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Monday 8 March 2021

Reviews: Witherfall, Sepulcros, Recall The Remains, Brazen Bull (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Paul Scoble, Paul Hutchings & Simon Black)

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn (Century Media Records) [Matt Bladen]

Both previous Witherfall albums have scored an 8 and a 9 respectively in these pages sop to say this third record was anticipated would be an understatement. The band formed by vocalist Joseph Michael (Midnight Rain, Sanctuary, ex-White Wizzard) and Jake Dreyer (ex-Iced Earth, Ex-White Wizzard) have gone from strength to strength on every album they have released skilfully negotiating every nuance of the US heavy power/prog metal sound, previous record have encapsulated Iced Earth, Mercyful Fate, Sanctuary and Symphony X but on this third release the Warrel Dane/Jeff Loomis influence is much bigger, probably due to Michael fronting Sanctuary his voice is pretty much a dead ringer for the much missed Dane, with Dreyer as his guitarist foil. Since the previous record Dreyer has become the solitary six stringer with Anthony Crawford still on bass (of various string number) and they also have new drummer for this release the incredible Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, Joe Satriani, The Aristocrats). His background in prog definitely fits with the huge Nevermore influence this album has, his percussive skills allows the darker edged songs to breathe a little, Crawford adding some flourishes see Another Face but he also knows when to put the hammer down and lock in with Crawford for grooves, Dreyer riffing with aggression and soloing like his hands are on fire.

The record was mixed by Jim Morris and mastered by Tom Morris at Morrisound Studios while it was produced by Dreyer’s ex-employer (who shall not be named for legal reasons). The music itself is some of the best the band have written, progressive and heavy throughout, it’s also their longest with couple of shorter pieces to keep the atmosphere between the tracks. The album is inspired by rage (the blood red cover is an indicator) making this the most personal record yet. As far as songs go, As I Lie Awake has a darker power metal sound that shifts between time signatures easily, there’s a venomous sense of brooding to the whole album with the songs carefully constructed to shift between melodic slower passages and outright ferocity. The Last Scar and Another Side Of Fear are the exact sort of thing you’d want from Witherfall. Then if you add to that epics such as ...and They All Blew Away and Tempest (who has a jazz break to die for) you get an almost perfect American prog/power metal future classic. With Nevermore and Iced Earth now just remnants bands like Witherfall carry that flame for intelligent, complex, heavy metal. 9/10

Sepulcros - Vasio (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul Scoble]

Based in Portugal Sepulcros are only on their first album, but have clearly hit the ground running, or maybe that should be hit the ground crawling as the five piece play a monolithically slow and heavy style of Death/Doom. The band made up of SB on Vocals, NZ (also of Summon, Viles Vitae, Abominamentum) on Guitars, RT on Guitars, AH (also of Candura, Summon) on Bass and JS (also of Summon) on Drums, might not have full names, but they have managed to pull of a fantastic piece of huge and colossally heavy metal. 

The album features six tracks, the first and last tracks are a short intro and a similar outro featuring chants, chains and ethereal moans and other creepy noises. The actual music is in four much longer tracks, firstly the title track Vasio which opens with a massively dense and impenetrable doom riff. The sound is incredibly thick, heavy and opaque, this sounds like metal made under huge pressure as if it was recorded at the bottom of the Marianas Trench or at the heart of a Neutron Star. The pacing is slow and lurching and the vocals are harsh and guttural. There is a mournful quality to the slower parts, as if this was music for the funeral of a continent. In its second half the track then gives the listener a bit of a surprise as it heads into a super fast and frenetic blast beat section, clearly providing the Death in the Death/Doom. The blasts on this album are almost ridiculously fast and savage, this is an album that doesn’t really have middle gears; it’s either as slow as continental drift or its insanely fast blasting.

Second track Marcha Funebre is much more dissonant than the track that came before it. It’s less straightforward, the dissonance adds an unhealthy, sickening quality that reminds me of Australian band Obed Marsh. Marcha Funebre also has savage blasting, but on this track the fast sections are shorter. Next track Magno Caos has the Ultra Slow / Ultra Fast structure that the other two tracks have, but the main riffs on Magno Caos feel hypnotic and dreamlike, ok it would have to be a nightmare, but dreamlike nonetheless. The final of the main four long songs is Hecatombe. Hecatombe takes a long time to build, once the track gets going it is minimal with just drums and bass. This minimal feel helps to make the huge riff even huger when it does drop. 

The slow parts of the track have a tempo that, although not particularly fast, feel unstoppable and relentless. The intensity of the slow riff increases until the song drops the listener into a maelstrom of blasting savagery. The slow returns, and this time it’s brought some dissonance and nastiness with it, again this builds to a blast beat before the song slowly drifts off. Vasio is a massive, abyssal piece of Death/Doom. The album feels immense, dense and savage by mixing ultra slow and heavy with ultra fast and nasty to great effect. The pacing; of the songs themselves and the album as a whole, is brilliantly realised, and helps the transitions between the two very disparate pacing’s to happen without it feeling jarring or unnatural. This would be a very impressive album for a band that has been going for a while, for a debut album, this is massively impressive, with the emphasis on Massive. 8/10

Recall The Remains – Dead Dreams (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Taking the influences of artists such as Trivium, Thy Art is Murder, Whitechapel and Bleed from Within, this five-track EP from Midlands outfit Recall The Remains is going to strike the right chord with those who enjoy the combination of metalcore and thrash. It’s a short, sharp 19 minutes which contains plenty of savage riffs, contrasting screaming and clean vocals and some neat harmonies on the choruses. Plenty of unorthodox time changes, all uncomfortable angular diversions and a pulsing groove that should incite pits if ever played live. Opener Darker Path provides a solid introduction, whilst the jagged riffage of Deadlines works well. First Inversion rages with emotion and demonstrates some competent guitar work. Dead Dreams has a modern feel and combines several styles which complement each other. Whether the band have the necessary quality to stand above the crowded field is open to debate, but this is a solid release which will deservedly gain ample attention. 7/10

Brazen Bull – Brazen Bull (Self Released) [Simon Black]

For those not familiar with ancient Greek or Roman torture devices, the semi-mythical brazen bull was a full size Bronze statue into the belly of which a hapless victim would be inserted and under which fire would be lit until the roasting process was completed, oh and its first victim was apparently its inventor… Just to make it that little bit more grim, a victim’s screams were apparently channelled through a series of pipes built into the bulls nostrils, to entertain the torturer. Fortunately listening to this record is definitely not a similar experience.

This incarnation of a Brazen Bull is in fact a youthful five piece hailing from Bury St. Edmunds in the UK are a Hard Rock band with a vein of NWOBHM running through the middle of it, but with an almost 90’s Alt-Rock flavour to it in places, particularly in terms of Alex Martinez’ vocal style. His voice is in the main held back and comfortably melodic in style, but there are moments when he lets rip and totally holds your attention. The Boy And The Dancer is a great example of this and probably the strongest track on the record to boot – an anthemic ballad with a cracking melody line and an unexpected bit of galloping pace in the middle eight to take it to a rocking conclusion. The galloping part crops up a few times on this disk and that’s really where the NWOBHM references are their strongest, as each time they do it I’m strongly reminded of the key time change in the middle of the lengthy instrumental section of Maiden’s Phantom Of The Opera, but that’s OK, it’s one of my favourite bits too. 

That track closes the album, is by far the lengthiest track there at nearly seven and a half minutes of run time and is quite distinct from the rest of the album. Elsewhere a swathe of fast-paced energetic tunes are the order of the day, with lots of solid rhythm focussed riffage and a really tight instrumental back line that really does work as a cohesive whole. The only negative is despite the pace, there is no obvious ‘punch the sky’ anthem there, but hey, it’s early days and they are very young. With that kind of tightness on display from the get go, punchy song-writing (so often the product of experience) is sure to follow. It’s got energy, it’s got a great vibe and sound and it’s a portent of great things to come. 7/10

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