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Wednesday 31 March 2021

Reviews: Wythersake, Trope, Odd Dimension, Maverick (Reviews By Richard Oliver & Simon Black)

Wythersake - Antiquity (Scarlet Records) [Richard Oliver]

Washington D.C. symphonic blackened death metallers Wythersake strike hard and fast with their debut album Antiquity. There seems to be a growing movement of bands mixing majestic symphonic sounds with extreme metal and this has my full seal of approval as this meeting of two worlds works so well to my ears. Wythersake are a welcome addition to this movement and Antiquity is an incredibly accomplished and stunning debut release. Although billed as symphonic blackened death metal and those being key components of Wythersake’s sound, there is a lot more going on here from progressive metal complexities, gothic metal atmosphere and melodic death metal hooks. All these elements are combined together in a very pleasing and cohesive form. 

The album starts with the chunky death metal leaning intro Prediluvian before the blackened death assault of the title track. From the start there is an epic feel and a tasty use of melody throughout before the symphonic elements come to the fore in The Advent. Whilst these tracks are very good the album really comes to life from the title track onwards. The scale and grandeur really burst forth and the melodic death metal elements to the sound really are pushed to the forefront. The centrepiece of the album and its finest moment is the absolutely stunning Through Ritual We Manifest which although the longest song on the album feels far shorter than it actually is due to some killer songwriting and absolutely phenomenal musicianship especially from drummer Daniel Salamanca who performs some absolutely insane blast-beats whilst the guitar work from Gabriel Luis and James Siegrist is slick as hell. 

Gabriel Luis is also the vocalist for the band and he performs with a number of styles from death metal gutturals, blackened screams and baritone gothic cleans, His clean vocal style isn’t the strongest but neither does it distract from the phenomenal music on offer. Other album highlights include Feast Upon The Seraph Within and album closer My Profane Goddess. Wythersake have a beast on a debut album here. This sounds far more accomplished and mature than a debut album and this is down to both songwriting and musicianship both of which are at an exceptional level. Wythersake manage to juggle the symphonic grandiosity and the metal aggressiveness and maintain a healthy balance between the two. I am seriously impressed with Antiquity and cannot wait to hear more from this band. 9/10

Trope – Eleutheromania (Beats Mee Records) [Simon Black]

Trope are an Alternative Progressive Rock band from Hollywood in California. Yes, you read that right – they come from the same place as Guns’N’Roses and Motley Crüe, despite sounding like a musical side-genre borne in a student bedsit somewhere in the vicinity of Slough, UK in 1991. The name of the album and it’s humorous nod to Pink Floyd’s Animals cover conjures up similar feelings and when by the time (as an English Graduate - oh the shame) I as forced to go and look up the meaning of ‘Eleutheromania’, then the old ‘pretentious album title’ bell was clanging like the introduction to Hell’s Bells (it means a mania or frantic zeal for freedom” apparently). I could not have been more wrong with my stereotypical journalist reactions however, as this album was a positive delight on the ears. 

Musically it’s exactly the sort of combination that I found myself searching for in the 1990’s, when you came across an Alternative act and wondered what they would be like if the playing was way more technical and progressive, the mood darker and the sound heavier – which is precisely what Trope deliver. The production is really strong and mature, perhaps unsurprisingly when you have Mike Fraser at the helm (which is quite an achievement on your debut album), but then this is an act that despite having been fermenting on the pot for a few years have also managed to make a few waves. This album has been gestating for a while and consequently the ten tracks selected are focused, to the point and a great example of their song-writing prowess. There is also an impressively heavy version of Tears For Fears' Shout on there, which should help people do the all essential double take needed to bring in a new audience. 

Musically the songs are hypnotic in their more moody guitar picking style and like many alternative acts, are not afraid to keep the semi-acoustic sounds equally strong in the mix alongside the power-driven guitar sounds. Add to that a down-tuned bass and very deep heavy sound that would not be out of place in a full on Metal band. When they do turn on that guitar overdrive, it’s deep, rich and can be as heavy as a brass elephant in places. Add to this Diana Studenberg’s haunting and equally hypnotic voice, which despite the low down and dirty instrumental feel manages to sound both dusky and high enough to take the song into unexpected corners when you least expect it. What you get is a sound that is a unique fusion of influences in a rich warm and effective sound mix – as disconcerting as that first time you heard Soundgarden, but darker, moodier and richer. This is an incredibly promising debut and a band that really sound like they are going to cross the aisles in a whole bunch of musical fan bases. 8/10

Odd Dimension - The Blue Dawn (Scarlet Records) [Richard Oliver]

The Blue Dawn is the third album from Italian progressive metal band Odd Dimension. They are not a band that I have previously heard of but they are certainly an ambitious one with an album that is cinematic in scale with guest vocalists, guest musicians and an overarching science fiction concept with a story of two space travellers stranded on a new planet called 'The Blue Planet'.

The Blue Dawn is the first album by the band since 2013 and sees the addition of a new drummer Marco Lazzarini and new vocalist Jan Manenti to the line up. Both put in impressive performances with powerhouse drumming from Marco and melodic yet gritty vocals from Jan. The music itself is in a classic melodic progressive metal style akin to bands such as Queensryche, Fates Warning and Dream Theater but there is also some melodic hard rock influences prevalent throughout as well. The songs are all pleasant and melodic sounding but there is little in the way of dynamics. It is quite a safe sounding bunch of songs though there are highlights such as the driving Life Creators, the highly melodic Sands Of Yazukia and the relaxed feel of Escape To Blue Planet. Some of the songs especially the lengthier ones simply do not have the strength of material to justify the song lengths with songs such as the title track and The Supreme Being feeling like they could have been trimmed somewhat.

Odd Dimension channel that classic prog metal sound to good effect but The Blue Dawn is a fairly safe and uninspiring album that lacks a lot of dynamics. Although it all sounds very pleasant, apart from the aforementioned few songs it works well as background music and not much else. Not a terrible album by any means but just a very placid one. 6/10

Maverick – Ethereality (Metalapolis Records) [Simon Black]

For a band trading in a sound that’s essentially about 35 years old, Maverick have done remarkably well. This Belfast based Hard Rock five piece have worked hard, churning out an album a year since 2017 and getting on the right support and festival slots for the audience they need, which let’s face it is not what it was in 1985. And I cannot fault them for that, as old fashioned Hard Rock with that slightly Hair Metal feel may not be novel, but when delivered well can be timeless. I’m not familiar with the rest of their back catalogue yet, but this has the feel of an album that would have been shifting like hot cakes when I was a teenager back then.

The ten tracks take up a modest thirty-eight minutes of run time, but then I prefer it when an act is to the point and doesn’t pad their records out for the sake of it. Consequently you have a record that is short, but focussed and consistently crafted. The production sound is of the ‘rich fat retro meets Pro-Tools’ camp and straddles the decades well, as it’s always refreshing when a band can keep their output this prolific whilst retaining the energy and freshness of a new act. The tracks are in the main punchy and to the point and apart from some 80’s elevator music keyboard parts on a couple of tracks sound fresh, lively and overall it’s got a good heavy sound given the major tuning.

The Last One is the only ballad, and a bit soppy and dated to be honest, but otherwise high tempo delivery is the order of the day. The guitar work is not over the top and too flashy, which would be intrusive in this sort of act, but there is some fairly nifty footwork going on from new drummer Jason-Steve Mageney and co-founder David Balfour’s soaring vocals are solid, clear and hold the attention well. The mix of catchy melodic songs, clean but raw vocals and hard and heavy rhythm section works really well, and apart from that one ballad is an enjoyable ride with a really consistent and high quality of writing and delivery that rather cheered me up after a difficult week. 8/10

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