Sunday 24 January 2021

Reviews: Werewolves, Phantom Elite, Beyond Extinction, Mindwork (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, & Matt Bladen)

Werewolves - What A Time to Be Alive (Prosthetic Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Having signed to Prosthetic records in early 2020, the Aussie death metal outfit swiftly released debut record The Dead Are Screaming. Written and recorded in mid-2019, was it coincidence that half of their country subsequently burnt to the ground? Well, for more evidence of their global impact, sophomore release What A Time to Be Alive was recorded early in 2020 – cue worldwide pandemic. Bassist and vocalist Sam Bean (The Antichrist Imperium, The Berzerker) predicts war and famine for albums three and four. Bean is joined by drummer Dave Haley (Psycroptic, Ruins, King) and guitarist Matt Wilcock (ex-Akercoke, The Antichrist Imperium, The Berzerker) and are truly dismissive of their work, claiming to have put less effort into their debut than anything else they’ve ever recorded. 

So, with that glowing endorsement, it was with some surprise that I found What A Time To Be Alive a feisty and tasty slab of brutality, rather than a steaming pile of horse excrement. It is of course, no surprise to see the self-depreciating views expressed. These are seasoned musicians, who have been around the extreme scene for many years. When your opening song is entitled I Don’t Like You and is one of the nastiest tracks I’ve heard for many a year, you get the picture. If there was a musical equivalent of bile, then Werewolves would be it. Dominated by ugly riffs, punishing blast beats and guttural, snarling vocals that spit hate, tracks such as Unfathomably Fucked, Antisocial and the opening rage all embody the total contempt the band feel for everyone and everything. 

Regardless, there is obviously ample talent festering deep within and the album is cohesive, tight and ruthless. Mixing death metal with a serving of black metal (They Will Pay With Their Own Blood). Mixed by Joe Haley (Psycroptic) with striking artwork by Mitchell Nolte, Werewolves’ second album is far from the rubbish that Werewolves would have you believe. In fact, it’s a blisteringly good listen. 8/10

Phantom Elite: Titanium (Frontiers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Started as an offshoot of the HDK project Sanders Gomman (After Forever, MaYan, Somerville/Kiske), the idea was for this band to be able to play that music live however it shifted towards writing their own music, resulting in the first Phantom Elite record in 2018. Returning a few short years later with the follow up Titanium, once again we are reminded by how the song writing and production techniques of Gommans, along with Mark Jansen (Epica/After Forever/MaYan), have become the template for this style of this heavy symphonic style. 

The record doesn’t actually feature Gomman’s playing, Max van Esch has the responsibility of guitars and bass while Stef Rikken provides the grunts to Worst Part Of Me, but his mark is all over the record perfectly utilising the classical-meets-contemporary vocal style of Marina La Torraca (Exit Eden, Avantasia) and the powerful drumming from Joeri Warmerdam which is why Titanium lives long in the mind as a deftly conceived record. You get crunching deathy riffs on Conjure Rains, as Diamonds And Dark brings Within Temptation melodies to modern djent riffs, Glass Crown full of fizzing electronics driven by Koen Stam's synths. 

It's the swirling Silver Linings that features the most Gomman-style writing with a mix of heavy and melody as Marina duets with Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Exit Eden and HDK) for one of the best songs on the record. Phantom Elite is a rightful continuation of style Gomman pioneered all those years ago! 8/10

Beyond Extinction: The Fatal Flaws Of Humankind (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

The future of metal is increasingly looking secure in the hands of a plethora of young bands who are making their mark with some exceptional music. Meet Beyond Extinction who are a death metal outfit from Essex. With an average age of 17, Beyond Extinction are already well versed in the gnarly art of sonic abuse via some warp factor death metal. This four-track debut EP is a real hammer smashed face effort, full of powerful riffing, sledgehammer drumming and vocals that extend beyond the usual styles of the genre. The blend of subgenres sees deathcore, death metal and metal core all combine with such brutality that the EP really needs a warning stick on it. 

Snarling with malevolent anger, Beyond Extinction tackle subjects of nihilism and the imperfections of humanity. Let’s be fair, they have a massive pool of examples to draw from but kudos to them for tackling such topics. It’s a refreshing blast which should be commended. I’m all for the younger generations getting stuck into important stuff. Of the four tracks on offer, I’d nod in the direction of God Complex as the standout track. Utilising some underlying melody with a bone crushing level of riff, this is a mammoth track that highlights all that is good about the band. It pounds, kicks hard and then drops the metaphorical elbow to conclude proceedings. 

What is particularly impressive is the way that the band have melded several styles into one fireball coated delivery. With some high level shows under their belt in 2019, including some support shows with Cancer Bats, Beyond Extinction look well placed to break into the burgeoning UK death metal scene in 2021. 8/10

Mindwork: Cortex EP (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

When a record is mastered by Jens Borgen (Opeth, BTBAM, Haken) it's an easy guess that the band involved are going to be not only progressive but drawing from the extreme metal realm. Mindwork fit into the Opeth, Cynic and Death category nicely (it even features ex-Death man Bobby Koelble) So it's perfect Borgen fodder though Mindwork is very much the idea of band leader Martin Schuster (vocals, guitars etc) who not only wrote everything here but also produced the record. It's not a solo project by any means as Schuster has Filip Kittnar (drums), Dominik Vozobule (bass) and Jiri Rambousek (guitar) all helping him create a cacophony of noise that features some extremely technical playing which never full explodes into extreme metal nastiness, Depersonalized makes me think of Gojira but with Mikael Akerfeldt's introspective vocals and Gothic atmospherics, Last Lie I Told the first of the four tracks (though the first is more of an intro) to feature the death vocals but it's Grinding The Edges that really shows what they can do as a band. Proggy extreme metal that has odes to the masters, nothing new but certainly enjoyable. 7/10

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