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Thursday 18 March 2021

Reviews: Mork, Toby Jepson, Dvne, Depths Of Hatred (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Paul Hutchings, Matt Bladen & Richard Oliver)

Mork - Katedralen (Peaceville) [Paul Scoble]

Mork has existed as a side project since 2004, but the bands mastermind and sole member Thomas Eriksen didn’t make Mork his main focus until 2013 when the first album Isebukke was produced. Mork's brand of very orthodox, Dark Throne style Black Metal has been very well received, from the aforementioned debut, the second full length Den Vandrende Skygge in 2016, 2017’s Eremittens Dal, and his last release Det Svarte Jav in 2019, Mork has always made quality Black Metal, is this fifth album a continuation of the pattern? The stakes may be a little higher with this album as Thomas is joined by several huge names from the Black Metal and Doom scene. Eriksen is sharing this album with Eero Pöyry of Skepticism, Dolk from Kampfar and Black Metal royalty and one of Mork’s biggest musical influences; Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone. Does Katedralen, which translates as cathedral, continue Mork’s habit of making really good orthodox Black Metal? Well, yes and no. No, as on this album Mork seems to be moving away from the strict orthodox Black Metal template that he has used so far in his career. Yes, as this is probably the best album that Mork has produced.

The album opens with Dødsmarsjen which initially conforms to Morks usual style of blasting Orthodox Black Metal, however after this initial part the song goes into a much looser style of riffing that has a definite Punk feel to it. The Orthodox style returns in the second half of the song, but the change in style has been clearly signalled in the opening song. Svartmalt starts in a slow, brooding and relentless way before going into a section of melodic Black Metal that again has a looser feel than we have come to expect from Mork.

Third track Arv is probably the most interesting track on the album. The track is slow and brooding, it builds to a mid-paced rock feel. This track has a much more alternative feel to it, the vocals are less harsh, and during the chorus have a layered gang style. This track is closer to Noise Rock than Black Metal, possibly Blackened Noise Rock but definitely an interesting development. Next comes Evig Intens Smerte with a return of high speed savagery. Although as with the rest of the album, this is not High speed Black Metal as we have come to expect it; there is a punky, looser feel to the velocity. The track also has a mid-paced chorus and a section that is slow and brooding before returning to the punky high speed riffing.

Det Siste Gode I Meg is slow, unrelenting and expansive, the second half of the track is discordant, harsh and builds to a huge ending. Født Til Å Herske is mid-paced punky Black Metal, it has a driving and powerful chorus, and has a fast and frenetic second half. Lysbæreren is slow and relentless initially before going into a riff that sounds very traditional metal. The vocals are still harsh, but that main riff feels very influenced by eighties metal. The track speeds up for a high speed ending, but still has a NWOBHM feel to the Black Metal. The album comes to an end with the song De Fortapte Sjelers Katedral, which for the first half feels like savage Orthodox Black Metal from the early nineties. The song moves towards a more melodic sound when the vocals come in. The song has a very dissonant section which signals a looser feel which is melodic and expansive. The song and the album is fittingly brought to an end with a church organ.

Katedralen is a great album. It has moved away from the Orthodox Black Metal sound Mork is known for, and it is this move that makes this such a good album. Letting the template of savage old school Black Metal to loosen and not constrain this album has allowed his creativity to soar. The added dissonance, the looser, punky feel really permits the album to fly. This is an absolutely fantastic piece of Punky, dissonant Black Metal that has much more depth than simply repeating the successes of the early nineties Norwegian scene. Mork has now transcended the Dark Throne style of Orthodox Black Metal, and is creating music that will be just as inspiring to other musicians as the music that inspired Mork. 9 /10

Toby Jepson – Viewfinder (Jepsongs Recordings) [Paul Hutchings]

Think Toby Jepson and what comes to mind? Frontman of Little Angels is usually the first response. Then you may think of Wayward Sons. Those who listen to Planet Rock will also know him as presenter of his Sunday evening show. There’s a lot more to the man. He’s a producer, actor, as well as critic and vocalist with many other bands including Fastway and Gun.

Viewfinder is a compilation of 20 songs, 16 of which are a retrospective of his solo work along with four unreleased bonus songs. The album is a demonstration of the variation in style that Jepson has produced in his career. The album opens with the heads down rocker Better Off Dead which has a no-nonsense approach and is well placed to catch the casual listener. The thick Hammond organ dominated Dear Mama with its bluesy flavour is poles apart, a semi-acoustic song that echoes a different era of writing. Forgiveness takes things down a notch further, a gentle, emotional song that contrasts with the raucous Happy Ever After that follows. Then you have the subtle and calming Crush, or the piano driven ballad Just No Way. Much of Jepson’s work does seem to favour the measured approach.

Jepson’s song writing has always been versatile, and this album pulls together his various styles nicely. No song is the same and that’s probably one of the main points to make. In his 30+ years as an artist, Jepson has stuck within the hard rock scene, gaining deserved plaudits for his longevity and never say die attitude. For me, it’s his driving, fist in the air rockers that work best but his ability to pen a decent ballad or acoustic song as well as a tub-thumping power track shows that his arsenal isn’t limited to one approach. He rarely pushes the four-minute barrier, most songs tucked under four minutes. Laced with hooks and melody, there’s plenty to enjoy here. For the Jepson fan, Viewfinder is a must have. For the casual listener, it’s a decent introduction to one of the UK classic rock scene’s favourite sons. 7/10

Dvne - Etemen Ænka (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

No this is a high concept release! Dvne take their name from cult Sci-Fi novel Dune by Frank Herbert (soon to be released as a film again, this time hopefully better than the original with Sting), the science fiction references run throughout this deeply thought out second full length from this Edinburgh five piece. Described by some as progressive sludge stoner metal, I would say this is a little too restrictive as Dvne have a style that encompasses a galaxy of musical styles, veering between riffs as dense as a black hole, twinkling melodies that are born in the stars but also an Earthbound technicality of intense musicianship. Imagine Mastodon if they were full of theoretical physicists, dropping acid and playing Neurosis songs with Steven Wilson, that's the style of Etemen Ænka

This record as I have said is the band's second and it builds upon their debut, making a decision to include more synths and keys increasing the prog factor by doing while also bringing a very otherworldly sound that the band lent to their sci-fi metal assault. They have also increased the usage of clean vocals even bringing in Lissa Robertson for more variation. It's so difficult to pick out individual songs on this album, due to it's conceptual nature and themes that deal with Babylonian creation myths, Gilgamesh, Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds and Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan. Very literary but also very personally relevant to the times we live the experimental, aggressive, progressive sound of this record. 

A track like Towers is evocative of Dvne's soundscapes shifting numerous times across it's nine minute run time. But this is just part of the Dvne experience, this is the sort of album you have to lose yourself in, a musical experience from the opening moments, it begs to be played in its entirety every time, as if you pick and choose you would lose the potency of the music. A throbbing, twisting, conceptual, progressive, near masterpiece, I seriously doubt you will listen to an album like Etemen Ænka this year. Utterly mesmerising! 9/10

Depths Of Hatred - Inheritance (Prosthetic Records) [Richard Oliver]

Inheritance is the third album from Canadian deathcore band Depths Of Hatred. Yes there is the dreaded word - deathcore. I’ve been quite vocal on my dislike of deathcore but Depths Of Hatred have produced a deathcore album here that I can say I actually liked and at times even enjoyed! I think the key factors that helped my enjoyment and appreciation of this album are that Depths Of Hatred have a sound that leans far more towards a technical death metal and progressive sound rather than straight up deathcore. There is a great use of melody throughout especially in the lead guitar parts and the guitar work throughout is of an extremely high quality. There is also a heavy use of keyboards that lend a blackened atmosphere to the music. Adding to all that is a great vocal performance from William Arseneau who makes his recording debut with the band and impresses with a mix of fantastic clean vocals as well as ferocious roars and growls. 

Whilst there are the atypical chugs and breakdowns associated with deathcore, they are used sparingly and when used they actually work within the context of the music and the song rather than sounding like a forced bit of brutality. The first half of the album is definitely the strongest with highlights such as Sadistic Trials and Fastidious Imitation as there is a bit of a drop off in quality in the middle. It does pick up towards the end of the album though finishing with a strong pair of songs in The End Of Ourselves and Emerging As One. Depths Of Hatred have impressed me here producing a deathcore album that I can stomach and appreciate. It does suffer a bit with a bit of a lull in quality and the album can be quite samey at times with some songs failing to stand out from each other but overall this album is a good one. Although it doesn’t have me wanting to explore any more deathcore bands I can appreciate that this maligned sub genre of metal can sounds good when it wants to. 7/10

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