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Monday, 29 March 2021

Reviews: Evanescence, Band Of Spice, Day Of The Jackal, Marasmus (Reviews By Simon Black, Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen & Richard Oliver)

Evanescence - The Bitter Truth (BMG) [Simon Black]

Evanescence seem to be one of those all-important ‘marmite’ bands that crop up from time to time. The devout Metalhead on principle dismisses them because they aren’t really Metal, but to the wider population this is as Metal as their music collection gets. And this band has one of ‘those’ albums that ubiquitously crossed the aisles into popular music consciousness when their huge selling debut Fallen was released back in 2003. Since that time and despite that unrepeated initial huge multi-platinum success they have been remarkably un-prolific in their output for most of their career and only fairly recently having upped the ante and started producing outputs in a more conventional and regular album cycle after their lengthy hiatus in the mid 2010’s. 

This album is clearly and distinctly Evanescence, but anyone expecting a straight reboot of that initial era is going to be disappointed. Long gone are the Nu-Metal tropes of Bring Me To Life (which by all accounts was the consequence of a record label struggling to cope with the concept of a female singer in a heavy rock act). This is a much more mature and crafted piece of music, that plays on the signature sound of Amy Lee’s haunting and emotive voice and takes the whole Symphonic, epic feel and runs with it to a slightly different place. For a start musically although in general the overdriven guitar sound is more Rock rather than down-tuned and dirty crunchy Metal, there are some really heavy moments in here. 

To achieve variety whilst retaining the distinctive sound is a credit to the careful song-crafting that has gone into this record and to be honest the only real weak point for me was the initially released Wasted On You which struck me as a little obvious, but perhaps coming from the heavier end of the spectrum I am not the intended recipient. Use My Voice was an obvious single, and it’s got the kind of catchy layered vocal melody hook that tends to grow your audience, so is definitely a good choice for the lead track even though it crops up quite late in the album running order. Added to this there is a much more strongly political streak to the subject matter, with the dark tone of Use My Voice in particular being a million miles away from the Emo-rock appeal the band had in their infancy. 

What’s more scary is that this song could have been written about events in the US Capitol even though it was released last year. Equally commercial but much more likely appeal to the heavier tracks are liberally interspersed throughout though – from the faux Industrial beat of Better Without You and the sharp weight of Broken Pieces Shine this album does deliver the goods and I find myself happy to keep playing rather than moving on to the next item in the slush pile. Lee’s voice as always is not always the focus here and the instruments often take the prime spot in the mix, which really helps with the atmospherics and mood. Bands like this are crucial to the Metal world, whether some corners of the community respect this or not. 

Without acts with broader appeal that open up the heavier end of the musical spectrum to people who might not otherwise have listened to heavy music, then our ranks will dwindle. Back in 1991 the Metal community initially derided Metallica’s ‘black album’, but it propelled the band and heavy music in general to a whole new level and brought many new fans to the fold who then found they were open to trying more extreme stuff. That cannot be a bad thing, and neither is this record which is definitely one of those growers. 8/10

Band Of Spice - By The Corner Of Tomorrow (Scarlet Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Few voices in rock hit you as clearly as Christian "Spice" Sj√∂strand. The voice synonymous with those early Spiritual Beggars albums returns with Band Of Spice, which sees Spice accompanied by Alexander Sekulovski on bass and drummer Bob Ruben. Using Heaven And Hell and Blizzard Of Ozz as his reference points, this is apparently the first album he’s recorded in standard tuning. It’s worked, with the opening three or four tracks all catchy, heavy rock numbers that race along, full of hooks and a classic feel. The Fading Spot that opens the album is an addictive track, well-paced with a calm mellow middle section that slows things down before the beat kicks off again. As the album progresses, there’s plenty of spiraling guitar work, supported by a solid rhythm section whilst Spike’s guitar work is not too shabby.

Of course, it’s his voice that takes the songs to the next level and the man can still hold a note with his slight gravel-soaked tones surging with his undoubted charisma. The Sharp Edge is slower, but retains the rockier edge of the man’s writing, with a neat chugging riff. Things slow down with the title track, semi acoustic with emotion. But if you want variety, then wait for Midnight Blood which goes full Hawkwind with a quite bizarre psychedelic passage with maniacal laughter before the track gets back to what the band do best, rock out. After that it goes a bit South, with some les exciting songs. Reglutina isn’t the best song for Spike’s voice, whilst closing song Rewind The Wind is a little dull. Overall, it’s an enjoyable if unspectacular release which contains some moments of punchy, fast paced hard rock. Probably worth a listen but maybe not enough to purchase. 6/10

Day Of The Jackal - Day Zero (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Hard nosed, boogie rock from Leeds now as I take the debut record from Day Of Jackal. I'd never heard of the band before this but trust me when I say you will hear a lot more of this band in the Planet Rock circles (Rockstock, Steelhouse, HRH) very soon indeed. They have been schlecking all over Yorkshire since 2015 but when faced with the Covid pandemic they grabbed their instruments, organised their writing and brought several bottle of Jack Daniels (probably) ready to record this debut full length. The album was recorded by Gentlemen's Pistols James 'Atko' Atkinson at The Station House and stylistically Day Of The jackal have the same sort of retro boogie/biker rock fusion as Gentlemen's Pistols with influences such as AC/DC (Afterburn). Status Quo, ZZ Top and Motorhead. 

Atkinson's production means that there is a warm vinyl sound to the record, meaning that these raw jams are caught without too many overdubs giving you an idea of DOTJ's live sound. At ten tracks we get thumping hard rock on Riskin' It All, blues on Rotten To The Core, then there's some snarling Wildhearts-like punky riffs on Coffin Fix all of which feature wild soloing filtered through EVH (R.I.P) Peavey 5150's. Day Of The Jackal are made up of the rocket fuel injected engine room of the Rich's, McLachlan on bass and Maw behind the kit. While the riff machines are Steve Murray and Andy Overfield who is also the band's vocalist, his rough hewn voice ideal for their muscular rock. Day Zero is suitably titled as it seems like this is just the start of DOTJ's quest for rock domination. As focussed as a sniper scope on a far away target, don't bet on them missing! 7/10 

Marasmus - Necrotic Overlord (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Richard Oliver]

Necrotic Overlord is the new album from Kansas City death metallers Marasmus who are a five piece featuring members of Unmerciful and who formed in 2007. Necrotic Overlord is the third album from the band and it is an unrelentingly savage bit of death metal. Marasmus have a sound that merges ultra brutal death metal with licks of technicality and an old school grittiness. Over the course of ten songs Marasmus bludgeon the listener into submission with a whirlwind of savage riffs, blast-beats and the guttural roar of frontman and guitarist Andy Nagorski. 

Songs such as Ectoplasmic Violation, Carrion Ascension and the title track are an artillery barrage on your senses but the most effective songs for me were the ones which incorporated a bit more atmosphere, dread and some effective keyboard intros into the sound such as Voices Of The Wailing Deceased, Archaic Burial Rites and Forsaken Graves Of Infant Kings. The keyboard intros provide atmosphere and an effective build up before the death metal carnage erupts forth. 

Necrotic Overlord is a solid death metal album. Its flaws lie in its lack of memorability as a lot of these songs sound virtually identical but pummelling death metal is not a genre that has or ever will rely on progression and individuality. The production is also quite thin and robs a lot of these songs of their power but on the whole this is good, solid and reliable death metal. If you need something to clear the cobwebs out of your ears then Marasmus is the perfect soundtrack for that. 7/10

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