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Wednesday 27 January 2021

Reviews: Annisokay, Labyrinth, Creye, Mordkaul (Reviews By Liam True, Matt Bladen, JT Smith & Paul Scoble)

Annisokay: Aurora (Arising Empire) [Liam True]

On their fifth studio album, and first since 2018, Annisokay cut the shit and have created, what is already for me, and album of the year contender. On their first outing with vocalist Rudi Schwarzer since replacing Dave Grunewald In 2019, the band have taken the Electronicore sound and have embellished it with their signature touches and hooks creating an album that flows somewhat smoothly from one song to the next. Starting with opener Like A Parasite it’s a trance sounding opener before the crunchy guitar tone of Christoph Wieczorek mimic the sound and the band hit you with their down tuned force. Creating a catchy chorus of cleans from Wieczorek, the grizzly demonic growls of Schwarzer and memorable intro, it’s just a taster of what’s to come. STFU is exactly what you think it is. Luring you in with the clean guitar before drummer Nice Vaeen penetrates your ears with his glorious sounding kit and bassist Norbert Rose beefing up the attack on your senses, while you get Shut The Fuck Up screamed at you from all angles. 

The Tragedy begins like a dance track but soon kicks you back to reality with the catchy melodies and chorus as the band themselves are on point with their technicality, not showing off, but keeping it simplistic makes it stand out. Face The Facts is one of the few songs that sound like they don’t really belong on the album. It sounds like it they’re trying too hard to sound Djent but it falls flat. Overload also falls in this category. Don’t get me wrongs it’s a decent song with the catchy drum work from Vaeen, but it sounds like filler rather than killer material. As does Under Your Tattoos. Decent song, but belongs as a bonus track or a B-side if anything. This Cocaine's Got Your Tongue starts as a Rap/Trap mix but moulds slowly into their filthy sounds as the chorus clutches you to stay with the song to the end, which is worth it. 

The Blame Game pulls together the slow and heavy sound of the band that punches hard as the band speeds up slowly to give you the adrenaline you need to headbang along. Standing Still Terminal Velocity are two decent songs that do drag on a tad, but they have the misfortune of being stuck between the diamond in the rough Friend Or Enemy that has the funkiest techno backing track I’ve heard for a while. Add that with the chorus it makes for a brilliant ender. From start to finish it’s a terrific album that could catapult the band to bigger things and needs more attention from the metal world. Sublime. 8/10

Labyrinth: Welcome To The Absurd Circus (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

In his Winterage review Richard mentioned that when you think of Italian symphonic/power metal bands then Rhapsody are the ones that immediately spring to mind. Well I would add to my learned friend that in my mind Rhapsody yes but also long running metal band Labyrinth who are essentially the Italian equivalent of Helloween, having shifted through the ever changing metal landscape with a line up that has shifted but a sound that has always retained the bands core power metal sound, even an indefinite hiatus couldn't stop them. Since 2016 the band's original founding duo of Andrea Cantarelli (guitar) and Olaf Thorsen (guitar) reunited with Roberto Tiranti (singer) for their comeback album Architecture Of A God they have hit something of a purple patch that has led into their newest record Welcome To The Absurd Circus, some would say that could be a a fine descriptor of of what has happened throughout the world over the past year (four years in the USA!). Their second record on Frontiers is another Labyrinth class in power metal with galloping tracks like Live Today, the proggier/powerful One More Last Chance, it's As Long As It Lasts that really brings some AOR balladry, Tiranti's vocals utilised well as it is on Word's Minefield too. There's the usual mixture of styles here all with that Labyrinth power and melody, we also get a great cover too of Ultravox's Dancing With Tears In My EyesWelcome To The Absurd does suffer a little from too many ballads but it's another feather in the Labyrinth cap. 7/10

Creye: Creye II (Frontiers Music) [JT Smith]

It is extremely difficult to believe that Creye II is an album from a) Sweden, and b) from 2021, and I mean that in all the best ways possible. This sophomore release from the Swedish rockers is an album that is earnestly, and honestly, with no hint of cynicism or deception, a perfect slice of precisely the sort of music that elevated eighties hair metal to the top of the musical pile for such a long time, and manages to stay away from the worst excesses of the genre that eventually led it to be the bloated, laughable monstrosity it became. This is mid eighties Californian rock writ large.

The album actually starts a little subdued with Broken Highway only giving you hints of what is to come. The guitars are puzzlingly a little low in the mix, and it almost feels a little toothless in parts until the vocal “oh oh ohs” come in in the background… But then BAM! A slice of pure eighties in *that* solo. If you can’t see an eagle soaring above a mountain in your head when you hear it, you’re dead inside. Carry On starts with a bombastic riff, and then hits you with two quintessential 80’s rock staples, the sing-a-long chorus, and then the ending bridge with nothing but vocals and heavily reverbed drums. Find A Reason opens with an honest to god, jet drive riff. I genuinely haven’t heard one of these for years. The phrase “driving rock,” makes no sense until you hear a song like this. It is made for you to be driving a Mustang down a lonely desert road as the sun is setting whilst looking wistful. It also employs the upwards key change to really hook you in emotionally, a trick they use again on Face To Face, Hold Back The Night and Closer. It doesn’t sound stale or overused, which is a testament to their excellent songwriting.

There are only a couple of bum notes on this album. Siberia feels musically and lyrically a little bit filler, like the creative juices ran a little dry, and that’s amplified by just how strong the three opening tracks were that preceded it. Can’t Stop What We Started feels completely out of place. The normally tasteful synths completely dominate here, when the guitar solo hits it’s extremely jarring, and the song truthfully sounds like someone pressured them to write a more modern sounding pop song, and it is not their strong suit. That being said, they’re not so bad that they bring the overall quality of the album down.

Creye II is basically the Cobra Kai soundtrack. Ironically or not, this captures the best of the more bombastic moments of 80’s rock, and hair metal, and it’s all too easy to imagine a training montage while listening to it. Glittery, slick production on the guitars, elevated solos, tastefully used synths, heavily reverbed drums, and an absolutely stunning, silky vocal performance (that if I’m honest, I would have liked a touch more grit to in parts, but this is really a nitpick) from singer August Rauer. Each song is the perfect little snippet of 3-3.30 minutes of self contained nostalgia. It doesn’t sound cringey, it doesn’t sound dated, despite being very much of a bygone era, and the only foot they really put wrong is when they stray from that formula to a more modern pop sound. A cynical person might say they were cashing on the final, waning days of the eighties revival nostalgia we’ve been experiencing for the last half decade, but they’d be wrong. This is just the identity of this band, and it completely fits. 8/10

Mordkaul: Dress Code - Blood (Wormholedeath Records) [Paul Scoble]

Born from the ashes of the bands Diablo Blvd and Hell City, Mordkaul have been in existence since 2020. The Belgian five piece, made up of Tommy Goffin on Vocals, Tim Bekaert on Guitar, Vincent Noben on Lead Guitar, Jan Rammeloo on Bass and Tony Van Den Eynde on Drums, Dress Code : Blood is the bands first album. So, apart from the slightly naff album title, is their first attempt at an album any good? Well, the band play a style of Melodic Death Metal that has a certain amount of Old School Swedish Death Metal in it as well as lots and lots of melody and tunefulness. The album has 10 tracks, of which one is a short intro (Damnation), one is a dramatic acoustic interlude (Eve) roughly halfway through the album, and 8 songs. The tracks tend to vacillate between slower material and much faster material with an old school tempo that is maybe a little bit D-beat. All Out War is a cracking track, opening with a slow and powerful section the song then kicks up a gear and we are into some fantastic Death Metal riffing with that driving, punky D-beat that drives the song forward. 

There is a brief respite for a slower but still driving riff, before the tempo heads back up with some very impressive layered riffs before a very heavy ending. Longest track, Aurora is another mix of fast and slow. The fast is full of energy and tune-fullness, however the slower parts feel a little bit plodding, the tempo is out just a little bit. However this feeling is only there occasionally, and the high energy fast parts are never very far away. The very impressive layered riffs that we encountered on All Out War are back on Virgin Whore, which is blast of high speed riffing and fantastic multi layered harmonies. Probably the most interesting track on the album is final song The Widow Black. The style is far softer than the rest of the album, far closer to Traditional Metal, the song is full of Guitar Harmonies and has a definite NWOBHM edge to it. The track is dripping with melody and tune-fullness, although the vocals, which like the rest of the album are harsh, feel a little bit incongruous. 

Other than the vocals feeling a little bit out of place, The Widow Black is fantastically musical way to end an album that is just as much about melody as it is about brutality or extremity. Dress Code:Blood is a very good Melodic Death Metal album. There are the odd place where the pacing is a little bit off and feels slightly plodding, but as soon as the tempo increases those issues disappear. For a first album this is very good, is extremely enjoyable, full of great melodies and some very impressive solos. The mixing of this massive melodic elements with fast and punky Death Metal works very well, if this is what they come up with for a first album, I am keen to hear their second. 7/10 

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