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.
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
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.
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