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Wednesday 24 March 2021

Reviews: Memoriam, Wheel, La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio, Servants To The Tide (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Memoriam - To The End (Reaper Entertainment)

Memoriam don't need any introduction, the organic continuation of one of the best death metal bands of all time, the mighty Bolt Thrower, they have only been in existence for just five years but they have already unleashed three slabs of mechanized, war influenced death metal, but in 2021 they are about to unleash their fourth record To The End. It's a record that further evolves Memoriam as a band, their relationship with Russ Russell pushing them in to realms otherwise unknown to their death metal pedigree. 

Yet again they team up with Russell along with new drummer Spike T Smith who plays in Sacrilege with bassist Frank Healy so their rhythm section is tighter than ever before, providing an artillery barrage that was last heard at the Somme. Much like their previous three albums, To The End is the start of a new conceptual storyline, something of prequelle for the character featured in the first three albums, perhaps taking a storytelling advice from George Lucas. 

To The End  has some new elements for sure, most coming from Scott Fairfax's incendiary guitar playing but it opens as only a Memoriam record can. Onwards Into Battle is a mid-paced, mud stomper, grinding out the riffs welcoming you into the heaviness, which shifts into the aggressive This War Is Won a track full of dynamics moving between blast beat driven speed and low grooves. However we do a get a change with more Gothic intro to No Effect which has modern death sound to it (it's the dive bombs), though no matter the musical backing it still has that unmistakable growl of Karl Willetts whose politically charged and historically influenced lyricism, carries the story of the record. 

I mentioned dynamics earlier in the review and this album has them ingrained into every song making it a more diverse offering with songs such as the slow, doomy Each Step (One Closer To The Grave) and As My Heart Grows Cold and the almost punk sound of Failure To Comply adding new types of round to the already devastating Memoriam cannon. Five years is only a short time as a band but with a legacy behind them To The End shows that Memoriam aren't resting on past glories. 9/10

Wheel - Resident Human (Wheel Music/OMN Label Services)

Wheel have rapidly become one of the favourite bands here at MoM Towers, their emotionally charged, brooding prog metal is an instant winner if you're into bands such as Karnivool, Tool, Porcupine Tree and even Opeth. The band have also steadily risen through the ranks of live acts and in February 2020 they set off on their first ever headline tour, one of the final gigs we attended last year. This was to be a major milestone for this Anglo-Finnish act, but then there was the very obvious spanner that has been in the works since then. Their studio time was pushed back, guitarist JC left the band (with Jussi Turunen taking over) and the record was put together from the barebones, just as it was coming together frontman James found himself burnt out but these challenges have lent themselves to being part of a massive step up for the band in terms of songwriting. 

Dissipating is a shifting, undulating track that takes inspiration from the Hyperion Cantos series of books by Dan Simmons, it's themes of what makes us human is one that continues throughout the record. James finding empathy in our continued move towards being a less sociable society, a state that has been all but increased by the pandemic. The labyrinthine Hyperion too draws from this book series sitting as an impressive mid point. Tracks such as Movement which covers the Black Lives Matter protests is not only one that has those high concept lyrics but also shows what Wheel do as a band. 

It's the sort of song that would have made Fear Inoculum more than just self indulgent claptrap. Wheel are like Tool when they had something to say and a way to say it. The rhythmic, almost tribalistic percussion and stop-start riffs (Ascend) are what have brought Wheel to the dance but they have new moves. James relinquishing some of the control that made Moving Backwards such a mechanical force, for a more organic sound. Fugue having a slithering bassline from Aki Virta paired with the expressive drumming of Santeri Saksala, for a shimmering atmosphere brought in by James' guitar. Fugue and the closing Old Earth are tracks that carry this emotional heart giving you moments of clarity between the heavier, complex remaining tracks.    

While I loved Moving Backwards this move towards evolution makes Resident Human a more natural sounding album, the band all adding their individuality to it rather than being the hooded, almost robotic act they were previously. This of course is deliberate with the discourses on what makes us 'human' the albums central theme. Sometimes in this reviewing lark you not only latch on to something special you also get to see it evolve in front of you and this is the case with Wheel. A band who started out brilliantly with their EP's and then their stunning debut Moving Backwards, have, on their second album redefined themselves as one of the most important bands around today. 10/10      

La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio - Trivial Visions (Svart Records)

Translating as Death Comes From Outer Space, the band name and indeed the music on this record are very much influenced by the 50's/60's B-Movie Sci-Fi spearheaded by Dario Argento. Massive, hypnotic space rock sounds clash with black metal violence on Trivial Visions, and while sometimes you get a song similar to early Porcupine Tree, Cursed Invader sounds alot like Voyage 34 most of the album is full of acid-induced space rocking of Barrett-era Floyd, Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles, but also the occult stoner of Blood Ceremony and Purson. Jazz odysseys sitting side by side with Jethro Tull inspired flutes on tracks like Lost Horizons.

Elsewhere the Krautrock of Tangerine Dream (Oracolo Della Morte) is juxtaposed with the intergalactic doom of Electric Wizard (Ashes). It's certainly a mind-trip, the kind only replicated by strong hallucinogenics (don't do drugs kids), but it's also a soundtrack to the maddest sci-fi movie you've ever seen. The album is full of snippets from movies, heavily effects leaden elements and more synth than Jean-Michel Jarre's house! It also means that Trivial Visions is near impossible to categorize, it it really an album you have to listen too, rendering my score all but meaningless as you have to take this in to make a judgement. Still here goes casting into the endless futility of space. 8/10    

Servants To The Tide - Servants To The Tide (No Remorse Records)

Servants To The Tide is the debut release from then new project formed by Leonid Rubinstein (ex-Craving) to pay homage to his musical heroes. He plays the bass, guitars and keys on this 30 odd minute slab of epic doom metal, inspired by Atlantean Kodex, While Heaven Wept, Solstice, Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus. Now with such established, genre defining influences it could be difficult to walk the line between inspiration and pastiche but luckily Leon treats his subject matter with a reverence that allows Servants To The Tide speak for itself. It's packed full of lumbering, cavernous riffs, thumping drumwork from Lucas Freise and the broad voice of Stephan Wehrbein, who has a dramatic, commanding delivery, really giving guts to the already powerful compositions.   

As with the epic doom sound itself there is much more to it than that though with lots of stirring clean guitar work from Leon while there are additional guests; Jeff Black (Gatekeeper) Luc Francois (Mind Patrol) add piano and gutturals to the title track while Paul Thureau (Frostide) provides a speech on the riff heavy On Marsh And Bones (The Face Of Black Palmyra). There's a distinctly nautical theme to album, the travels between Gallic/Nordic/Germanic Europe and Albion a central theme on the brilliant North Sea which has lots of cinematic synths, plenty of storytelling and plaintive piano. Mixed and mastered by Michael Hahn to bring that authenticity to the record, he has worked with Atlantean Kodex and Warning) Servants To The Tide is a very accomplished piece of work, for epic doom/classic heavy metal worshippers such as Leon (and myself), the inspiration is obvious but it has its own clear vision. 8/10  

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