with Del and Lucho's dual guitar sound really adding to tracks such as State Of Grace and Soul Asylum giving the record a more melodic feel against the thundering rhythms of Fab (bass) and Nacim (drums) as Flo's excellent growls and screams are in the Anders Friden/Tomas Lindberg style, brilliantly fitting the bands very slick style of melodic death metal which is anchored by some thrashy grooves (This Shivering Whisper), death metal aggression (Fate And Doom/Black Virgin) and lots of classic metal melodies with tracks such as the excellent The Mirror Behind and Inside The Eye Of The Storm. A real treat for fans of the melodeath sound building on it with a lot more guitar fireworks Sound Of Memories will also appeal to any classic metal fans as well. Though miles from Sweden these Parisians have hit the nail on the head. 8/10 

Ward XVI: Unplugged & Sedated EP (Self Released)

Next is an acoustic record from horror rock band Ward XVI who have stripped back tracks. It's an EP that has come from necessity, their most recent album (reviewed highly by Simon in these pages) was released in the middle of the pandemic meaning that despite all the deadlines of the release being met their release show was postponed twice and most of their live shows on hiatus they jumped onto the acoustic show/live stream bandwagon that has become the norm. Frontwoman Psychoberrie and guitarist Doktor von Stottenstein set about rearranging their music for just acoustic guitar and vocals, it has yielded a unique release that shows the songwriting prowess of the band away from the schlock horror theatrics of their main albums. What you really draw from this record is how good Psychoberrie's vocals are, taking the dark lyricism to new emotive realms when it's just her voice and the expressive guitar playing of von Stottenstien that shifts between country-styled themes and even some AOR-like acoustic balladry while retaining the Gothic nature of their 'full band' records. An EP that wasn't planned but one that gives another side to Ward XVI that will be greatly appreciated by fans and newcomers alike. 7/10 

The Foundation: To Those We've Bid Farewell (Self Released)

The Foundation is essentially a solo project by multi-instrumentalist Andy Lenoce with contributions from Connor Occhialini who adds the riff to Call Without Response. Lenoce says that the record "was originally conceived as a coping method" to honour his late father but the scope has widened to encompass all of his recent personal events. This wider scope in influence can also be heard in the musical style present on this record which takes broad strokes at the progressive metal sound lurching between light and dark textures, heavy riffs and ambient passages as well as employing clean/harsh vocals, it's got echoes of bands such as Devin, Ihsahn, Opeth where the extreme metal sound is broken up by classic prog references but for the most part things stay on the heavier side Lenoce's musicianship being of an extremely high level in all respects songs such as Call Without Response having a very big sound to them despite being hindered a little by the D.I.Y production. His vocals aren't bad either, shifting between histrionic cleans to growls easily on tracks like the symphonic An Ocean Of Fire which shifts into the closing two part suite ending this record very well indeed with the most progressive tracks on the record. To Those We've Bid Farewell is an emotionally powerful record from this two man collaboration. 8/10     

Deliberate Miscarriage: Ghost Of Christmas Blast (Self Released)

With Christmas out of the way what better way would there be to celebrate the gluttony and greed than with a new three track from Cardiff's latest proponents of blast the delightfully named Deliberate Miscarriage. They're demo was unleashed earlier this year bringing bludgeoning blast beats and face melting death grooves so there has been quick turn around in making this second EP that brings some seasonal slaughter to your ears with such family friendly ditties as Splattered Toddlers which really ups Deliberate Miscarriage's thunderous death metal sound Jordan Roberts of JKR Studios adding a wider audio scope to the cripplingly heavy assault of Charlie's technical bass playing, expressive growls and Adam's brain melting guitar playing. 

Masochistic Masturbation returns to that groove sound that made the Demo so impressive as things get choppy the entire EP relying on jazzy, technically proficient, crunching distorted riffs rather than solo explosions as the final number Infested Reanimated has some classic death metal flurries. Sonically it's got more scope than the demo but musically it retains that almost progressive ferocity. Clearly a band bursting with ideas and a focus on releasing new music that many of their contemporaries lack,  Deliberate Miscarriage are a name to look out for as things slowly return to some relative normality. 8/10           

Saturday 19 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Rites To Ruin By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Rites To Ruin: We've done the same as most really. We've rehearsed when we can and it's safe to do so but otherwise we've just caught up via video calls and done as much as we feasibly can via remote means. It's not the same, of course, but we do what we can. Paul released a photography book this year, after introducing the world to all 534 versions of him. Tom became a new dad. Matt has built a pub.... no really! Lee has been studying and I've (Krissie) been rekindling my love of video games, particularly Diablo. We've all continued to work full time as well, because we still have day jobs, thankfully. So it's been an odd year, and not quite the launch of the band that we had in mind either but it is what it is and we've been really thrilled and humbled by the support so far.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Rites To Ruin: We would have done our first set of gigs this year as the official launch of the band but alas wasn't to be. So we really are gutted that we have yet to actually perform to a live, in front of us, crowd. It's also gutting as the first of the gigs we had lined up was with our good friends in Dakesis and Fury, but it is what it is and there will be more opportunities in the future to gig with them and of course Power Metal Quest Fest was going to be our first festival appearance. Obviously there were the usual festivals that we were all looking forward to going to as punters, and most of the band were going to see Rammstein at various venues so that was a little depressing. It's also the local gigs as well, where we can go an support our friends in their bands, missing those a lot this year and really hoping 2021 sees everyone back to it.

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Rites To Ruin: Because we hadn't actually performed any live shows etc, we were in the unique position of putting all our firsts-as-a-band out while under lockdown. We were lucky that things were relaxed enough for us to go and record a set at CapsaArx in September. Otherwise we recorded what we could for the first track we released, Santanico, and then we've just continued with writing in the meantime. We haven't really had to adapt too much as we were still very new as a band, in the grand sense. But yes it's been a learning curve. 
MoM: You were involved with the Power Metal Quest Fest Online show this year, along with your own live stream show. How did that come about and what was it like performing sans audience?

Rites To Ruin: We were due to be in the festival proper, it would have been our first festival as a band and we were all really looking forward to it. So when Amie asked if we could do some tracks for the virtual version we jumped at the chance. It actually all hinged on if CapsaArx were open to doing live streams and pre-recorded streams for bands. Thankfully, that was something they were just about to launch anyway so we jumped on the opportunity and spent a whole day up in Birmingham with the Dakesis crew, filming the mini set for Power Metal Quest Fest and then the set for our 'live' stream.

For me (Krissie) every 'gig' is a stadium gig, whether it's filmed with four people watching, two people in a Working Men's club or a packed Sophie stage at Bloodstock. The same energy and level of performance should be there. So performing sans audience, while quiet and more than a bit alien, you just have to kick the imagination in full gear and pretend it's Wembley.

MoM: What are the plans Rites To Ruin going forward in 2021? (obviously as far as the pandemic allows)

We're still writing, so we are looking at putting the first album together at some point over the next year if fate allows, but in the meantime we are recording parts for a new track to release early 2021. We actually started recording this next track with Iain 'GT' Davies just before lockdown hit, so it went on the back burner for a bit, but we've picked it back up and we are hoping to have that done for early 2021. We're also keeping fingers crossed that we can get back to rehearsing so we can finish writing the new stuff. If restrictions persist, which is likely for the first quarter of the year at the very least, then we hope to head back up to CapsaArx and record another stream (depending on the guidance) and maybe even start recording the album at some point. Otherwise, it's wait and see when we can start booking gigs again and get a couple of dates in the diary! We really hope that by the time Power Metal Quest Fest 2021 comes around, which we are performing at, the gig calendar will be in full swing.

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Blind Divide By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Blind Divide: 2020 hasn't been too bad in regards to practicing, as we have all been able to practice from our respective homes, but the live scene is were we suffered, as did all other performing arts, being on stage is something we love to do, for us as a band that`s what it`s all about! We were fortunate enough to get in a few practices at Music Box after the lockdown was lifted, it was great to blow the cobwebs from our ear drums! Music Box have done a really good job at making sure that their customers are safe!

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Blind Divide: We have had a few gigs that have been cancelled, even at the beginning of the year(pre covid), we had to turn down a few gigs in order to get back up to speed with our new drummer Max. We were particularly sad to see Metal To The Masses cancelled in South Wales as it`s a competition we hold dear! We enjoy attending every year, be it as spectators or participants, so that was a major blow!

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Blind Divide: Blind Divide really is more about the live show, as you`re probably aware, But like many other artists we adapted and took to the internet. We have since released 3 new tracks, one of which was a play through video (Nimis). We`re hoping to get a few more songs recorded and mixed in the near future!

MoM: Have you had any time at all to lock in with new drummer Max? How is this new phase of Blind Divide going?

Blind Divide: As far as this shitty year goes, we have been pretty productive, most of the band have continued to work through the pandemic, obviously slowing development of new material. Having Max in the ranks has really produced a surge of creativity for us, not just within Blind Divide, Dec is now a member of TREP and a few of us have worked on some of Max`s solo projects!

We have released 3 new songs to facebook, and we currently have enough new material for a whole new set. As a whole, Max has fit right in and we can`t wait to showcase what we have been working on!

MoM: What are the plans for Blind Divide going forward in 2021? (obviously pandemic permitting)

Blind Divide: Currently, we have only 1 gig booked for January, at Cardiff`s favourite metal stomping ground (Covid Permitting). We are really looking forward to/hoping that things get back to normal as soon as possible, so we can share the stage and get sloshed with some amazing bands again!

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Lacertilia By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Lacertilia: We've all been directly affected by the pandemic as far as employment and personal life is concerned. We've had to change our work shifts about, work from home and In some cases, seek out new employment. It has be a mission adapting to the situation whilst simultaneously trying to maintain a healthy and happy home environment with our families. That's a lot to deal with besides giving time and energy to the band. Add on the government restrictions to movement and it makes it very difficult to get all of us in the same room together. We have somehow kept it all together though.

We've been fortunate that Musicbox Studios reopened in Cadiff when the lockdown restrictions were relaxed. Where possible we've utilised the space, even if it's not with the full band each time, to jam out new ideas. We've worked on riffs that individuals created during the lockdown and started to create tracks for our next album. Its good to have something to focus on during these weird times! We are of course all missing live shows and can't wait to get back out there to tear the place up. 

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Lacertilia: Ah man, we had so many good festivals lined up for this year - Desertfest, Riffolution, Stonebaked Festival, Kozfest, Sonic Rock Solstice, Equinox . . We're absolutely gutted we never got to play any of them. Ah well, we'll come back bigger and badder next year with some new tracks to test out :-)

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, live streams?

Lacertilia: We had our new album 'Calling The Quarters' ready to go during the first lockdown so we put our energies into promoting that. Obviously we couldn't tour the album as planned but there were other things we could crack on with. Mike worked on editing footage to make a video for "Cloaks & Daggers', Me and Ed set up our own label 'Proper Tidy' records as a platform for the album (and to release some more Welsh rock in the not too distant future!), we all recorded footage of ourselves for the track 'Furthur' (which Mike also craftily edited!) Me and Ed spent lots of time messaging all the zines, magazines and promo folk we could think of with the aim to get some features and reviews of the album. We've adopted a proper DIY approach to everything - zero budget, no PR company, everything done in house. It's kept us busy that's for sure. We haven't bothered to do any live streaming shows so far, we've been so busy with everything plus we're holding out for a real live gig! Saying that, if this shit drags on, maybe we'll sort something out . .

MoM: What are the plans for Lacertilia going forward in 2021? (Obviously as far as the pandemic allows) 

Lacertilia: We're not holding our breath for any gigs or festivals to take place in 2021. If they do happen that will be a bonus for us. Our plans are to finish writing our album then get it recorded. We probably should sort out a live stream or even a pre recorded sesh at some point. We shall see!

Reviews: A Sound Of Thunder, Magic Dance, Wormhog, Ashes Of Ares (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

A Sound Of Thunder: Parallel Eternity (Self Released)

It seems I've missed a few releases from A Sound Of Thunder but Parallel Eternity is probably the best record to rediscover them with as it's a 10th Anniversary collection of fan-favourites but this isn't just a compilation, the tracks on this record have all been augmented with orchestral backing of Brad Charles (Magic Giraffe Soundworks). You may turn your nose up at a band doing a 'symphonic' record as everyone from Kiss to Meat Loaf has done the concept but it adds a huge extra layer to the classic/thrash/prog metal assault of A Sound Of Thunder. The Washington based band have been self-releasing and fan financing their records for 10 years now delivering high quality balls out, chest beating, pop culture influenced, anthemic heavy metal but Parallel Eternity ups everything to another level. Even bringing in Mark Tornillo on Phantom Fight for a little bit more muscle. 

The 13 minute Explorer is a perfect example of this, creating a cinematic near-masterpiece that many full symphonic acts dream of. I noted in my last review of one of their albums that A Sound Of Thunder's key ingredient are the vocals of Nina Osegueda who has one of the most expressive vocal ranges in metal shifting between lower soulful hard rock styles into soaring classically trained highs, her voice is simply incredible but that's not doing a disservice to the rest of the band, as Chris Haren's skillful drumwork adds deftness and heftiness locking in on galloping tracks like Walls and Time's Arrow with bassist Jesse Keen as Josh Schwartz unleashes big riffs and incendiary solos all wrapped up brilliantly with the orchestral additions. 

Parallel Eternity adapts the classic/power metal delivery of A Sound Of Thunder into a kind of album you'd expect from a band like Epica, which is a compliment of the highest regard. If you've never experienced A Sound Of Thunder before then I'd say this is the place to start, Parallel Eternity is a brilliant record (with a cracking album cover too). 9/10 

Magic Dance: Remnants (Frontiers Music Srl)

Formed as a solo project by singer/songwriter Jon Siejka so he can showcase his synthwave influenced songs, Magic Dance returns with the new album Remnants yet another selection of 80's influenced hard rock songs with Siejka providing the soulful Americanized vocals, guitar riffs and huge synth walls that also feature a myriad of guest guitarists providing solos for that authentic "as heard on Miami Vice" feeling, shifting away from the synthwave sounds (I mean it is overdone now right), into a much rockier sound driven by guitars over synths. Yes the emotion is there coming through these melodic rock tracks but what you get instantly is how slick this record is, it's so polished and sleek that I'm sure it's totally waterproof. Every song has been crafted and produced by Siejka to bring a massive throbbing bottom end (again provided by numerous musicians) that carries these anthemic songs that really aim at the sing along value, although it is really lacking that killer track. 

Now as you'd expect from anyone influenced by 80's pop and movie soundtracks, there is a widescreen sound giving the record a fat sound as the synthwave and pop influences come in on Cut Me Deep and When Your World Comes Down while the Change Your Life could be by The Weeknd due to it's driving drumbeat. These few forays back to the previous sound remind you that Siejka is trying to mix both together and for the most part he's doing a good job. Music like this is made for a setting sun, a supercar cruising down a long straight road by the sea with either Don Johnson and Tom Selleck at the wheel. It's very much 'of the moment' in terms of style, a retro infused nostalgia with modern techniques. 7/10 

Wormhog: Yellow Sea (Self Released)

Based in Athens, Greece Wormhog are a self proclaimed progressive/stoner rock band who draw inspiration from Sabbath and Mastodon. Yellow Sea is their debut full length and was recorded at D Studio in Athens like their EP Mother Worm Father Hog was in 2014, in the intervening years they have been prepping this record so when they record it songs such as Beneath The Yellow Sea can shift you into the mind altering realms of space rock as the shimmering guitar riffs take you into sonic soundscapes while Hellmouth takes things further adding some Ozzy-like vocals to Pink Floyd panoramic guitar playing. You can hear on this record that the band have been honing their sound on the Greek music scene inspired by desert and space rocking. 

They get progressive with Crystal Grain which brings some jazz-inspired drum and bass work taking everything into the mid-period Sabbath. You get a massive hit of the Birmingham band on final song Panet Egg which has lashings of lovely doom that gets you excited but adds closure to the record. According to the band the album "vaguely unveils the origins and nature of the Wormhog while exploring other themes concerning the journey of life" but really Yellow Sea is an explorative, proggy stoner metal record with a great balance of metal heaviness and hard rock grooves. Dive into the Yellow Sea and let it wash over you. 7/10 

Ashes Of Ares: Thrones Of Iniquity (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records)

Throne Of Iniquity is a three track EP from American metal band Ashes Of Ares. Much like with the re-re-release from singer Matt Barlow's previous band Iced Earth and his collab with IE's Jon Schaffer on an Xmas album this EP has come out of the Covid situation. It features one original, the title track and two covers. On Ashes Of Ares' last record Well Of Souls I mentioned how the band had finally lived up to what they promised on their debut with a proper prog metal album. So here Barlow and guitarist Freddie Vidales have brought a real heaviness on the Thrones Of Iniquity the pummelling drums, crashing walls of riffs and those typical epic Barlow vocals, if this is view of where they are going on their third full length than it's going to be brilliant. 

So to the covers, first we have 25 Or 6 To 4 originally by Chicago it famously contains what Andy Hermann calls "The Riff" because of its chord progression that sounds like so many other songs. Finally we get a cover of kansas' Dust In The Wind, yes it's been done to death but when Matt Barlow gives it his powerful vocal delivery it's puts the song up there with some of his ballads of his yesteryear. Yeah it's a stopgap or a filler but a damn entertaining just in time for the festive season. 7/10

Friday 18 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Incursion By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Incursion: It has been a bit of a strain in all honesty, even with the interdimensional travel we are still stuck across different regions of Wails and Wales, which with the local lockdowns hindered us to regroup and work on new music together for the most part.
Trust us, cross those borders when a dimensional slip happens and it could have torn the space time continuum apart! So once again you're welcome for us Hob Nob munching survivalists not totally destroying this dimension, this time...

Although the time has been mainly used to focus and set a new plan of attack once we are able to once more!

One good side to the lack of touring/band life is that we've been able to spend time with our families, Grunt (Scott) becoming a father during these strange times has raised our spirits!

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Incursion: Definitely Metal 2 The Masses, we had a strong approach planned out this year with our following gaining more and more by the day, it seemed like it could have been the year to go all the way to Bloodstock itself! There was a weekender we had planned and booked too, rooms and everything, heading down to the South of England, but as everyone else in our industry that was missed out on!

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Incursion: We released the video for "The Shrouded" with thanks to "Stone Letter Media". That was a bit of a challenge as we did have an original idea for that track to show the beginning of "Incursion's story" to give a bit of an insight into the world we portray. But alas with a line up change and then the lockdown we made the decision to work it as more lyric video. Which still worked out quite well, it was strange to being directed via WhatsApp messages and filming my parts on my phone, but we got what we wanted from it! We have wanted to do a livestream, but with limited places to accommodate us, it's something that's still in the pipeline, but we'd all want to be fully into it and make it as best as we possibly could before releasing/performing a live set.

MoM: This year has also seen Jonny focussing on revamping The Green Rooms after the terrible floods. How is that going?

Jonny: 2020 eh? Ha! Green Rooms has been a long uphill battle, the floods really were devastating, but after the year prior I became determined not to lose it! What started as a clean up and salvage mission has turned into a full blown campaign, there has been a lot of challenges and difficulties but that venue/rehearsal studio is so desperately needed here in the Rhondda that I couldn't let it go under without a fight.

Well here we are 10 or months later and it's finally taking shape. The goal first and foremost is to be able to open the rehearsal studios back up, with the "goal posts" being changed on what seems to be a weekly basis for live music venues/bars/hospitality in general, I believe it's in our best interest to go as much as we can with the rehearsal side as far as bands and artists go, but with new equipment on site the venue will be far more versatile than it was in it's previous incarnation.
So even if we have to put our stage and p.a outside for a live event next year we are more than prepared to get as radical as we can to ensure live music has a life line here!

MoM: What are the plans for Incursion/Green Rooms going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic permitting)

Incursion: Green Rooms will be there to offer our support wherever we can with bands and artists. Any promotional work, rehearsals for bands will always be our main focus, but with the modifications to the venue and new additions we plan to bring a broader audience/customer base too!

Incursion have a new release in the making, once again we are working with Stone Letter Media for our next single's video which we recorded with Made By MJD, as cliche as this sound we can't wait to share it with you Incursionists! This track is very much the tip of the iceberg with our new material, but if you love viciously heavy riffs and hooks so catchy you could hang a radioactive drummer off them, then you are in for a treat with this new release!

Pandemic depending, we are due to make our first festival appearance at Hammerfest being held at the O2 Birmingham on February 14th, the best way to spend valentine's day if you ask me!

With live shows up in the air, we are planning to expand on our story and tales from the alternative apocalypse as creatively as possible!

Until then we hope you stop by the digital Incursion headquarters (www.incursionmetal.co.uk) and stock up on your accidental heroes official apparel!

Stay healthy and in tip top Hob Nob fighting shape Incursionists!

Fox, Griff & Grunt
(Jonny, Josh & Scott)

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With State Of Deceit By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

State Of Deceit: Yeah it's been a struggle, so we've played whenever possible, but getting less time in which sucks. We've been doing more remote sharing of video clips of ideas etc for new stuff, not just the usual funny naked vids and memes.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

SoD: God damn all of them, we love playing live and seeing the other bands to, so much talent in Wales especially. So itching for a gig we'll play anywhere, no stage to small! Weddings, parties, funerals, beer o clock, gender reveals any excuse to wack the volume up, just give us a shout and we’ll be head banging away!

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

SoD: Mainly had to make sure we we're stocked up with alcohol and bog roll, before some other daft twunt nabbed it all. To pass the boredom of lockdown we released some reaction vids and interviews with bands on our youtube channel which were good fun to do. It's also given us time to write and finesse the songs for the next EP.

MoM: What are the plans for State Of Deceit going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic permitting)

SoD: By the time this has been published we should have recorded the next EP at Sonic One Studio, which will get it's release in 2021, We are going to be very excited for reaction to that from you guys! As soon as venues are up and running we'll be back out playing and tearing things up!

Thursday 17 December 2020

Reviews: Iced Earth, Daniel Tompkins, Pillory, Wombbath (Matt, Alex, Paul S & Rich)

Iced Earth: S/T (Century Media Records) [Matt Bladen]

When you're Jon Schaffer you have a huge amount of music in your vaults, having written, performed and many times produced most of the albums by his legendary heavy metal band Iced Earth. It does mean that even though the band's last full length Incorruptible was released in 2017 they have managed to many releases since then. Having already revisited the bands demo with a new remaster, the Covid-19 crisis has obviously left Jon with some time on his hands. So not content with doing a Christmas album with former Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow he has set about getting Iced earth's debut full length a 30th Anniversary re-release. The record has been remastered by Zeuss (Overkill and Queensrÿche) and will be released as 180 gram vinyl, CD digipak and on digital but there are no additions you just get the original eight tracks with improved overall sonics. 

When you listen to it you can hear even to this day that Iced Earth were going to shift into the monster they are today across 11 following albums. Any band that effortlessly mixes NWOBHM, progressive notions and thrash metal to create that American Power Metal sound that has become synonymous not just with the band but with the USA in general. Yes Iced Earth is a lot more raw than albums that would follow but it's still packed with those choppy, galloping riffs of Schaffer that have become an Iced Earth hallmark, as the solos of Randy Shawver shows why he was their second longest serving guitar player at 10 years. The vocals of Gene Adam (who left the band after this record) are great but limited to the thrashy snarls which is why Schaffer re-recorded tracks of this album and it's follow up Night Of The Stormrider with the bands best vocalist Matt Barlow on compilation Days Of Purgatory. Is it required? If you have the original only the remastering makes it worth picking up but If you want to delve into the history of Iced Earth then it's an ideal record to do that with (because what's better than working chronologically through a discography - OCD Ed). 7/10 

Daniel Tompkins: Ruins (Kscope Records) [Alex Swift]

Expectations are strange. In some instances they are completely unfounded and false, in others, they are entirely correct. When Tesseract frontman Daniel Tompkins released his debut solo album, Castles. In 2019 I was not expecting the overly mellow, frankly tiresome sound which he brought the table on that record. Hell, given the fact that I’ve always admired his main project, the extremely low score I gave that piece shocked even me. Naturally, I wasn’t expecting much from Ruins. Drawing on my limited memory of the last record, I expect more lacklustre rhythms, uninspiring synth work, and a far too tamed sense of ambience. However, I was pleasantly startled by the dramatics permeating this album. Seriously, despite technically being a sequel a la the title, Ruins has far more focus on huge guitars and intricate rhythm sections. While tempting, I can’t compare this to Tompkins's most notable work, as the style is very distinctly his – the vast soundscapes and attempts to create an atmosphere are still present, yet executed far more convincingly this time around.

Sanguine keys open Wounded Wings. Staccato guitar stylings create an ominous feel, and ethereal harmonies are heard circling, providing a perfect crescendo moment into the liberating chorus. All the while, the musicianship changes tempo and feel, ensnaring the listener in a myriad of sensations. Virtuoso, Plini features on this track so naturally the specifics are amplified and executed with precision. Yet it’s not just the lead work that’s magical. The whoosh of the synthesizers, the affecting presence of the drums, and even Tompkins vocals blend into an emotional experience which his last solo effort so tragically failed to achieve. ‘Castles don’t survive’ runs the opening line on the title track, which appropriately feels like a massive salute to how to do this style right, the alluring instrumental loops, the layers upon layers of melody, and the exultant chorus proving amazingly striking, not to mention relieving. Tyrant seizes the hearer with a commanding bass line and marching percussion, which steps convincingly towards the visceral yet weirdly calculated sequence at the centre of the track. By contrast, Stains Of Betrayal is a loosely conceived and abstract composition that leaves you contemplating, it's sometimes gentle, often aggressive ebbs and flows.

Empty Vows gives the impression of a song that was meticulously written and then created with the same level of diligence, the complexity contained within the intricate patterns, and the exactness of the impassioned timing, lending an admirable fascination. Something I do like about these songs is that they challenge and stimulate me. Sweet The Tongue was a track that I initially struggled with, yet came to admire through the clever combinations of electronics with traditional elements. Also, let’s be honest, who could resist those final few moments where our ambitious frontman screams against a wall of sound which had been gradually growing in nuance since the beginning. A Dark Kind Of Angel seems to have a wistful waltz at play, which the repeated phrases and the beautiful yet poignant sense of melancholy, which seems to prove one of the most emotionally affecting elements across the entire album. We finish on The Gift featuring Matt Heafy of Trivium. It’s a passionate closer that brings the musical motifs and lyrical themes of death, loss and temporality crescendoing to a determined finish!

In terms of artists progressing and correcting past mistakes, Ruins is an excellent example of exactly that process taking place. There’s a sense of earnestness throughout that shows Tompkins developing his influences and charting his own course with his solo project whilst also eliciting a genuinely emotive reaction. I welcome the fact that I can finally get excited about his solo project. 8/10

Pillory: Scourge On Humanity (Unique Leader Records) [Paul Scoble]

Boston based band Pillory have been making nasty music since 2003. In fact Pillory have two different incarnations since that date. From 2003 to 2008, Pillory were a full band with 5 members, who released one album in 2005’s No Lifeguard At The Gene Pool. The band split in 2008, but were resurrected by the now single member Darren Cesca. The one man band version of Pillory released a second album in 2014 with Evolutionary Miscarriage. Scourge On Humanity is the first new material to be released since Evolutionary Miscarriage. The main style on Scourge Of Humanity is ultra technical, and very brutal death metal. The sound relies on fractured rhythms, dissonant guitar, a constant need to change and very intricate and introverted riffs. The songs seem to refuse to settle on one style of nastiness. Fast riffs quickly turn to slow and dissonant riffs, blast beats start and then stutter to a halt before blasting again. The rhythms and tempos are constantly changing and lurching, all of which seem to be to unsettle the audience and make everything uncomfortable and difficult. 

There is a similarity with bands like Pyrrhon, Atræ Bilis, Imperial Triumphant or Gorguts. Pillory use their technicality to produce nasty, viscous music, and it is very effective. The vocals are also designed to be nasty as anything, guttural and viscous, Cesca also uses a small amount of pig squealing as well, personally I can’t stand pig squealing, but that's my issue, not Pillory’s. That all sounds great, the individual elements of Scourge Of Humanity are very good, it’s designed to sound nasty and off putting, so that's not a bad thing. However, the songs themselves are strangely unsatisfying. The problem is that it’s difficult to tell the songs apart. All the elements within the songs constantly change, from fast, to mid-paced and lurching, to slow and staccato, so the songs are in constant flux. 

Unfortunately the parts themselves are very similar, there are lots of very similar fast riffs, mid-paced riffs and slow riffs, so the songs all feel very similar, in fact I had a hard time telling the songs apart, it’s almost like one constantly changing song that gets faded out and back in eleven times. This isn’t helped by the the songs feeling like they don’t have any structure, just constant change. It’s a real shame as Cesca is clearly a very talented musician, it just ends up feeling like an overlong mess. Scourge On Humanity is a mass of interesting ideas, impressive musicianship and brutal death metal. It just feels like it needs to be more controlled to be really effective. If Cesca can focus what he does, and get all the impressive elements to face in the same direction, he could make something really special. 6/10

Wombbath: Tales Of Madness (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Rich Oliver]

Although not one of the most well known death metal bands out of Sweden, Wombbath have been forging away for 30 years releasing several albums, EP’s and splits worth of festering death metal filth.  With their fifth full length album and first album for Transcending Obscurity Records, Wombbath celebrate their 30 year milestone with an album that celebrates their past and future. Tales Of Madness mixes six re-recorded songs from the bands back catalogues and two brand new songs representing the band’s current sound. The six songs that have been re-recorded mainly stem from the band’s early days with songs from their 1992 demo Brutal Mights given a fresh recording as well as the The Grave which was the first song the band ever wrote. 

It is gnarly old school Swedeath drenched in that glorious HM-2 tone that is very much of the sound and style of the early 90’s (and a sound that countless bands are emulating still in 2020). The two new songs also follow the same style with the title track being a glorious piece of Swedish death metal violence whilst The Fleshy Existence Of Man varies it up slightly with the inclusion of operatic vocals and strings mixed in with the HM-2 carnage. These two new songs show great promise for what is to come from Wombbath in the future. Wombbath have a great release with Tales Of Madness.  

Old school fans of the band should appreciate these 21st century renderings of old school material whilst the new material gives an appetising taster of what is to come from the band next year.  If you haven’t heard of Wombbath then you are probably better off checking out their older albums first but this is a good album showing where Wombbath have been and where they are going next. 7/10

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Black Pyre By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Black Pyre: Without gigs it has been quite boring and a little bit tough. So in lieu of gigs we hung out in icy caves up in the frozen wastelands for a few months and made an album, as well as practising, and working on publicity. But, despite the year not having much in the way of gigs we have been busy.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

BP: We felt it was unfortunate to miss some larger gigs for us, such as supporting 1914 in May in Plymouth, supporting Necronautical, or Winter Eradication. We also very much missed attending gigs to support other bands. We will be very glad when things return to normal.

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

BP: This year we have done many things during the pandemic – of course recording our album, which the guitars, bass and vocals were all done at home thanks to modern technology. Also, our guitarist Asbjorn did a playthrough of the song Marbas from our EP on YouTube. Finally, we have been working on some publicity such as having our music uploaded to YouTube by Black Metal Promotion and appearing in Zero Tolerance magazine.

MoM: Your debut album Winter Solstice has been gaining g a huge amount of positive reviews, not just from us I may add. How has that felt being so well received on your first full album?

BP: It feels great to have music out there that people are enjoying and to be gaining fans. It feels very rewarding when people enjoy what you make. We hope that all the positive reviews will help us to progress in future.

MoM: What are the plans for Black Pyre going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic allowing)

BP: We would love to play more gigs and festivals, especially the postponed gigs supporting 1914, Hecate Enthroned and Ninkharsag. As well, we will continue writing music, and look to make some more physical releases, as well as making more merch. We are hoping 2021 can be a prosperous year for us.

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview with Cranial Separation By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Chris Machin: Ray was losing his mind as he didn't stop working as he's a labourer & his house was getting partly rebuilt as there was a baby on the way (arrived September, well done Ray).
Sams been ok, and has been releasing music for his SWH project (look it up it's good).
As for myself, I've been working from home since March and trying to stay sane (like most of us). Just finished building a bass guitar which was very fun, who knows I could start my own brand haha. (Basses Ex Machin sounds like a winner - Ed)

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

CM: Yeah, we are gutted about our headliner in Fuel, the gig with Sodomized, Eradication Festival & the tour we were planning, all cancelled. We had a band photo shoot planned for the album but the country went into lock down on the week it was planned.
We were also planning an album release show at Fuel, but again we will have to wait until next year.

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

CM: We've released the Album on Bandcamp, Apple Music and Spotify. It's been selling / streaming well but a large part of the community wants a CD release, but due to the pandemic no distributors were taking on new artists.

MoM: This year saw the release of your debut full length album. Does it feel good to finally have it out there? 

CM: Feels amazing that it's finally out. We are immensely proud of it. Shout out to our drummer Sam, who did an amazing job mixing/ mastering It.

MoM: How has the album gone down so far amongst the metal community?

CM: All the reviews have been very positive so far. A lot of 5/5 reviews which we are proud of.
It's been received well by the community to, who are really digging the sound and how unashamedly death metal it is.

MoM: What are the plans for Cranial Separation going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic permitting)

CM: Depending on how quickly the government gets the vaccine out, we are going to get a distributor sorted for a CD release, new "Yeah Man" t -shirts, and an "album re-launch/ post Covid party". Hopefully a mini tour as well. We look forward to gigging again, sharing the stage with awesome bands and having a pint with our friends and fans.

Reviews: Passengers In Panic, Minerva Superduty, The Kings Head, Iconic Eye (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Passengers In Panic: S/T (Sleazy Rider Records)

Not the normal dirty rock from Sleazy Rider Records, Passengers In Panic are a progressive folk metal band from Greece. Their musical style is a melting pot of sounds with a political fury inspiring their musical explorations. The intro speaks of issues surrounding Syria and Palestine, on top of a Diamond Head riff before we are led into the first track The Undertaking which manages to blend choppy prog rock, with Greek/Balkan folk instrumentation and a Pink Floyd solo, in just under three minutes, as it shifts again into the very traditional sounding No Ghosts At The Feast which has that percussive nature of Greek folk music. 

This intensive mix of sounds continues throughout the record, with Shipwreck melding Iron Maiden riffage with Kansas-like violin solos, the Gothic edged To Stain, a Western theme to Life At It's Best that once again brings an air of a Maiden epic and the spoken word passages return on Nakba which has a doomy tone that makes things shift into Aphrodite's Child realms, in fact Passengers In Panic sound like a modern version of the legendary Greek prog rockers, the psychedelic sounds replaced with power progressive metal. 

Passengers In Panic features ex-members of numerous different Greek bands from different genres and they have all brought their experience to this record that unveils it's charms with every subsequent listen, when you first hear it can be little jarring but as you play it a few times it really grows on you, from the Jethro Tull charms of Gang Of Stares to their cover version of traditional Greek song Tsampasin. This debut album is very impressive skillfully balancing the multiple musical styles under the progressive metal banner. 8/10

Minerva Superduty: In Public (Yetagain, Body Blows Records, Sweetohm Recordings, Bright Future, Vault Relics and 5 Feet Under Records)

From home of the olives Kalamata along with the capital Athens of course. Minerva Superduty are a raging post hardcore act in the style of Converge and Botch, starting out as an instrumental act they added a vocalist in 2016 ready for their second full length record, between then and now they have been hard at work for their third release which shoots out of the gates with biting riffs and ferocious shouting vocals. The Converge influence looms large on this album as the tracks rarely drop in place at all. Most of the record embracing chaos with an experimental edge where the 'screamo' sound is fused with hardcore punk and even some groove breakdowns, all of which are intensely politically charged each tracks a call to arms against those that oppress and terrorise. It's got riffs you can see people throwing themselves around the room to, as it speeds on by in a tornado of aggression. They fire out body blows and flurries of violence with a sharp focus on making the songs last as long as they need too, this means that the whole record is quite short but then that is kind of the point. For Hardcore/post metal fans In Public will get you bouncing around your living room. 6/10  

The Kings Head: The Kings Head (Wormholedeath Records)

From The Netherlands The King's Head formed in 2018 with a specific goal of playing the music that they grew up with, specifically the music that defined that period in the early 90's when where the mainly Seattle based grunge was the biggest thing on the planet and bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots ruled the airwaves. Now the members of The King's Head aren't wanton fanboys, they have all been playing since the late Nineties so one way or another that influence was going to find it's way out, but The King's Head inject the grunge sound with some progressive flourishes, alternative metal intelligence and sludge metal aggression this shift towards the aggression comes with Pim van Zuilen's growls who along with Tim van Bokhoven is one half of The King's Head's vocal duo, van Bokhoven providing the crooning cleans. 

Both men play guitar too underpinning Koen Koniuszek's great leads, van Zuilen's widening the scope with keys also. It means that the musical expression here is along way from the "no solos" mentality of grunge (though Pearl Jam, AIC and Soundgarden all had solos/lead breaks) furnishing the huge riffs with big melodies. The record is driven by the powerful rhythm section of Jasper van der Hoeven (bass/vocals) and Chris Stadhouders (drums) who give the grunge influenced riffs their metallic heaviness, on tracks like the massively AIC styled The Far Beyond and the crunching The Fall. Elsewhere the keys make their mark on Anymore as Waiting has more psych sound. Riffy grunge rock with a heaviness The King's Head is a ballsy debut album from talented, veteran musicians. 7/10

Iconic Eye: Back From Behind The Sun (Self Released)

Iconic Eye are apparently a critically acclaimed rock band, I'll admit I've never heard of them but it seems that they have had a change of membership with Janey Smith, formally known as Jamey Bombshell in 70's Glam covers bands. This is her second release with the AOR rockers written mainly by Janey and Greg Dean (guitars, keys and backing vocals) with the exception of their cover of Jefferson Starships's Jane. They are joined by lead guitarist Neil Hackett, Mike Dagnall on bass and Jon Cooksey on drums for 5 rock tracks that have big chorus hooks where Janey's vocals work really well and the songs are all in the kind of rock style favoured by Dante Fox and Romeo's Daughter as the soaring leads and swathes of keyboards bring a bouncing rock tone. It's a record buoyed by their numerous high profile live shows and support slots and comes five years after their debut full length and two after their second record. If I'm honest it's good enough to enjoy a little radio friendly hard rock and if you fancy hearing more of it Iconic Eye will perform a socially distanced and live stream concert at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton on Saturday January 16th. 5/10

Wednesday 16 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Lighthammer By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Lighthammer: We were extremely lucky that before everything locked down, we’d gotten the opportunity to play two really great gigs: Free For All Festival in January with the ever excellent D-Teez, The Woodsman, and the incredible Urfe, who we’d never seen before, and the Smash Fest at the end of February. Both of those shows managed to tide us over. We’d also literally managed to record Galaxy just before lockdown too, so we had that to concentrate on; back and forth with rough mixes, all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into putting out an album, etc. If anything, lockdown allowed us to really focus, as we all had that much more spare time to get in touch with people and spam the album everywhere. We finally had the time to do all of the boring, less fun parts of being in a band.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Lighthammer: HubFest was a particularly sore thing to miss, because that’s always an excellent event to play, full of atmosphere, and is just a celebration of everything that makes Cardiff’s music scene so good. The band is still quite young, so we only have the one HubFest under our belt, and we were looking forward to climbing our way a bit higher up the totem pole, so to speak.

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Lighthammer: We’ve actually only just started getting into the whole livestreaming thing now, just as we’ve been able to start practicing together again. We hadn’t managed to be in a room together playing music for eight months. But in terms of adapting to the end of the world, we did throw a lot more effort into digital releases, and just being on top of that. Just organically spamming our music out there as much as possible until people were sick of us talking about it. Despite not being able to gig and not even able to rehearse, this year has seen the most sustained period of growth for us. More people are listening, more people have heard us, and we’re getting radio play, admittedly on small independent stations. But it all counts. And we’ve even crossed the pond, getting radio play in Arizona, Ohio, Montreal and London Ontario. There were even times when we’d find out that a radio station had played us after it had happened! Notifications waiting for us that we’ve been featured on another show. And all of that was just us having the time to pester people with our music. That’s how we adapted.

MoM: Your single, with added remixes has been doing really well, (we even broke our rule and reviewed it), was it pleasing to hear good feedback for it and the two remixes?

Lighthammer: It absolutely was! Whenever we release things we want to make sure that you get a little more bang for your buck, so you didn’t just get ‘the single.’ Plus, we felt like it’d be a bit cheeky not to give a little something extra seeing as the single only exists to correct a Distrokid upload error on the album. And we were super fortunate to have Jvdah on hand wanting to remix things for us. It was a risk putting out remixes, because maybe people wouldn’t care. But it’s been received well, so we’re happy!

MoM: What are the plans for Lighthammer going forward in 2021? (obviously pandemic permitting)

Lighthammer: At the moment, we just want to play shows, shows, shows. And we want to get further afield. There are some options opening up for playing in the North of England and Scotland, and that’s going to be fun, Covid permitting. We’d also really love to do a few more festivals that are further afield too. The other big plan is to get Part 2 of the Galaxy Trilogy, Andromeda, recorded. We’ve been sitting on a largely completely written second album and while Galaxy is still new and fresh in people’s minds, we’re itching to get the second part of the story out to people, and it’ll be so satisfying to talk to people who like what we’ve done so far, and see the rest of the narrative unfold for them.

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Gravity Machine By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Gravity Machine: The lack of live shows (or being able to start playing live) has had a huge impact- probably the biggest impact will likely be on our ability to fund the recording of the next album- Gravity Machine is entirely self-funded and it's our own record label we release under. Playing live would have meant merch sales and CD sales much bigger than what we've achieved so far; and back in January I was planning for recording the second album sometime in early 2021; that's looking tricky (to say the least) now, so it might be a while before that happens. However, right now I am working through the idea of a strictly limited edition double LP to fund the next album- we'll see how that goes.

As far as practising goes; that's been totally impossible. Apart from performing together for the "Standing Stones" video, we've not been able to jam anything out, or work up the live set. I've been recording demos though- there are about 20 songs currently in consideration for the second album; that'll get whittled down to around 10-15 songs to take into the studio. I've also been working on different guitar tunings, working up new synth sounds and just writing stuff generally. There *are* some upsides- getting to grips with my bass technique, spending more time learning mandocello- all of that's great, but it's not the same as getting out there and doing it.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

Gravity Machine: I was so involved with getting everything lined up for the album release that I'd not really gotten round to figuring out what was happening out there. I'm hoping to get to see Amplifier live once everything gets back to normal; if Martin Grech tours then I'm going to go and see him playing. I missed Emma Ruth Rundle's dates in 2019 and I'd been hoping for dates in 2020, but she's coming in 2021. I'd been either buried in studio or working (dayjob) during 2019, so pretty much I surfaced for air just as the pandemic hit!

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

Gravity Machine: Mostly just adjust our expectations- any live playing is out of the question; livestreams likewise. I've put a lot of work into the videos, but even that's difficult in a pandemic... Mostly I've focussed on getting more material written and just planning stuff- that's about all that's been possible really.

Having said all that, I think we've done quite well, all things considered- we've developed a small but growing fanbase right in the midst of a pandemic, which is fantastic; we've had extremely good reviews and for a band that's not yet played live, we've punched well above our weight. For me though the best part is seeing how much the album has touched people who've also had to deal with difficult emotional journeys- way back, one target I'd set myself was to reach people who were having a shit time, and to just gently touch that space as if to say "hey...you're not alone, and you'll get through this"- its a privilege to be allowed to do that.

MoM: I saw you were filmed and released a new music video during this time which has gained a lot of attention? Tell us a bit more about that?

Gravity Machine: Guessing you're referring to the new "Standing Stones" video- obviously we're Dartmoor-based and getting those visuals out there and working with that narrative form was great- Sarah (who stars in the video) is a very old friend and we had a certain amount of fun filming out there in the wilds. Even though I know the moor pretty well, it's quite eerie seeing that refers back to ancient history- it's impossible to know what would have been authentic in terms of visuals, but within the research we all did (and Sarah's probably most informed of all of us about that particular area) it was quite spooky seeing that. Most of the stone circles and standing stones on the moor are Bronze Age in origin, and it creates a lot of perspective to stand in any of those places and imagine that, although we collectively live in an extremely different age, there are still commonalities- feelings, the power of imagination and the power to transcend circumstances. The actual playing part of the video was also pretty good fun- a pitch black warehouse, full of concrete dust and a lot of work- but great seeing Bob and playing together and working with Harry- that's a great team right there. We've had views from all over the world- that's always a good feeling.

MoM: What are the plans for Gravity Machine going forward in 2021? (Obviously pandemic permitting)

Gravity Machine: Ideally- we'll be able to hit Middle Farm (the studio) in the first quarter and have enough funding to do that properly; then after that a couple of videos, while putting a live band together. I've got very particular views about live shows- the benchmark for me is those shows that are so good that they're hard to top; gigs where it's pretty special all the way through- I've seen a few bands do that over the years- Killing Joke in 2003, Them Crooked Vultures in Plymouth, I remember New Model Army doing a surprise pre-tour show in Tunbridge Wells sometime in the 00's and it was outstanding- tiny venue and they absolutely nailed it. I was lucky enough to see Rush in Montreal in 2008 and that was pretty special. So the bar is set pretty high. However, my biggest concern (after funding) is that there will be any venues to play; it'd be extremely disappointing not to be able to play live.

As I said, I'm hoping to sort out releasing a limited edition double LP, which will fund the next album- we've got some strong ideas already for that, so with luck that'll be happening.

I hope people will be pretty pleased with what's coming in terms of new material- extending and augmenting what's there on the first album- I never really thought about genres when writing the first album, and it surprised me quite a lot when Gravity Machine were embraced by the prog scene- obviously it's part of my canon of influences, but a far bigger part of my influences is leaning more towards really left-field stuff, the kind of stuff that definitely doesn't get featured in any discussion about progressive music! I think everyone will also see a little more of the heavier side of Gravity Machine in some of the new material, but it won't be coming from any kind of "conventional heavy" place; it will still be retaining that core focus on songwriting and tapping into more emotional spaces and capturing essences of something lyrically.....we'll see. There's also some much lighter material alongside that; some of it digs into the folk scene that's ever-present on Dartmoor, some of it is more ambient. We'll see.

I dunno- it's hard to tell ultimately what's going to happen in 2021; I'll be pretty happy to get the second album recorded; I'd be equally happy to get out there playing live. We'll see I guess...

Tuesday 15 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With King Kraken By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

King Kraken: It's been very difficult for us, especially since we were in full flow in February and march with playing some of our biggest shows and recording our newest e.p, all plans going forward were going really well and the gigs were coming in with a good flow, then march came and everything came to a halt, which it did for everyone, from there we really couldn't do very much except for writing new songs online, initially that’s what we took it as was a writing break as it was only expected to last a few months and with one of our guitarists families isolating, we as everyone did thought it might be over by august.

The hardest thing we had to face was cancelling or postponing gigs that we had worked really hard to get with bigger bands, I personally (Rich-drums) remember in April postponing 11 gigs, all of them being out of wales and seeing all the band members heads go down (virtually) because of the work we had put into it collectively go up in smoke, from there nothing much happened, Because it couldn't.

We have all struggled with the lack of gigs as I'm sure everyone in bands has because that was our escape from the real world (work).

Luckily, we got signed to Metal Rocka Records (a sister label of Off Yer Rocka Records) then in august which picked everyone back up, but it's been a strange one as we can't celebrate it as such with playing more gigs or tours, luckily, we have had good backing and advice from them. We started practicing again in September only having 2 practices before going back into lockdown for the firebreak. But since then, were back in the saddle again, going over all the riffs and full songs written earlier in the year in which we nearly have our 1st album done and ready to go, strange situation at the moment as we have a new set to play but nobody to play it to.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

KK: Yes, one was smoke on tent 2 in Stoke On Trent which was an all-day long gig with such bands as master charger who actually signed to the same label as us now and witch tripper who we were especially excited to watch and meet, also on the bill was obey and I think it was going to be their last show ever so it was due to be a special show. Was gutted to cancel any gig but particularly that one

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, livestreams?

KK: We had to adapt our own writing style, as now it was online and people writing by themselves at home, we couldn't put in the same amount of input we were used to, Pete and Adam couldn't rip riffs apart and rebuild them the same way as we could when we were together if one of them wrote a new riff, the strange thing with writing online is that we don’t know if it's actually going to work when we get together again and practice so it turned more into a collection of riffs with some songs that we have constructed,

Our whole Chaos Engine E.P release was turned upon its head, as we thought when we recorded it in February, we wanted to release it in Swansea’s Hanger 18 or Cardiff’s Fuel but that couldn't happen then it was just sitting there, gathering dust because we didn’t want to release it in lockdown and would keep it for when things went back to normal, then label approached us and we would release it on announcement that we had signed to Metal Rocka, luckily we had the video for Chaos Engine which had to be digital just wrapping up so we were able to release everything on August 16th

We did livestreams for breaking bands festival and a few gear run throughs on our social medias but it wasn’t the same as playing live or doing anything together, now were able to practice it feels like were a new band starting from a different place

MoM: Your EP Chaos Engine has been gaining a lot of positive coverage and not just from us, how has that felt for your first 'proper' release?

KK: Definitely a bit of a strange one really, we can't really class it as our 1st proper release because we couldn't do anything for it as in touring and that’s a massive thing for us, we didn’t get it pressed even, even the release was strange for us as the label released it and we didn’t have to do anything but take a step backwards from our baby and let them deal with it, we just went with digital release because of the pandemic, was definitely the best choice for us as it still kept fans ears pricked (new & old) as to who we were and what we were about in preparation for our 1st album release in 2021 which will be the main event for us.

MoM: What are the plans for King Kraken going forward in 2021? (Obviously as far as the pandemic allows)

KK: Definitely more now the vaccine has been announced, were having regular meetings with the label who has some big plans with touring and release is all we can say, we have Ibiza Rocks in may which we defiantly hope will go ahead as that will be our 1st gig out of the UK, lots of gigs in the planning but defiantly all hands are on deck and everything going into our 1st album release, we have a name for it most of the songs, expect a new video for one of the songs on chaos engine e.p in the beginning of the year, plenty of gigs the middle of the year, album end of the year and massive tours to go along with it, The Future Is Green. KK

Reviews: Silent Skies, Stuck Out, Morpholith, Satan's Fall (Rich, Paul H, Paul S & Matt)

Silent Skies: Satellites (A Sweet Lemon) [Rich Oliver]

Silent Skies is the collaborative project between piano/keyboard player Vikram Shankar (Redemption/Lux Terminus) and singer Tom Englund (Evergrey). After Tom saw Vikram’s piano interpretation of Evergrey's Distance on YouTube he got in touch and a musical partnership was born resulting in the debut album from the project Satellites. Despite both performers having a background in progressive metal Silent Skies is driven by the piano playing of Vikram and the vocals of Tom. I have also enjoyed the softer and more vulnerable vocals of Tom in Evergrey songs such as The Paradox Of The Flame and this style is explored far more here. The music is a mix of the piano driven and cinematic soundscapes which sound both stripped back and breathtakingly vast and epic. The music is very much driven by its emotional core and these are songs rich in melancholy and sadness and are just achingly beautiful. 

Tom Englund has long been one of my favourite singers in metal and he just excels himself here with a heart tugging and poignant performance throughout whilst the piano and keyboard playing from Vikram Shankar is equally as breathtaking with lush orchestrations ensured my arm hairs were standing on end. The album is made up of ten songs with eight of them being original compositions and two cover versions. It is hard not to be swept into the rich, emotional waters of songs such as Horizons, Solitude and Oceans whilst there are stunning covers of Eurythmics classic Here Comes The Rain Again and Evergrey’s fantastic Distance. I had high hopes coming into this album and if anything it exceeded them. This is a stunningly beautiful album which is impossible not to get completely lost in. There is very much influence not only from Evergrey’s music but from bands such as Anathema which sits very well with me as Anathema are one of my absolute favourite bands. If you are a fan of melancholic and heartfelt music then I implore you to give this album a listen. 9/10

Morpholith: Null Dimensions (Sludgelord Records) [Paul Scoble]

Morpholith are a 5 piece based in Reykjavik, Iceland. The band formed in 2015, played their first live gig in 2017 and released their first recorded material with 2018’s Void Emissions. Morpholith play a very heavy and droney style of doom, that is monolithically huge and hypnotic. The album is fairly simple, in that it has only 2 tracks, and due to the style of doom that they play those 2 tracks have a certain amount of repetition to them. That's not a criticism, as there is a fair amount of drone in their sound, so that repetition is needed for the style to work. The album opens with Orb a massive 20 minute piece that starts with about 9 minutes of droning build up before a riff arrives. The droney parts remind me of bands like Om, or some of Sleeps more droney moments. Once a riff does come in, it slowly builds, getting heavier and more intense in feel, but without the tempo changing at all. Once the riffs start coming in, the style is closer to Shrinebuilder

For the last 10 minutes Orb gets much heavier, a new far nastier riff comes in to wake us up from our meditative trance. The vocals, which were clean for the first part of the track, are now harsh and aggressive. The whole song is a slow progression from introspective drone, into heavy doom, and then into ultra heavy sludge, and it works very well. The second and final track Monocarp is much shorter, coming in at just 13 minutes. After a droning introduction, Monocarp has a faster tempo than the song that preceded it, and more aggressive feel to it, there's no meditative sense to this track. The vocals are a mix of harsh and impassioned clean, the interplay between the two styles works well, in many ways it feels like a conversation. At several places the tempo picks up a little and the feeling is driving and dense, maybe a little bit like Yob. Shortly before the end of the song, there is a softer, more minimalist section, that then builds back up again for a huge climax to the song. 

Null Dimensions is a great piece of droney, sludgy doom. The styles that they have mixed together fit very well, and the transitions from one style to another are handled very well. My only criticism would be the length of the album. At 33 minutes it’s one of the shortest albums of this style that I have heard, maybe one more track would have made Null Dimensions a more satisfying album. However, having said that what you do get is very good, so the fact that I wanted more, is a compliment rather than a criticism. 7/10 

Stuck Out: Lie Through Your Teeth (Sharptone Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Formed in Melbourne in 2015, rock outfit Stuck Out don’t strike me as the typical metalcore fare. The band consists of guitarist Ian Browney, bassist Sheldon Schuyler, drummer Lachy Lydiard, and vocalist Joshua Walker and they released their debut EP You Won’t Come Home in 2018. Lie Through Your Teeth consists four tracks, all delivered with that heartfelt emotional angst that seem to surge through their veins when they compose. Mindless is possibly the most poignant, demonstrating a vulnerability that is so often necessary for this type of music. It’s driven by some pumping riffs; the band are on point and Walker’s delivery sits neatly providing a raw crossover of cleans and slightly rougher elements. 

Anthemic is a term I’d often use, and I can see fields of hands waving in time with the music. Crisp production, a powerful and competent sound all enhance the songs with opener Inverse showing the full range of the band’s approach. Whilst it is far from the type of music I’d usually listen to, this is likely to appeal to the army of fans across the globe and there is nothing here which suggests that they will be anything other than delighted with the latest release. 7/10

Satan's Fall: Final Day (High Roller Records) [Matt Bladen]

Just from the fact that Final Day is released on High Roller Records you can immediately predict that this debut full length from Finnish band Satan's Fall is going to be classic heavy/speed metal, driven by razor-sharp twin guitar harmonies, a galloping rhythm section and gnarly vocals. As Forever Blind explodes with everything I just mentioned any predictions are proved spot on as we get a rampaging classic metal riff that shifts into big choruses that are full of occult imagery giving Satan's Fall a sound akin to Mercyful Fate and Angel Witch. With the NWOTHM revival very much based in Scandinavia Satan's Fall are playing music of very high quality despite only being around for 5 years, it's a style of metal that has surely been honed on stage with some of that fire bleeding into the choppy They Come Alive while tracks such as Retribution have a maturity of a Ram It Down-era Judas Priest with the Priest influence also appearing on Juggernaut. While it doesn't break that NWOTHM mold Final Day is an enjoyable enough speed metal record with a real breakneck pace to it, impressive for a debut. 7/10    

Monday 14 December 2020

The Spotlight: 2020 Catch Up Interview With Dakesis By Matt Bladen

MoM: How have the band members been handling the lack of touring and even the lack of practicing in 2020?

Gemma Lawler: It’s been a sharp shock after our collective decades in the music industry. I don’t think anyone is handling it very well - not just us but across the board. Music is such a lifeline to so many, both on the stage and off, and having it pulled out from under our collective feet has been just devastating.

Adam Harris: It’s strange when live music is all you’ve strived towards for half a lifetime, and suddenly it’s just not an option anymore. It’s now been well over a year since Dakesis has played live, which was unthinkable in the runup to the Fractures launch.

MoM: Were there any gigs/shows/events that you were particularly gutted to have missed?

GL: Losing our album launch was definitely the most difficult, along with UK and EU tours and festival dates - but as fans we also had tickets to so many really special shows - Nightwish in Amsterdam, Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Open Air, Amie spent a small fortune getting me tickets for the MCR reunion show - we were taking the WomenOwaR drummer Josh to see Jethro Tull. It’s a lot. Life is very different without live music.

AH: This was the first year we haven’t been to Bloodstock in at least 13 years, and missing out on our pilgrimage to Wacken was very sad. So it’s been a tough summer! We’d all been looking forward to Mew’s ‘Glass Handed Kites’ tour, and I was off to see the Genesis reunion. Then, of course, there was our own tour with Fury, and some great shows planned on the continent.

MoM: What did you have to do to adapt to the pandemic situation, i.e digital releases, videos, live streams?

AH: When it was clear we couldn’t go ahead with our album launch as planned, we pooled all the gear we had to put on a multi-cam live stream of the performance in full from our studio. Since then we’ve offered this as a service to other acts to continue connecting with fans, and keep live music going in whatever way we can.

GL: We’re looking forward to getting the Livestreams up and running again in the new year (lockdowns permitting!), and bands interested in putting on a show from our studio can find out everything they need to know at www.capsaarxstudios.com/live-stream/

MoM: You were organising the Power Metal Quest Fest Online this year for the first time? Tell us a little about that and how it differed to the normal festival itself?

Amie Chatterley: With the inevitable cancellation of this year’s Quest Fest, we knew we had to do something to celebrate. It takes a whole year to organise behind the scenes and so much time and effort goes into the festival, that we didn’t want to just cancel it entirely. The big difference with our Virtual Fest, is the obvious in that the bands weren’t on stage, but it’s been great to see how creative bands have been in getting together a pre-recorded set for the lineup. Not only that it was super fun being able to broadcast this live from the studio and allowed us to connect with our fantastic community.

AH: On the plus side, it helped us realise we could pull out some hidden broadcasting skills and adapt to the situation. Also, it allowed us to include more international acts that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

MoM: What are the plans Dakesis/Power Metal Quest Fest going forward in 2021? (Obviously as far as the pandemic allows)

GL: I suppose we’re finally making peace with the “New Normal”, and setting up for whatever shape the music industry is going to be in by 2021. We’ve all got little studio set-ups at home so that we can keep working on things and writing no matter what. So yeah, there are plans for new material.

AC: As Gemma mentions, now we have recording setups at home as well as our dedicated studio, we can be creative wherever we are and it makes it easier to adapt to how things are currently. As for Quest Fest, we’ve moved 2020 to 25th September 2021 and we’re forging ahead with plans despite the future of events being uncertain at this point.

Reviews: Heads For The Dead, Hands Of Attrition, Unruly Child, Nightblade (Matt, Paul H, Simon & Alex)

Heads For The Dead: Into The Red (Transcending Obscurity) [Matt Bladen]

In our review of Heads For The Dead's debut album, we were complimentary over how vicious their gore-soaked death metal assault was, much like many other publications. Featuring Jonny Pettersson (Wombbath) on guitars, bass, keys and SFX and Ralf Hauber (Revel In Flesh) on vocals on this follow up they have acquired the percussive battery of Ed Warbie (ex-Hail Of Bullets) to add another destructive level to their death metal 'supergroup'. His drumming skill really lifts this album, giving the death metal sound an organic but nasty feel. Into The Red has used this addition to expand on the horror themes on this second album, on the debut the songs shifted between short explosive numbers and more malevolent slower tracks. 

Here there is a bit more cohesion allowing a John Carpenter-like atmosphere to be built, meaning that the horror influence is more than just a stylistic choice but an intrinsic part of their sound. Obviously fans of Wombbath, Revel In Flesh and Ursinne will lap this record up but for any fans of death metal Into The Red will tick a lot of boxes as tracks such as the blasting The Coffin Scratcher and Night Ripping Terror, the grinding At The Dead Of Night, more cinematic numbers like the crushing The Seance and even the extreme abuse of Transilvanian Hunger (a Darkthrone cover). 12 tracks of aural abuse from these German death metal veterans that will go down great at your family Xmas. 7/10    

Hands Of Attrition: Colder Places (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

The West Midlands is fertile ground for metal. Probably the most obvious statement I’ve written since I called Thor some awfully bad things. Meet Hands Of Attrition, a five-piece whose debut album Colder Places is a pulverising 53 minutes of slavering groove metal that gets the sinews twitching from the opening riffs. Now I am partial to a big slice of Lamb Of God, the unintentional flag bearers for a genre that was undoubtedly started by Pantera. But this isn’t a debate about the origins of an often-divisive style, more an inevitable comparison that is trotted out when groove is mentioned. Well, you can park that and instead take a big forward plunge into eleven tracks of muscular, explosive metal that really rage with power. You can hear influences a plenty in this release, something that is commonplace in new music but there is a raging fire that erupts on the opening track Consumed, and which doesn’t relent until the final notes of Nightingale finishes. Two years after their formation, Hands Of Attrition have honed their sound. The blend of metalcore and groove works splendidly, with the jagged razor-edged riffs absolutely punishing. 

Tom Alexander Scott’s snarling guttural delivery works on every level, his ability to summon his growls from the depths of his diaphragm whilst also adding a bit of melody impressive. The joint guitar barrage of lead guitarist Anthony Austin-Smith and his six-string partner Christopher Jenney is relentless whilst the rhythm section of James Brunskill on bass and drummer Dale Harrison deliver on every level. Threadbare is a face melting song, whilst the band open up the doom riffed feel on The Becoming. The songs on the album don’t shy away from the challenging subjects of today. The band via Alexander-Scott’s thoughtful lyrics cover mental health and the impact of self-doubt, depression, addiction, and tragedy in one's existence, whilst also invoking resilience and catharsis. Something that should always be highlighted, the band are concerned massively with men’s mental health. "One of the themes for our album is the importance of men’s mental health. 

Collectively we, like many, have experienced first-hand the impact self-doubt, depression, addiction, and tragedy can have on mental wellbeing. Every song on the album tells a story and we hope that the same strength can be drawn from our music as we have gained producing it.” Not something you can really argue with a huge subject which needs more unpacking. Whilst Hands Of Attrition focus very much on the sledgehammer delivery, there are plenty of more subtle moments to pick out from this impressive debut. The closing sections of The Becoming for example. But what they do best is the powerful heavy riffing which is consistent throughout the album. A band that I shall be making a mental note of to keep tags on for 2021. This is a very pleasing debut indeed. 8/10

Unruly Child: Our Glass House (Frontiers Music Srl) [Simon Black]

Unruly Child have been ploughing their particular furrow since the early 1990’s, but have somehow not really hit a major stride. I guess getting going (and with the same line up) when Grunge was exploding the whole rock scene does not help, but these folks are all fine musicians whose Hard Rock edged brand of AOR is usually nothing if not reliable. It’s perhaps a good time to play the retro game, given that it’ so much in vogue at the moment, but as a band that were there first time around, they fail to recapture the groove with this particular record. In its favour, the song-writing is fairly robust (if by the numbers) and there are touches of the progressive in some places that hint at the possibility of more if they had let themselves go a little more. I can’t say there are any bad tracks here, but equally nothing new reaches  out and grabs you with any enthusiasm. 

What this album lacks is energy, and the really flat production sound does not help, particularly the drums (which are tinny to the point of distraction) and really missing that fat ‘death-by-reverb’ sound the genre normally distinguishes itself by. Sadly the tracks that really work are acoustic rehashes of older high notes (To Be Your Everything and Let’s Talk About Love). Tacked onto the end of the album as they are they create two very clear and jarring points of contrast – firstly, that these older songs are much better written than the new material. They may be far more retrospective, but they work better because they are of the period. Secondly the production is so completely different for these two that they had to have been recorded and mixed separately from the rest of the album, having as they do the fat, rich sound the rest of the album is screaming out for. Disappointing. 5/10

Nightblade: Ignorance Is Bliss (Self Released) [Alex Swift]

Nightblade performs an exciting if occasionally tedious mixture of grunge and alternative. With a modern sound, the band takes inspiration from the late 90s and early 2000s scene, which helped to ignite nu-metal while being slightly more humble in itself. At its finest, Ignorance Is Bliss proves fun, and eccentric yet. However, there are plenty of moments across its nearly hour-long run length when it slows to a tiring and laborious crawl. A mixed record yet not one which will provoke your emotions in either direction. Title-track, Ignorance Is Bliss begins the album in an ambitious style. It is an ambitious opener which makes for a frantic and memorable first impression. I’m almost tempted to say that the piece is too memorable in that with its length and its seemingly ceaseless repetition, you might find yourself fast-forwarding through this one. The production and delivery of each of the elements might be an acquired taste – there are clear nods to classic rock, except with a modern slant on the writing, which makes for a weird if admittedly unique mismatch. Steering The Wheel exudes a wave of dark anger, which works against the fuzzy guitars and the growled problems. The problem being, they don’t diversify the track enough to make for an engaging listen from start to finish. This is a key problem for Nightblade. 

The musicianship is decent, the songwriting is decent, yet they don’t have the same knack for subtlety or brevity that leaned their influences so much charm. This isn’t just a problem for them – plenty of acts who pay homage to their legacies set out with noble intentions and end up making bloated, overlong records that fail to emulate that same magic that classic acts brought to the table. And yet, I think on the scale of pastiche acts, these are one of the most endearing. Only You and Never Take For Granted might be the best song here, the writing proving inspiring and layered in a way that feels genuine and impassioned. The problem with this act isn’t so much a lack of originality, rather a lack of conviction to carry the innovative ideas through. When they do employ experimentation as on the erratic What If, they show their potential as musicians with an appreciation for making metal funky and danceable, yet also introspective and emotional. Sadly though, for every aspect of this album that I can point to as an example of ‘clever and quirky,’ there’s one that I can point to as ‘redundant and disappointing’. Further From The Truth, with the illusions to glam, is one that I can enjoy at the moment, despite forgetting almost immediately after. 

Take Me As I Am is incredibly repetitive and once more, far too long. The same could be said of what is probably the worst song here, Immune To It All. That said, Find The Strength Within and Stop, do close us out on a more vulnerable and epic note, which feels like the right decision in helping the piece to feel consequential and well rounded. Overall, while Ignorance Is Bliss is far from a latecomer to the albums I will remember from 2020 and has major problems underpinning it as a record, it’s still very competent both in terms of the execution and how the inspirations are employed. In that sense, while it won’t be making any year-end lists, I think it deserves the award for being “king of the mundane” 5/10

Friday 11 December 2020

Reviews: Deeds Of Flesh, Ego Kill Talent, Dead Posey, Absense (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Deeds Of Flesh: Nucleus (Unique Leader)

What is it with 'tech' death bands and post-apocalyptic, science fiction, horror themes? It seems so many of them are obsessed with a terrifying future and Deeds Of Flesh are the latest band to use their laser focussed, virtuosic brand of extreme brutality to tell tales of mutating viruses, technology revolting against humans and other tropes associated with bands like Goreguts, Dying Fetus and Archspire, however Deeds Of Flesh can be considered to be pioneers of this style of music as Nucleus is the bands ninth studio record. It is a bittersweet one though as it marks the first record without guitarist/vocalist Erik Lindmark who is was also the founder of Unique Leader records, after his untimely passing. 

So Nucleus stands as an epitaph to Lindmark and also the completion of the conceptual sci-fi story that began on 2008's Of What's To Come and continued on 2013's Portals To Canaan, basing the lyrics upon the music of Lindmark, Craig Peters (guitarist), Ivan Munguia (bass) and Darren Cesca (drums) which had been written a few years before it was up to previously retired vocalist Jacoby Kingston and long time drummer Mike Hamilton to finish the story and make the guttural vocal arrangements for the intensely technical music which is at the top level in terms of performance and composition. 

Now as this album serves as a tribute to their fallen comrade there are numerous special guests that appear on the record most notably John Gallagher (Dying Fetus), George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), Luc Lemay (Gorguts) and Frank Mullen (Suffocation) along with a whole host of tech death pioneers who lend their talents to this album of face melting death metal. After the loss of a key member, many other bands would fall apart, Deeds Of Flesh have come back from the brink with the closing part of a long running concept, an aggressive, mechanical death metal record well worth the seven year wait. 8/10

Ego Kill Talent: The Dance Between (BMG)

Like the recent Blood Eagle album from this year, Ego Kill Talent have opted to release their new album The Dance Between Extremes in three parts, done mainly due to Covid scuppering their touring and release plans, this is the way to maximise their exposure. This is the second EP The Dance Between and as a Ego Kill Talent virgin I didn't know what to expect but bugger me aren't they a slick modern rock act from São Paulo, Brazil! The four tracks on this EP show why the band have shared stages with bands like Foo Fighters (who they were handpicked by for support) and Queens Of The Stone Age, the former's influence comes through on Silence which draws from the Colour & The Shape era Foos as well as a bit of Biffy Clyro too. The band is made up of the Grohl-like vocals of Jonathan Dörr, with the rest of the band sharing the instrumental duties with Jean Dolabella (drums, guitar), Raphael Miranda (drums, bass), Niper Boaventura (guitar, bass), and Theo Van Der Loo (bass, guitar) giving the tracks here a huge sound, Sins And Saints displaying this the best. A cracking second part of what is shaping up to a be an anthemic modern rock album. 7/10

Dead Posey: Malfunction X Break Down (Sumerian/Position Music)

Danyell and Tony F's second EP from June this year, was reviewed on this blog and I compared them to to bands such as In This Moment and New Years Day. On the back of that EP they were supposed make their Download Festival but alas Covid scuppered those plans so they decamped back into the studio to do this EP featuring re-imagined/acoustic versions from their last EP the best of which are Holy Roller and Parasite which gain a bluesy, dark Americana sound, Tony F the strings and Danyell the soulful vocals three of the songs come their previous EP's while the final song is a Depeche Mode cover, Never Let Me Down Again which adds a collectors value to this EP. It's a stopgap, something to keep their name out there on what should have been their UK breakout. Lets see if 2021 will bring that around, for now though there's this to keep you occupied. 6/10  

Absense: XV (Self Released)

Crashing out of Athens Greece with some down-tuned groove heavy metal that takes from bands such as Meshuggah, Jinjer, The Agonist and even more death metal acts like Decapitated. Led by Nefeli's dual vocal style, where she shifts effortlessly from huge cleans and aggressive harsh roars. Take a track like Departure where the song starts out with some ambient haziness before we shift between aggression and anthemic choruses with a bouncy classic metal riff that remind me of In Flames, in fact it's possibly the proggiest song on the record adding to the standard groove/melodeath sound. XV has battery but also melody informed by the dual vocals but also the expansive guitar playing of Dimitris Sakellaris and Ilias Krassas, they augment songs like Crawl with some clean leads while Bleed To Death is driven by the powerful rhythm section of Efthimis Mallios (bass) and Nondas Chatzopoulos (drums) as well as leading the thundering breakdown on final song Once Upon A Crime. For a debut album it's a powerful statement of melodeath/groove metal. 7/10

Reviews: Palace, Hollywood Undead, Vanden Plas, Eyes Of Tomorrow (Reviews By Rich & Liam)

Palace: Rock And Roll Radio (Frontiers Music Srl) [Rich Oliver]

Despite being a fan of all things violent and aggressive I do have a massive soft spot for things on the very cheesy side of things with power metal and AOR regularly making their way onto my playlist.  When it comes to top quality AOR then Frontiers Records is the place to seek it and one of their best artists has to be Palace. Palace is the solo project of Swedish multi instrumentalist Michael Palace with Rock And Roll Radio being the third album from the melodic hard rock project. I thoroughly enjoyed the previous album Binary Music describing it as “a very fun enjoyable album” and that can certainly be said of Rock And Roll Music which takes the winning elements from the previous albums and expands on them.  The 80’s influence is amplified if anything with 12 songs laden with glorious retro keyboards, slick guitar work and hooks that bore themselves into your brain. 

The influence of artists such as Stan Bush, Vince DiCola, Survivor, Journey and Def Leppard is ever looming and whilst this album may be nothing more than a convincing homage to 80’s AOR it is a damn fucking good homage and very much captures the spirit and feeling of that era.  Just listen to songs such as CastawayCold OnesEleonora and She’s So Original and you are immediately cruising down the highway in an open top car in 1986. The songwriting is on point throughout the album as are the performances. Apart from a very small handful of guest spots all vocals and instruments are handled by Michael Palace himself as well as fully producing, mixing and mastering the album. Rock And Roll Radio is a fabulous AOR album. It certainly won’t appeal to people who already don’t like this style of music but melodic hard rock fans should definitely be giving this a spin as it is a prime example of how good AOR can be when it is done well.  After the shitshow of 2020 we could do with some feel-good music and Palace deliver that in spadefuls. 8/10

Hollywood Undead: New Empire Vol. 2 (BMG/Dove & Grenade Media) [Liam True]

The American Rap Rockers have already released New Empire Vol. 1 to much praise from fans and critics alike. But now as Vol. 2 cruises into our radar they’ve truly defined themselves as a band with the new direction they’re taking. With a more pop and synth elements on their new album they break down any barriers that people may have had about them. The guitar tones mixed multi-instrumentalists of J-Dog, Danny & Charlie Scene provide an epic backdrop to the band as they open with the catchy Medicate. Moving Into Comin’ Thru The Stereo which features fellow Rock Rap star Hyro The Hero, they utilise both of their vocal capabilities perfectly to perform yet another catchy song. Ghost Out & Monsters flow immaculately as Killstation gives a helping hand on the latter song.

Coming Home & Worth It are as catchy as you’d expect from the album so far provided by the band and their entourage of guests. Final song Heart Of A Champion which features Jacoby Shaddix of Pap Roach & Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills end on a perfect note, sending the album off without a hitch. Between releasing an album already this year you’d think that the creative juices would have ran out for the band, but in fact it’s made them more hungry and more creative and free to explore more roots to go down in the future. Still, the albums is still in touch with their original Rap Rock roots, but the pop sounding experimentations they use blend perfectly creating one of Hollywood Undead’s best albums yet. 9/10

Vanden Plas: The Ghost Xperiment: Illumination (Frontiers Records) [Rich Oliver]

The Ghost Xperiment - Illumination is the tenth album from German progressive power metal band Vanden Plas and the second part in their The Ghost Xperiment concept album series with the first and previous instalment The Ghost Xperiment - Awakening being released last year. It is a progressive metal take on a ghost story and whilst the album does have a narrative it is the music I find myself most focused on. Vanden Plas have been releasing melodic and progressive metal for many many years and have not really had much in stylistic changes and this album continues with the sound that has served them well for decades. It is progressive metal very much in the school of bands such as Dream Theater and Threshold. You get a mix of songs ranging from a middling length to long prog epics. The shorter and more compact songs are the most effective with the opening duo of When The Wall Is Falling Down and Under The Horizon proving to be the better moments on the album whilst the longest and most epic song on the album The Ouroboros justifies its 13 minute duration with plenty of interesting ideas and many twists and turns. 

The album does have a lull at around its midpoint with songs such as Black Waltz Death, The Lonely Psychogon and Fatal Arcadia being just that bit too overlong for their own good. Long songs are usually part of the package when it comes to prog but these songs just don’t have enough about them to justify their song lengths although there are certainly moments with some great guitar solos from Stephan Lill and some nifty keyboard work from Günter Werno. Vocalist and primary songwriter Andy Kuntz has a vocal style that serves this progressive power genre well but his nasally sounding vocals whilst serviceable aren’t the best the prog metal genre has to offer. This second album from The Ghost Xperiment series is another fairly solid Vanden Plas album. It doesn’t hit the heights of previous albums Christ-0 and The Seraphic Clockwork but it is an enjoyable album of melodic progressive metal. It won’t blow any minds but follows in a line of solid and dependable if rather safe sounding albums from this German band. 6/10

Eyes Of Tomorrow: Settle For More (Swell Creek Records) [Liam True]

The bands which loomed large in the musical socialization of Eyes Of Tomorrow should be clearly recognisable to all those who are not unfamiliar with the Cro-Mags. The Ruhrpott squad, named after the same-titled song of the HC veterans, devoted their heart, brain and mind to old-school Hardcore. No nonsense, no beating around the bush, just straight in the face in tradition of Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All or Madball. And Settle for More shows how much they live and breathe Hardcore. Taking influences from the early bands to the newest era they pull no punches and provide an enjoyable 11 track album that clocks in at only 24 minutes. With the average track just under 2 minutes a piece, they pack in plenty of riffs, call outs and heavy does of Hardcore layered destruction. 

From the slow burn opener of Gone For Good, to the erratic head-banging title track to the ender Things We Need the album is non stop in your face old-fashioned Hardcore. The thing that makes this album stand out from other records is how slow it may seem in some songs, as it does sound more melodic and slower paced, but then that makes the faster tracks seem like they’re going at 200MPH which is a game changer. The album sounds great and the songs are the sound that we need at this time. But I don’t know why I feel like it’s missing something, and I can’t but my finger on it. Maybe because it’s a tad slower it’s throwing me off, but as good as it is, it could be better. They’re no Hatebreed, but they have the foundations set for it. 7/10