Angelus Apatrida: Angelus Apatrida (Century Media Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Spanish thrashers Angelus Apartrida’s latest album opens with a pace that is as ferocious as anything I heard in 2020. Indoctrinate combines the power and aggression of old school Sepultura and Exodus in a crushing blast of thrash that few fans of the genre could pick fault with. It’s a tempo shifter which drives vicious, chugging riffs with face melting lead guitar and heavy raging vocals courtesy of Guillermo Izguierdo. It’s an opener which sets the bar high, in fact, possibly too high for them to match for parts of the remaining 40 minutes. The four-man close knit outfit, who’ve been laying down the thrash for nearly 20 years have deservedly earned a reputation as one of Spain’s most loved metal bands. Developing their sound from power metal to refined thrash, first album Evil Unleashed arrived in 2006 before reaching a creative peak with 2018’s widely acclaimed Cabaret de la Guillotine.
This eponymously titled record is as you’d expect, a fast and furious affair. Puncturing riffing, screaming lead work and an aggression that screams at the injustices in the world, indoctrinate is the ideal opening song. Swift and punishing, it’s release as a single was a sensible move, grabbing attention of thrash fans across the globe. Lyrically, there is plenty for the band to get their teeth into. With the album spawned around the chaos of the global pandemic, Spain is also a boiling point of political unrest and this provides ample themes for Apatrida to get stuck into.
Bleed The Crown is one of several songs that resemble the Bay Area thrash of Testament, almost to the point of homage. Powerful, assaulting, the only question is whether it is too close to Chuck and buddies. It’s a similar feel with The Age Of Disinformation and whilst the thrash is so solid you could park your car on it, there’s nothing massively new going on here. Frenetic is all well and good but you want those hooks to tear deep into the flesh, leaving you with a headache and memories of what you’ve heard hours later. Rise Or Fall gets you there, some spiralling guitar solos and a blistering pace making it one of the better tracks assembled here. It’s fiery stuff.
There is plenty to enjoy here. The songs may not quite catch the breath on every spin, but the sheer savagery and enthusiasm that the band have poured into this album deserves massive credit. We Stand Alone may not be ground-breaking, but it certainly shatters the eardrums. Likewise, the pounding assault of Through The Glass is driven by the battery of drummer Víctor Valera whose performance throughout this album is mightily impressive. With a huge production sound, this is metal for the 2020’s. It’s not going to be the purist’s cuppa, but if you don’t mind your thrash echoing the past, this should be every bit as tasty as expected. 8/10
Everdawn: Cleopatra (Sensory Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Originally known as Midnight Eternal, Everdawn hail from New Jersey and play a bombastic style of symphonic metal which has the stunning vocals of Alina Gavrilenko. Alongside Alina is the core writing team of Richard Fischer (guitar/vocals), Boris Zaks (keys), and Daniel Prestup (drums) as well as the well-known figure of Symphony X bassist Mike LePond. Cleopatra is their second album and is superbly mixed and mastered by renowned engineer/musician and producer Dan Swanö at Unisound. A conceptual work, Cleopatra is an upbeat progressive symphonic album which maintains attention from the start. Gavrilenko’s soaring operatic vocal range is the centre of attention although the entire band combine perfectly, the sonic experience dramatic, traditionally exaggerated, and utilising sweeping melodies and harmonies to maximum effect.
LePond brings some thunderously wonderful bass lines, Fischer’s jagged guitar runs in harmony with Zaks’ plentiful keyboards. All of this is anchored by Prestup’s excellent drumming. The title track is an outstanding song, full of drama, passion, and excellent musicianship. There are some stunning guitar and keyboard duels, and the rhythm section locks in tight. Therion vocalist Thomas Vikström provides additional vocals on Your Majesty Sadness, Everdawn calling in a favour from previous tours. Vikström adds his own unique style of rich warmth, blending neatly with Gavrilenko. As the album progresses, the tale continues, and the music maintains its pace and interest. Excellent moments of pomp and over the top drama continue, such as Heart Of A Lion with its driving riff over which Gavrilenko soars with her high soprano delivery.
Penultimate song Rider Of The Storm keeps the tempo high before the triumphant concluding track The Last Eden delivers yet more majestic and dominating music. I rarely like symphonic metal, finding it a little lightweight but this release struck a real chord. It’s superbly played and produced; the songs are neatly crafted, the heavier edge retained and it works well. 8/10ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL: ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL (Soza / Collectif 5024) [Paul Scoble]
ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL are a collaborative project featuring members of the bands Endless Floods and Greyfell. Both bands are on the Bordeaux and Rouen music scene in France. Endless Flood features the talents of Stephane Miollan (Monarch, Bombardement), Benjamin Sablon (Bombardement, Shock) and Simon Bédy. The band mix Doom, Sludge and Ambient to create what they describe as ‘Cathartic Doom’. Greyfell mix Stoner style doom with hints of Black Metal and Hardcore to generate a sound that is heavy, massive and tense. But what do these two bands sound like when they work together. ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL the album features four tracks, three of which are very long slabs of monolithically huge Doom. There is a mix of huge and heavy Funeral Doom and some elements of Death/Doom in this release. The tracks take their time, and develop slowly, this is an album that will not be rushed.
Opening track Armure has a slow build up of keyboard swells and muted guitar chords. Drums are added and start to slowly drive the track forward. Chanted vocals join the mix, the track has a dreamlike ethereal quality at this point. A huge and very heavy guitar riff is added along with an organ. This massive riff is joined by some clean vocals that a slight gothic quality to them. The feel at this point is slow and huge, there is an almost religious sense to the music. The track slows down even more before the track fragments into dissonant sounds and feedback. The track then builds itself back up to a huge and very intense ending. Second track Carré is a short, dissonant track full of nasty electronic noises and, near the end, some chanted vocals. The next track Metal starts with some very heavy, but also very melodic harmonies that are reminiscent of Warning. Vocals are added and the whole is now feeling huge, but also melodic and beautiful. As the track develops it gets more intense and the tempo stars to increase, the drumming becomes more frenetic and drives the track to its end.
Last, and longest track The Songbird has a long, slow and discordant opening before a very slow and ridiculously heavy riff crashes in. The riff is huge and deeply melancholy, the organ is back again and is joined by layered vocals and beautiful guitar harmonies. After a while the song contracts into just drums and keyboards, and is minimal and brooding. The track builds itself back up and then goes into a section that features a solo from some sort of Brass instrument (possibly a trumpet) which bears a similarity to the band Five The Hierophant. The huge riff and organ returns with some chanted vocals and drives the track towards its end. Right at the very end a bell is added, tolling mournfully until the song slowly drifts to an end. ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL is a fantastic, huge and heavy album. The feel is mournful, melancholy and sacerdotal. There is a ritualistic sense to a lot of the material, a hypnotic almost religious feeling. All the tracks take their time, but the listener is rewarded for their patience as the drifting, ethereal tempos are essential for the songs to evoke the feeling the band wants. If you like slow, melancholy and very heavy, you should definitely check this out. 8/10