Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 30 April 2021

Reviews: Gary Moore, Alchemia, Mister Misery, Off The Cross (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Richard Oliver, Liam True & Simon Black)

Gary Moore - How Blue Can You Get (Provogue Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s been ten years since the guitar virtuoso that is Gary Moore passed away. And yet, there seems to have been a relentless plundering of the man’s archives over the past decade. How Blue Can You Get is the latest in the list of releases and contains eight songs which are apparently previously unheard and unreleased.

Moore’s guitar playing is undisputed. His soulful blues style graced Thin Lizzy, Skid Row, Colosseum II as well as an exceptional solo career which saw his music range from hard rock through to the easier blues style that he excelled at. How Blue Can You Get features eight tracks. It opens with a storming version of Freddie King’s I’m Torn Down before the well-known Memphis Slim song Steppin’ Out gets the Moore treatment. The inevitable ballad which formed a substantial part of Moore’s catalogue arrives in the form of In My Dreams, which is a hybrid of Still Got The Blues and Parisienne Walkways, Moore’s signature melancholic guitar singing beautifully throughout.

More covers are included with BB King’s How Blue Can You Get forming the central pillar of the album, with the seven-minute meandering work out sure to be a treat for those Blues aficionados. Elsewhere Moore shows his chops with a funked-up version of Elmore James’ Done Somebody Wrong, and there are a couple of other sweet explorations in the shape of Looking At Your Picture, and the closing tenderness of Living With The Blues. If you are a fan of the man, then this may be an essential purchase. For those with a mere passing interest, then a quick listen on Spotify is probably sufficient. Either way, there is no doubting the quality. It just feels a bit more plundering of a vault that surely is reaching empty. 8/10

Alchemia - Inception (Wormholedeath Records) [Richard Oliver]

Inception is the debut album from Brazilian ‘horror metal’ band Alchemia. The band was formed in 2018 by multi-instrumentalist Victor Hugo Pilroja (vocals) and completed by Rodrigo Maciel (guitar), FIFAS (bass), Alex Cristopher (drums) and Wally D’Alessandro (keyboards). Alchemia have a number of influences on Inception taking elements of extreme metal, gothic metal and symphonic metal as well as influences from more contemporary forms of metal and much more. With this cornucopia of different influences abound it means that the album contains a varied bunch of songs from the pop metal leanings of Haunting You and the industrial groove metal of Ashes and If Nothing Is Sacred to highlights such as the melodic and symphonic sweep of Save Us, Mind Prison and Secret Call

These myriad of styles are reflected in the various vocal styles employed by Victor who goes through a huge vocal range from screams, shrieks, growls as well as a huge range of different clean vocal styles. The guitar work is very solid though there is an overuse on heavily downtuned groove metal or metalcore style riffs. Whilst these style of riffs aren’t to my personal taste they are utilized well with the symphonic and gothic horror elements though maybe slightly over-utilized. It would have been good to hear some classic metal, death metal and black metal riffing styles incorporated. 

 The songs that stand out the most are the ones which greatly use the symphonic elements (which were arranged and expanded by British composer Jon Phipps) with Save Us especially being a huge stand out track. Alchemia whilst missing the mark on a few things certainly prove they have great potential on this debut album and it will be interesting to see where they take their sound next. 7/10

Mister Misery – A Brighter Side Of Death (Arising Empire) [Liam True]

Beginning their sleazy horror-laden blend of rocking anthems and frantic metal head-bangers in some style. Mister Misery tear their way out of the dirt like a reanimated Return Of The Living Dead corpse with Ballad Of The Headless Horseman. Gigantic hooks, galloping riffs and a chorus that is such a sing-along, it’s a very exciting start. With both feet firmly planted in the modern metal side of things, the twisted beings continue their march to world domination with Buried, Mister Hyde and Burn. Grandiosity that makes every moment feel like it belongs in a stadium. Chuggy heaviness, energetic effects and gothic-tinged atmosphere, and of course, gleefully fun choruses. All covered in the sticky residue of tongue in cheek horror vibes.

Talking of tongue in cheek horror vibes though, check out Devil In Me. The horror melody, kicking into a thumping guitar groove and punchy drum beat, the roaring death-focused vocals doing battle with the clean singing. The playful energy of this track, it is startlingly clever and impressively addictive. How do you achieve world domination in modern rock and metal? By appealing to the mainstream music crowd. Which Mister Misery certainly will, meaning they’re also likely to piss of a ton of so called ‘metal purists’ but even that lot will be hard pressed to not admit to enjoying some of what is here. For example, the racing riff work of I’ll Never Be Yours has a thrashy edge and it would take a stubborn fool to ignore this chorus. Though Under The Moonlight is where you’re reminded of just how gleefully evil and twisted Mister Misery can be. Another hit amongst an album filled with them.

Any thoughts that sustaining this high level of energetic metal catchiness is a task too much for this band have no idea who they’re dealing with. Mister Misery are revelling in their horror shenanigans and with In Forever (love the guitar solo), Clown Prince Of Hell (so bloody twisted but also so bloody heavy), We Don’t Belong (head-banging gold with riffs to die for) and Home (a rocking foot-rapper that keeps the smile plastered over the face), they prove they’re the next big thing.

It’s down to to Through Hell to end things in style and holy hell, does it. A sprawling epic that has some of the wildest riffs and the most hellaciously heavy beats of the album. A dramatic finale even with the orchestral version of Ballad Of The Headless Horseman as the actual final track. 7/10

Off The Cross – Enjoy It While It Lasts (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Those of you that read my unintelligible dribblings on here regularly may have spotted that in the main I tend to prefer bands with a more predominantly clean vocal style, on the grounds that I generally like to be able to understand the lyrics someone has taken the trouble to write, so when I occasionally extend my reach to the more extreme stylistically, the Editor (bless his Millennial socks) normally raises his hands to the sky and cries some appropriate epithet regarding my lack of open mindedness the rest of the time. So why do Off The Cross appeal to me?

Well, I’ve been aware of the Belgian Melodic Metalcore four piece’s name for a while, due to the enthusiastic ravings of some of my fellow Metal heads, but have to confess that this is the first time I’ve properly had the chance to listen to them. First off, they are mass of contradictions that should not work together, but absolutely do. The music is both raw and uncannily polished. It’s fresh and spontaneous, but technically structured and incredibly proficient with it to boot. Neither does it stray into the overtly showy territory that some bands choose, retaining instead some simple, melodic hooks to keep you engaged despite the brutality of the delivery. And when those melodic hooks include a verging on the Hammond organ sound to go alongside the disconcerting (but importantly intelligible) death growls of frontman Daan Swinnen - starting with the opener Masks, whose riff sounds like it owes as much to White Stripes as anyone else, then you realise that things may get a little disconcerting from here on in.

This approach keeps it up throughout, and none more blatantly than on the frankly brilliant single This Too Shall Pass, with its funeral opening, delicate Symphonic keyboards layering and the superb guest turn from Eluveitie/Illumishade’s Fabienne Erni, before building to the concrete elephant heaviness that you would expect. It’s an unexpected turn in an album of superbly produced hook laden melodic brutality and by this point in the album I am utterly hooked. Frankly I was pleasantly blown away in that nice and completely unexpected way that is the reason I do this gig in the first place. You know that’s a positive experience when I find myself listening a fair few times despite the mounting pile of stuff to review, because I want to do it justice. 8/10

Thursday 29 April 2021

Reviews: Evile, Plasmodium, Bongzilla/Tons, Crypts Of Despair (Paul Hutchings, Paul Scoble, JT Smith & Matt Bladen)

Evile – Hell Unleashed (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The arrival of Evile’s fifth long player has prompted renewed excitement amongst the UK thrash fraternity. The Huddersfield four-piece have to my mind, failed to push on to the position that they should be: The UK’s best thrash band. Instead, line-up changes, tragedy, inconsistency, and real life have all impeded the impetus that should have been like a steam train after their debut album, Enter The Grave in 2007. Album number four, the solid Skull was release in 2013 and since that date, Evile have floundered as established outfits such as Acid Reign, Onslaught, Xentrix, Sylosis alongside a whole host of the latest wave of UK thrash bands have roared past them on the grid. Skull wasn’t the band’s best release but the line-up which took part was solid with Matt Drake on vocals and rhythm guitar, Ol Drake on lead guitar, Ben Carter on drums and Joel Graham on bass. 

With Ol Drake having left and then returned, it was revealed in August 2020 that Matt has left the band some time before, with RipTide’s Adam Smith joining on rhythm guitar. What most Evile fans wanted was new material and at long last, it’s here in the shape of Hell Unleased. The sheer velocity with which Hell Unleashed opens initially suggests good things. Evile sound dark, gnarly, and full of power. Paralysed is fast, feisty and with an underlying groove. Ol Drake’s snarling, gruff delivery brings a new dimension vocally, undeniably channelling Arise era Sepultura with the chopping changes in tempo work well. The crushing chugging intro of Gore provides a mere pause before the thrashing recommences, on a song that echoes the ghosts of Evile’s past. There’s a sense of urgency here, the pace frenetic and determined, and is notable for the inclusion of Brian Posehn on backing vocals.

Incarcerated is next, all muscular shapes and straining sinews, and a change of formula with a punishing stomping chug that demands pit action. Drake’s fingers take centre stage with a blistering solo before a slower, thick riff dominated ending. But three songs in and its decent stuff yet it really isn’t setting the world on fire and there are questions in my mind about the vocals. Ol Drake has admitted that he reluctantly took on the vocal role when his brother left, as the music was already written. Now, there isn’t anything particularly wrong with the delivery, it’s just a bit monotonous and one-dimension. Drake has admitted on-going vocal lessons which should help translate these songs into the live arena, should we ever be allowed near a music venue again. War of Attrition is one of the weaker tracks and whilst it is by no means bad, Drake’s skills lie in the fretboard as his guitar work is impressive. 

Disorder, with its punky feel works better with some neat guitar work and melody brightening the darkening feel of the album whilst The Thing (1982) is a sonically abusive beast and blends the best of the band in five fiery minutes. Zombie Apocalypse is your throw away track, 2:30 and a bloody maelstrom of thrash metal which switches from balls out relentless power to a riff laden battery, despite Drake’s rather mundane vocal delivery. There’s plenty to enjoy, from the lacerating guitar peels to the thunderous and watertight rhythm section of Ben Carter and bassist Joel Graham. This leads to the final duo, the stomping Control from Above and the savagery of the title track. Neither are bad at all, and yet I’m not itching to hit repeat, which for me is the mark of a classic. I’m sure that when the vinyl arrives, and I’ve given it more spins Drake’s vocals will grow on me. But for now, I’m struggling. It’s big, it’s bombastic. We can hope that it’s also a grower. I certainly hope so. 7/10

Plasmodium - Towers Of Silence (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Paul Scoble]

Plasmodium (the band Plasmodium, a Plasmodium is also the name of the unicellular protozoan parasite that causes Malaria, which is what I discovered when I googled the bands name without the suffix of ‘Band’) are an Australian based band that like making very nasty noises. The band have gone for using pseudonyms for names and have also used pseudonyms for what each member plays as well. Due to this I can tell you that Demoninacht plays Limbic Chaos, but as Demoninacht plays in a lot of other bands I can make an educated guess that Limbic Chaos is Drums. The other members are Aretstikapha on Invocations (Vocals?), Nocentor on Reverberations (Bass?), Yen Pox on Spiteful Whirlwind Generation (possibly Lead Guitar, which is an important aspect of this album, so if Spiteful Whirlwind Generation is Lead Guitar, then Yen Pox has added some really special elements to this piece of work), and Fuath on Disembodiment (to be honest I haven’t a clue what this one is, but by a process of elimination Disembodiment is probably Rhythm Guitar). The band have been together since 2016, and have released one album before Towers Of Silence released the same year they formed, called Entheognosis.

I mentioned very nasty noises earlier, and this is because Plasmodium play a fairly unique style of Black/Death, the staggeringly extreme amalgam of Black Metal, Death Metal with a little bit of Grindcore thrown in for good measure. So this is an unbelievably nasty and extreme beast, horrible riffs played with vile tones and at an almost ridiculously fast rate. The drumming has to be heard to be believed, it’s intricate, complex and as regular as the pulse of the universe; Demoninacht has really excelled himself. The first half of the track Pseudocidal has a section with only drums, atmospherics and vocals, the drumming is so impressive, blasting fast and so complex. I mentioned Atmospherics, this album uses some very interesting soundscape type sections that are dissonant, spooky and sci fi in equal measure, they open several of the tracks, the aforementioned Pseudocidal, and they play an important part in the track Vertexginous, which I will come back to later.

Another important aspect of this album is the lead guitar work, which I think Yen Pox is responsible for. In almost all of the sections of fast, blasting and savage Black/Death sections have screaming atonal soloing over the top of them. This is a similar style of soloing to early Slayer, thousands of notes swirling in insane chaos. This constant tumult is disorienting and makes the listener feel out of control, plunged into the maelstrom of insane blasting and shrieking guitars. This is probably most apparent on the first track ParaMantra, probably as thats the first time you hear it. There is a similarity with some of Ævangelist’s recent work which has a solo guitar over a lot of the material, however the way Ævangelist use it is more of an echoey, wailing style, rather than the insane atonal shredding on Towers Of Silence.

At times the riffing on the album feels a little bit Grindcore, it’s more a feeling than anything overt, but Churning and Translucinophobia definitely have that grinding feel for me. The vocals are very impressive as well, Aretstikapha (if Invocations really are vocals) can do snarling Black Metal Vocals, Chanting, dense Death Metal vocals and on the track Translucinophobia, about 2 minutes from the end, is a series of horrific shrieks, starting high and then dropping rapidly in pitch. This brings in a nasty section after an atmospheric section, and is one of the more terrifying things I’ve found hiding on extreme metal albums.

The album ends with the track Vertexginous. Unlike the rest of the album this track is far more like a piece of industrial. It opens with nasty, brooding atmospherics, chanting which builds to anguished cries, this them morphs into a mid-paced industrial pulse, that is closer to Killing Joke than Revenge, although that crazy soloing is still there. There is a section of Spooky, Spacey atmospherics before a short blast of insanely fast Black/Death brings the song and the album to an end.

Towers Of Silence (which is an ironic title for such a noisy album) is a stunning piece of Black/Death the Atmospheric sections are really original, and give this an edge I’ve not heard before in this sort of savagery. I wouldn’t go so far to call this ‘Progressive’, but the Atmospherics coupled to the Insane Swirling Chaos of the constant soloing and the Industrial elements of the final track makes this feel like it has far more depth than other acts as extreme as Plasmodium. Most people who listen to this won’t get it, it’s too over the top, but if this level of pandemonium is something you can appreciate, you won’t find it done much better than this. 9/10

Bongzilla & Tons - Doom Sessions Vol 4 (Heavy Psych Sounds) [JT Smith]

Split EP’s can be a little hit and miss, but Bongzilla are a pretty big draw, as are TONS. So you’ve got super fuzzed out doom titans, and sludge metal heroes on the same record. I went into this with an open mind, and I was greeted with a record that delivered no real surprises, but no disappointments and no dead time.

Starting with Bongzilla on ‘Side A,’ all the downtuned, fuzzy doom is here. It’s thick slabs of aural punishment, heavier and more ponderous than Godzilla’s ballsack. Woolly tubthumping, all the fuzz, slow as hell, and strained sounding, creature like vocals. It’s Bongzilla alright, and it’s great. I felt like I was getting a contact high from it. There was a slight surprise in the song Cupcake, as it was almost… Poppy. Well. As poppy as Bongzilla get.

And then onto ‘Side B,’ and TONS… And whew! Bongzilla are nothing to be sniffed at, but TONS really pull it out of the bag here. Slightly tightening up that fuzzy sound, for a bit more clarity on the guitar and making the drums a little less LoFi sounding in production really gave this some OOMPH, as do the alternating, almost black metal shrieks and guttural death growls. Normally, when a band do a 3 song concepts, it can be a bit pretentious, but it really works here. Chronic Morning Obesity i,ii, and iii have enough dynamics to keep the same idea going without getting stale, and that’s an achievement. These are not short songs. Part iii is the catchiest, and really leans into the whole stoner vibe with sampled lists of clearly high as fuck food choices.

Impressive work, and a thoroughly enjoyable split. 8/10

Crypts Of Despair - All Light Swallowed (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Matt Bladen]

Pop quiz hot shot! Name another Lithuanian metal band? Harder than it looks unless you are permanently connected to Metal Archives but Crypts Of Despair hail from the Baltic state North East of Poland and they bring with them a follow up album of rampaging death metal that draw from the brutal violence of Anaal Nathrakh and Incantation but with some of the more gothic/black metal overtones of Belphegor. Ambience lingers in the air at the beginning of the The Great End before the double kicks, rumbling distortion and roared vocals, this track lets you witness what Crypts Of Despair do very well switching between ultra-fast riffs and low end grooves in the space of moments. Excruciating Weight adds to this dissonant ear piercing of this album. There style of death metal has been done by countless others but Crypts Of Despair are certainly keeping up the quest for death metal domination from Lithuania. All Light Swallowed sounds huge engorging you on every song like any good OSDM record should do. It is and album of undistilled death metal, brutal and breakneck. 7/10

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Reviews: Vreid, The Malefic Grip, Defeatist, Aphonic Threnody (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Vreid - Wild North West (Season Of Mist)

Norwegian band Vreid are a band who are pioneers of both the Black n Roll and anti-fascist black metal scene in their native country. Now I won't go into the anti-fascist part that much here as Paul Scoble would do it much more justice to it than me but, I can just say that Vreid have been crusading against the tumultuous history of black metal of Norway and they have always been a band that have been evolving with concepts running throughout their albums. On this ninth record they have brought to the masses a fully realised concept based around an entire movie, all of it stemming from bassist/founder Jarle Hváll Kvåle who said that this dark journey into the mountains is based around his own life but taken to theatrical lengths for effect. 

The entire project is massive in scope not just with this album but the creative media and filmography behind it, much of these melodies having been around since 2002 when Kvåle was in Windir with Terje ‘Valfar’ Bakken, whose death was the end of Windir but the beginning of Vreid. Valfar's keyboard demos have been fully realised on the song Into The Mountains adding a some history to this record for long time followers of the band. So then what of Wild North West, well it's once again got a fully panoramic scope of Vreid's musical menagerie, the black n roll sound at it's nastiness on the opening title track, taking your mind to the L.G Petrov and co at their most aggressive. 

It's aggression that fills this dark concept as the blistering Wolves At Sea keeps the vicious pace of the record the dissonant riffs and blast beats balanced with melodic keys, The Morning Red is doomier while Shadows Of Aurora ups the thrash quotient before we go back into vicious black metal with Spikes Of God. At 49 minutes Wild North West makes the most of its time on your stereo, taking away from the extreme metal sound with Dazed And Reduced which actually sounds like Ghost as we get the black n roll sound back for the Into The Mountains a short blast of violence before the nine minute gothic organ drenched Shadowland a fitting finale for this album. Those who are aware of Vreid, or have seen one of their numerous live shows, or have bought their sold out first run of beer from Balder Brewery will be well aware of Vreid's influence, but one listen to Wild North West you understand why they are held in high regard. 7/10    

The Malefic Grip - Yesterdays Problems, Today (Self Released)

Bristol based rage slingers The Malefic Grip are a band that if you are familiar with, will have you getting a little nervous about before you press play. Their rage-filled rants about the world today are punctuated by sludgy, window rattling riffs and powered by lots of cider, all without having an official drummer as a member. The Malefic Grip were starting to gain steam when their drummer decided to part, leaving just Liam (screaming, bass, additional things) and Helen (guitar, additional screaming), both of Levitas, stuck in a lockdown world, trying to avoid the never-ending cycle of media shitstorms and political/social and moral corruption it's all entailed. 

This proved to be the perfect fuel for their fire and with writing sessions throughout 2020, Yesterdays Problems, Today, the band's debut album, emerged from the sound desk helicoptering it's arms while the waiting world kicked the air, both knowing that if they get hurt it's their own fault. The band state influences such as Iron Monkey, Goatsnake, Mudhoney, Monster Magnet and The Melvins, the latter most noticeable in their sarcastic wordplay and their complete refusal to commit to any genre tag other than that of noise for noise's sake. 

Colossal, cavernous fuzzing riffs often shift into single note points of dissonance, slabs of acid-fuelled doom crush anything in their path (Malvoid/A Neglectful Throne) before you're thrown into a tornado of punk rock violence (Incel Jesus). Now there are drums here (probably supplied by the late Mr Jobs), but when you've got a bass so low it can be used to summon earthworms and a guitar that is fuzzier than Pomeranian but has more bite than a Mastiff, the lack of a drummer doesn't affect things too much (don't mail me hate drummers). A raging, often woozy, trip through the collective mind of The Malefic Grip is both unsettling and exhilarating, Worms taking you into the furthest reaches of disgust in humanity through swathes of psychedelia and rampaging riffs. Yesterdays Problems, Today is very much music for the present, acerbic, angry and commentating on a world beyond parody. 8/10     

Defeatist - Closure EP (Self Released)

Cardiff and South Wales, do have a previous form of producing bands that play anthemic, emotional alternative music. I guess you could call it Emo perhaps Pop Punk and even Hardcore but bands such as Holding Absence fly the flag but acts like Funeral For A Friend, Hondo Maclean, The Blackout, Continents and even Brutality Will Prevail have all been the face of angsty, angry, often politically charged music coming from a place steeped in poetry and music. Defeatist are a band with a few false starts behind them, however any legacy of what came before was cast into the bin of history when Jacob joined as vocalist last year. In that time, through the obvious tribulations they have been reborn with Closure an EP full of sadness but also hope. The title refers to this EP being the final piece of Defeatists previous journey, signalling the beginning of their new one. 

After the EP was recorded Adam and Olly (guitar and bass) left the band so with Jacob now also on guitar and Ben added as bassist, Closure really has finality to it. Recorded by the always brilliant Timothy Vincent of Woodcroft Audio, Closure explodes out of your speakers with endearing mixture of choppy hardcore punk riffs, melodic shifts and Jacobs emotive vocals which on Change Of Seasons which features screamer Jake Oliver (Wilderness) in duality to Jacobs clean resonant tones. There's a real feel of Architects and Fightstar across these five tracks, the deeply personal lyrics making for star listening when you focus in on them.  If Change Of Seasons is the heaviest song on the record, then the heartfelt Mother is it's lightest, echoed vocals and clean strings, that builds into a beautiful post-hardcore/emo final for the EP. 

The lyrics hit hard especially if you have any shared experiences. Skin Deep is a propulsive opener that has its roots in pop punk, Never Enough brings a touch of djent (which sounds like a cologne) and Oceans Apart is the track that carries that proggy Fightstar sound. As I said Closure is both an ending and a beginning for Defeatist, I for one am looking forward to where they go from here! 8/10

Aphonic Threnody - All Consuming Void (Self Released)

Funeral Doom is always approached with caution by myself, a large amount of it does very little for me. I can count on one hand how many bands I actually enjoy on one hand. In opposition to traditional doom, the addition of atmospheric extremity borrowed from black metal bands, means that the songs are usually way over well over 10 minutes long, without very much differentiation in the riffs except for an occasional shift into gothic ethereals. Aphonic Threnody is one such record that does funeral doom at its most enclosing, encircling you in a pit of despair. Take Chamber Of Parasites which is a 20 minute song, nearly a quarter of the whole run time. It what I can make out as three riffs that are played slowly, lowly and with bone shaking distortion. It also has vocals so guttural, it would have been easier just to put it near an idling engine. All Consuming Void is certainly an album that lives up to the album title, for me it's just too much like every other funeral doom band. 5/10 

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Reviews: Bodom After Midnight, Reach, Capra, Bloody Hell (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Alex Swift, Matt Bladen & Simon Black)

Bodom After Midnight - Paint The Sky With Blood EP (Napalm Records) [Richard Oliver]

On 29th December 2020, the metal world was shook with the tragic news that Alexi Laiho had died.  Alexi was renowned as one of the finest guitarists in metal and with the formation of Children Of Bodom in 1997 he created pioneering pieces of work in heavy metal music which combined the ferocity of extreme metal with power metal melodies and neoclassical guitar playing. A strew of copycat bands soon appeared and the defining sound that Alexi and Children Of Bodom created still resonates with bands today.  Unfortunately in 2019 Children Of Bodom ceased to be but Alexi wasn’t done and along with fellow Children Of Bodom guitarist Daniel Freyberg he formed Bodom After Midnight (named after a song on the classic Follow The Reaper album). Completing the line up was bassist Mitja Toivonen, drummer Waltteri Väyrynen and keyboardist Vili Itäpelto. A few successful shows were played and word amongst the metal community and the Children Of Bodom fanbase was that Alexi and the band were in absolutely ferocious form. And then the tragedy of Alexi’s death hit like a truck.  Unbeknownst to many the band had managed to record a small amount of material before Alexi’s tragic death which is presented here as the Paint The Sky With Blood EP.

What is very clear from the Bodom After Midnight material is that Alexi was very much the beating heart of Children Of Bodom as this EP feels very much like a continuation rather than a brand new band.  The three songs that make up the EP are two original songs and a cover.  The two new songs Paint The Sky With Blood and Payback’s A Bitch very much sounds like prime Bodom sounding like a cross between the material on Hate Crew Deathroll, Are You Dead Yet? and Hexed.  The songs have a typical melody and song structure of a Bodom song with plenty of punchiness and catchiness as well as fantastic guitar playing. The third song is a great cover of the Dissection classic Where Dead Angels Lie. Whilst this is a very short EP it is nice to be able to hear Alexi’s final work. It sounds like Alexi was building up something very promising with plenty of potential and continuing the legacy of Children Of Bodom. This EP serves as a fitting farewell and epitaph to Alexi Laiho and the potential heard on his final material makes his death doubly tragic.  RIP Wildchild. 7/10

Reach – The Promise Of A Life (Icons Creating Evil Art) [Alex Swift]

Listening through the collected early works of Reach yields mixed reactions. There’s no denying the sense of grandiloquent extroversion on display. Make no mistake, these musicians feel the need to put on a show – a feat they achieve through their ambitious combinations or quirky alternative and pompous yet praiseworthy prog. After having a few years to refine their sound and live up to the lofty expectations set by their first recordings, they’ve come through with The Promise Of A Life – a record which grabs me from its opening notes and refuses to relinquish its grip as it struts from style to style, an oddity to experiment, always keeping the listeners' attention in doing so. Those who have read my reviews know of my taste for the dramatic, even when an album exudes melodrama. However, whether you like your rock more pop-tinged, or abstract and investigational, you will likely find enjoyment in this piece for the way Reach daringly balance the different sensibilities in ways that feel purposeful, unique, and exciting.

New Frontier feels adventure or science fiction inspired, the lashing rhythms and awesome synthesiser and lead melodies lending to a sense of cosmic otherworldliness. Seriously, from the second the mysterious whistling opens the track you’re captivated – this album does not squander a second in that mission. By the time the crooning vocals set in you get a sense of why these musicians appeal to a cross section of pop and avant-garde fans. With a slightly retro flair in the production and the decidedly commanding nature of these compositions, there’s a willingness to pay homage to classic rock in their sound as well. Far from coming across as cliché or contrived though, the constant genre fusions are impressive and thoroughly thought through. Case in point: The Law – with a dance-inspired beat and a sense of strut pervading from start to finish despite the roaring guitars and relentless drumming, the anthem feels different yet completely whole, and worth revisiting from a standpoint of pure songwriting alone! 

Young Again has a light-hearted and innocent vibe with jubilant keyboards that brilliantly complement the mood even as the chorus proclaims “this is like a rollercoaster ride. We’ll ride until we’re dead inside”. That’s another aspect I find beguiling – there’s a sense of raucous cheekiness present throughout, yet moments like the sanguine centrepiece of Satellite possess an earnestness that enables you to feel as if the vast harmonies and mercurial melodies are climbing and subsiding in time with your own emotions. That’s what the greatest music tries to do: play with your emotions, while convincing you that it’s the music that’s changing for you. 

Continuing the mission to make every song different, Motherland gives the impression of being a swing number from the underworld. A glorious cavalcade of humongous horns, jaunty rhythms, spiralling guitars, and possibly a chorus of kazoos if I heard correctly, drag us into the sinister if incredibly amusing mystique. There’s a speakeasy-style rebelliousness and a willingness to defy expectations here that I love, making this perhaps my favourite moment of the entire experience! Following this, The Seventh Seal adds to the capriciousness, with a piece which despite its short length feels similar to baroque pop with the sombre keys and spacey, echoed touches that further the enigmatic qualities on display. Appropriately though, Higher Ground stands tall as a standout moment, rejoicing in its inspiring chorus and impassioned crescendoing. 

On many an album, this would be the brilliant final send-off but it's testament to the determination and cleverness of these musicians that this is only track number seven on a debut imbued with absorbing concepts and intriguing ideas. Cover My Traces is one of the most musically interesting moments precisely because of its minimalistic nature and fascinating use of electronics and recurring phrases to inspire a mood. Subtleties matter to Reach, as they should do to any act that changes genres as frequently as they do!  The Streets is another one of my personal favourite anthems and one of those that’s boisterously unashamed to showcase their chops in pure, noisy rock n’roll. 

Lastly, Promise Of A Life charms with a sense of lavish grandiosity and piercing emotion that I’d expect from an act that #makes their trademark one of changeability fused with sentimentality, and an optimism that whatever they do next will be extraordinary. On that hope of truly exciting days to come for Reach, we can rely. 9/10

Capra - In Transmission (Metal Blade Records/Blacklight Media Records) [Matt Bladen]

There has been probably too long to wait for this record. Tracked at the end of 2019, recorded by Jai Benoit (Golgothan, Father Rust) and then mixed by Taylor Young (Nails, Twitching Tongues), a little later the pandemic reared its ugly head the beast had to be kept in it's cage as the year progressed. However now in April 2021 Capra are ready to unleash In Transmission on an unsuspecting public. This debut album is a full on assault to the senses from the first stab of a guitar chord, the band come from a State that know a thing or two about hardcore. Capra come from Lafayette, Louisiana and they explode out of the South, arms swinging and teeth gnashing. Their debut record is bursting with hardcore punk and crossover thrash, the instrumental trio of Tyler Harper (guitar), Jeremy Randazzo (drums) and Ben Paramore (bass) ravage every song with biting riffs, pumping grooves and sheer aggression. 

Formed by Harper and Randazzo in 2016, Capra was started as a form of catharsis for Harper, something to put his focus and determination into post-rehab. Inspired by bands such as Every Time I Die, Converge and Eyehategod, they finally settled into their current line up adding Paramore on bass and vocalist Crow Lotus. It's Lotus' experiences that very much influence the bands upfront, confrontational lyrics drawn from her experiences of sleep paralysis on the violent Paper Tongues as well as here experiences as both a woman and as the child of an immigrant. Her rage is at the forefront imbibing just the right amount of melody into her anguished screams and acidic sneers. Musically Capra shape a nasty fusion of hardcore beatdowns, blistering punk with elements of death/black metal adding to the maelstrom of noise on these 11 songs that have a D.I.Y ethos but never suffer from a lack of musicianship. In Transmission paints a vivid picture that it's far from A Wonderful Life in the world of this Capra. 8/10

Bloody Hell - The Bloodening (Rockshots Records) [Simon Black]

I’m going to put this out front, because quite frankly, there is no getting away from it. Every year the likes Metal Hammer or Kerrang! online will dust down an repost a top twenty type feature reminding everybody about some of the worst excesses of Heavy Metal album artwork (usually from the 1980’s) to which our beloved genre of music has been a most notable contributor, with the top five always falling to the bands that have had the most subsequent success even if they didn’t feel the love from their labels when these atrocities got first published. It’s a good laugh, most particularly for those of us who lived through that period, as we shrug our shoulders and confess to the fact that we probably own copies of at least half of them. 

These features rarely contain anything from this century though, because as a genre we’ve all grown up beyond all this sort of thing now, right? Enter Bloody Hell, with a cover that not only reopens these features for a new century and decade, but may just have managed to premier in the top five, which puts them on a par with Pantera, Alcatraz, Alice Cooper, Anthrax and Black Sabbath. Imagine the troubled kid from Stranger Things drawing his interpretation of the Mind Flayer crossed with Edvard Munch’s The Scream… In crayon…

More importantly though, as with so many of the luminaries above, the musical content is in a completely different league to the cover. I’m guessing that since this Finnish four piece have been around the block a while, that the joke is a shared one, because musically this is blisteringly tightly delivered NWOBHM influenced Traditional Metal although despite an on/off twenty year history this is actually only their second full length album. It’s clearly Classic Metal influenced, but has a lovely fat, crunchy and modern production and mix – when my desk vibrates from the rhythm section’s output on a record, I know that this is an album that’s going to sound heavy as fuck live. Lyrically it’s more Twentieth than Twenty-First Century in subject matter, but that really does not matter, as this is about attitude and a deep love for the music. 

At nearly an hour of running time for the dozen tracks, this is not about brevity either, but the album does not drag in the slightest and apart from the odd nonchalant eyebrow raise towards some of the lyrics I cannot fault the songs on here. OK, single Burn Witch Burn, is more than a little cheesy and the keyboard/piano chords sounds a bit out loud and out of place in the mix, but its speedy delivery allows you to move beyond the oddity and just enjoy the ride. 

The majority of the rest of the material demonstrates the kind of maturity of writing you would expect of a band that have been around for twenty years (albeit with lengthy breaks) so you get songs that have a great structure, supported by some nifty guitar work and a vocal delivery that although hits some great high clean notes, also delivers gutsy rock’n’roll attitude. It’s got naïve charm and a lot of promise … despite the cover. 6/10

Friday 23 April 2021

Reviews: Lagerstein, The Circle, Mädhouse, Vexillum (Reviews By Liam True, Paul Scoble, Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Lagerstein – Live In Brisbane DVD/CD (Ingrooves & Kegstand Productions) [Liam True]

Any conversation about the incredibly niche and extremely popular genre of ‘pirate metal’ consistently brings forward the usual suspects of the genre: Alestorm, Swashbuckle & Redrum. However, no conversation about the genre is complete without the inclusion of one of the genre’s biggest names – a band of beer-drenched, rowdy, Aussies known as Lagerstein. Wherever the Lagerstein ship comes in to harbour a huge party is not far behind, and tonight the ship docked in Brisbane, albeit all the way back from 2019, bringing with it all the alcohol-fuelled debauchery you’d expect from a boisterous crew of pirates.

Taken from their headline show in, you guessed it, Brisbane from their mammoth world tour in support of latest album 25/7, the band blast through old and new songs alike to create the perfect balance of Pirate Metal debauchery. Opening with a medley by the band before blasting into Raise Your Steins & Slocken The Rum, they sound fantastic, but the crowd seems quiet so far. Until they partake in a ‘Shoey Off’ splitting the crown into Port & Starboard sides.

Dig, Bury, Drink & Pirate Music Piracy blend together perfectly back to back to show the newer material can stand up against the older stuff. Shoey Song is as you’d expect from the alcohol loving members as Captain Gregaaarrr and the band lose guitarist Neil Rummy Rackers during German Fun Times. Wench My Thirst, Down The Hatch & Off The Map are a bit of a downer as the sound of the band isn’t their best during these songs. But as soon as Pina Colada Paradise kicks in the band are back on top form as they use their lullaby to make the crowd feel like they’ve slowed down.
Until, of course, Drink The Rum bolts them back to action. Drink ‘Til We Die is the acoustic/accordion combination that seals the deal that Lagerstein can switch their sound at the tip of a hat.

The last few songs, while very good in their own right, just don’t hit the mark for me personally, as the crowd doesn’t seem into it, but the band give it their all but kind of flounder. While it’s a very good live album, which are hard to find, it’s few let down spaces don’t ruin it, but don’t make it as brilliant than what it should have been. But if you’re a fan of the band or even the genre, it’s a recommended listen as the Aussie pirates stick to their guns to bring a very good effort. 7/10

The Circle - Metamorphosis (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

The Circle are a German duo made up of Stanley Robertson (Composition and Guitar) and Alex Wirt (Bass), on this their first recording they are joined by session vocalist Asim Searah. The style of music on offer here is a mix of Progressive Death Metal, Progressive Black Metal and Progressive Metal.

The album opens with Chapter I Angst which is mainly like early noughties Symphonic Black Metal. The track feels very bombastic and dramatic, it has that huge, massively produced sound that Dimmu Borgir loved around the turn of the century. It sounds huge, but doesn’t really go anywhere. The problem with this style is that it’s very staccato in how the pacing works, so although there are a lot of drum beats, the tempo is very slow and in this case plodding. Chapter II Despair is much better; it’s an uptempo piece of Progressive Melodic Death Metal. 

The track features some very fast tempos, maybe a little bit reminiscent of Fleshgod Apocalypse, some really good clean vocals, a soft spoken word section and some very impressive, florid neo-classical guitar solos. Next comes Chapter III Wrath which vacillates between the fast but actually slow and plodding style of symphonic metal, and the faster (and much better) fast Melodic Death Metal style, there are some more very good clean vocals, more lovely guitar solos and the addition of some very effective violin parts.

The final track (yes, you’ve guessed it) Chapter IV Salvation opens with a very nice and expansive section of Progressive Metal, the violin is back and it’s all really good. Then that plodding and slow style comes in again to put the kibosh on all the lovely expansiveness. The song then vacillates between those two styles till the end of the song and album. So, definitely some very good Progressive Extreme metal, mixed in with some that has a problem with pacing. However, there is an issue with the album as a whole. Did you notice how short my description of the album is? Just the four songs?

The whole time I’ve been listening to this album (I tend to give albums between ten and fifteen listens before writing a review), I was assuming it was an EP. The ‘album’ has a run time of just over twenty seven minutes; 27 minutes and four songs? That’s an EP. Ok if this was a Hardcore, Grindcore or Crossover Thrash album that would be just about acceptable, but for Progressive Metal this is just too short. I’m currently reviewing a recording that is being sold as an EP, that is longer and has more songs than this ‘album’. This needs another couple of songs to make it album length, if I had paid full price for this, I’d be feeling cheated. There is some very good material on this album, but it is let down by the tempo issues I mentioned earlier, and the short run time. It’s a shame, as the good material is very good and deserves to be heard. 6/10

Mädhouse – Bad Habits (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Paul Hutchings]

This sophomore album from Austrian sleaze merchants Mädhouse contains 15 songs that are about as misogynistic as one would expect from a band whose influences sit clearly in the hair metal of the 1980s. If you like Motley Crüe, Poison and the likes, there is no doubt that you will enjoy this release. 
In all honesty, I’d forgotten that sleaze was still a genre that was alive. It’s the type of music that was I found okay 35 years ago whilst musical tastes were forming; hell, the Crüe’s Theatre Of Pain show in Cardiff in 1985 remains one of the most astonishing gigs I have ever attended. Today, not so much. 
Bad Habits is big, brash and arrogant. It is exactly as you would expect it to be. First Lick Then Stick, Itch To Scratch, Fake It Til You Make It, the song titles are about as predictable as you’d expect. 

It is all strut and roll, but at least the band appear to be able to play and there is a big production that gives Bad Habits a huge sound. The guitar work is decent, with some fiery solos and thick riffs thrown into the pot. This is a damn sight better than the god awful parody bollocks of Steel Panther for a start.
The band have ridiculous names, with lead singer Tommy Lovelace and guitarist Mikky Stixx taking the plaudits. Regardless, the new line-up has delivered an album that will no doubt please their fans. There was plenty of excitement on a couple of sites I searched. For me, this just is not an album I would reach for, but it is performed well, and objectively, I cannot actually fault it. 7/10

Vexillum - When Good Men Go To War (Scarlet Records) [Matt Bladen]

Vexillum? Never 'eard of 'em! (other than the Roman war banner they are named after) But apparently they are a power/symphonic/folk metal band from Italy. This is their fourth album and it continues their Vexillum saga for the first time since 2015's Unum, it's a conceptual fantasy sage that has been part of the bands releases since 2011's The Wandering Notes, so much like tourmates/fellow Italians Rhapsody (Of Fire), this is  long running storyline that is driven by grandiose power metal. As well as Rhapsody (Of Fire) you can also pick out the Blind Guardian and Falconer influences from the use of folk styles that admittedly are a little harder to pick out on this record due to it's darker tone. 

Like Blind Guardian's more recent records When Good Men Go To War opens with a 10 minute epic, Enlight The Bivouac a cinematic start to the record full of Nick MacVicar's (professional piper and cèilidh dance teacher) pipes and flutes in addition to the power metal instrumentation. Anyone would think that this song was by Germans Grave Digger, a band who are a little obsessed with Scottish folklore, these Romans laying siege to the Celts with their own musical history, though the Roman history comes back on Sons Of The Wolf and the powerful Last Bearer's Son. Despite my ignorance to the band there is clearly a lot to be excited about on this release. Lovers of folk/power metal will enjoy Vexillum's fourth concept album. 7/10   

Reviews: Steve Cropper, Frozen Crown, Wednesday 13, Argoya (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Simon Black)

Steve Cropper - Fire It Up (Provogue/Mascot Label Group) [Matt Bladen]

There are few guitarists with a resume that can be be considered truly legendary. Steve Cropper falls into that category, even if you don't know his name you'll recognise him as one of the three guitar players in The Blues Brothers band along with Matt 'Guitar' Murdoch and bassist Donald 'Duck' Dunn. Cropper is not only a founding member of the World Famous Rhythm & Blues Revue but he also played guitar/co-wrote/produced such soul/blues classics as (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding, Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett, Green Onions by Booker T & The MG's as well as laying down the riffs for Hold On I'm Comin and Soul Man by Sam & Dave, all while part of the STAX records house band. In addition to that he's played with Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Rod Stewart, so you see what I mean about legendary. 

Signing to Mascot Label Group this is Cropper's first solo record since 1969, but in the intervening years 'The Colonel' hasn't lost a step, writing an album full of slick as hell Soul/R&B numbers that have been in his head for years but haven't been written down as yet. The advent of the pandemic and lockdown sees Cropper finally giving these ideas life with the assistance of long term collaborator Jon Tiven who co-produced with Cropper. What shows here from the opening chords is experience, there aren't many musicians with such a large volume of work so you can expect the songwriting, playing and production to beb spot on throughout. 

But despite this being a solo album, Cropper doesn't take all the glory, he has always been a collaborative songwriter so the songs are built around being what's best for the band, shifting the instrumental sections to fit with Roger C. Reale's gritty, incendiary, blues/soul vocals. She's So Fine having that R&B jam sound to it. He's got a properly 'old' set of pipes that come right out of the 60's, perfect for the bubbling organs and funky plucking of the title track, this is very clearly the start of the engines allowing for the more soulful One Good Turn add more brass, it's in a twosome like Far Away and Say You Don't Know Me that Cropper's musical prowess is on display at it's best. 

Not as heavy as most of what we do here, but Cropper is musical hero of mine (and Blues Brothers is one of my top 5 films of all time) so when the opportunity came up to review this album I couldn't pass it up. Experienced, influential rock/soul/blues music from one of the originators, guaranteed to get you grooving. 8/10    

Frozen Crown – Winterbane (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

This is the third album from the Italian Power Metal quintet and if you were relieved that they had dialled back the Symphonic elements on their sophomore Crowned In Frost, then this will probably tick the boxes for you, as its first and foremost a Power Metal album - although those understated technical hints and flourishes are still there if you want them. And this is the very traditional European field of Power Metal we are talking here, with all the pseudo-mythological thematic and lyrical tropes and structures, but falling short of an overall album concept (as let’s face it there’s more than enough of those out there). It’s also a slightly tonally darker and heavier record than many in the genre with a brisk and musically tight freshness, making this a welcome relief from the endless multitude of ‘cookie cutter’ Power records currently drowning the marketplace.

That said there’s an element of contradiction in that tonal element, as singer Giada “Jade” Etro retains her characteristic lighter vocal touch, with the heaviness largely exuding from the thundering moody rhythm section and the odd extreme vocal line from a guest turn from Volturian‘s Federica Lanna, the contrast of which works very well. That said, she does give something more belting a go with their cover of Judas Priest’s Night Crawler, and I have to say if she had sung more like that on the rest of the album then I would have been a bit more generous with my bag of points. It’s moments like this when the more Traditional Metal elements are raised over the Power ones that this album works best – The Lone Stranger being a good example, and the out and out Speed Metal of Crown Eternal which is one of Lanna’s guest slots.

No Power Metal album is complete without a lengthy epic track to close out and the lovely solo keyboard intro of Tales Of The Forest segues into the epic nine minute closer Blood On The Snow which lulls you into thinking this is going to be a bit predictable with it’s Folk metal opening chords before changing direction completely. Musically it’s also by far the strongest song on the record as the relentless rhythm work is allowed to come to the fore, making this by far the most overtly Metal track on the disc. This is hugely supported by those extreme male vocal tones again and providing a slightly Modern almost Metalcore feel to this track. It must be said that if the heavier songs are taken in isolation from the pure Power ones, then you might be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to two completely different bands. If this heavier direction is going to continue to grow, then this band have a lot more potential in the ridiculously over-crowded Power Metal genre as these songs are head and shoulders above the rest. 7/10

Wednesday 13 - Necrophaze: Antidote (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

The driving, punky Your Mother Still Sucks Cocks In Hell opens up this four track EP from Schlock Rock icon Wednesday 13. Based on horror movies (obviously), even the album cover harks to those 80's slasher flicks. Your Mother... takes influence from The Exorcist but gives it a chauvinistic lyrical adaptation. Screwdriver 2 - The Return a musical sequel to a video nasty. Both are full of the spunky, Wednesday 13 schlock rocking but where this EP is of interest is with the two covers, the first a darker version of INXS' Devil Inside but the final song Films is a little too similar to the Gary Numan original, but does feature Alice Cooper's daughter Calico with additional vocals. Necrophaze - Antidote doesn't change anything about the music of Wednesday 13 for me, it's a bit too one dimensional, but this a little bit of fan service while fans wait for a new album. 5/10 

Arogya – Genesis (Out Of Line Music) [Simon Black]

I seem to have had a crash course on the Indian Metal scene recently and have to confess that largely I know very little about it. Take that up another notch for Arogya, who have the distinction of being the first Nepalese band I have come across. That’s my problem of course, because I have well and truly had my expectations and preconceptions challenged by what I have heard recently. The problem is one of marketing I suspect. Until recently I was not aware that India and its environs have a burgeoning and lively Metal scene, although this was not always so – the problem is that over here in the West we are largely unaware of it, given that EU and USA tastes predominate, as that’s what the labels over here know. (The last ten years has seen a boom in bands from India, Demonic Resurrection and Bloodywood being the main examples - Ed)

Musically this is very crisply delivered and melodic stuff, with some great melodies and moody musical delivery. As is often the case with this sub-genre, the keyboard and synth work is very strong in the mood and mix, but don’t underestimate the heaviness that comes when drums, bass and guitars turn on the Metal and single Broken nails this perfectly and has a cracking video to accompany it, which tells me that this band have Global ambitions and the right kind of support to break out of their geographical confines. And I really hope they do

Arogya seem to be coming on in leaps and bounds for a band that have only been active for four years however and for this their all-important third album have managed to engage the services of Germany’s Lord Of The Lost’s frontman Chris Harms as producer, which if nothing else might give them a floor to sleep on if they ever play shows there. The sound he has given this rather polished sounding piece of Modern Synth Metal is clear, focused and crisp as a frosty morning. At thirty-eight minutes of run time and ten tracks of to the point music delivery it does not drag or out stay its welcome either. 

You can pretty much take any track and get a strong sense of the album overall - this doesn’t mean it’s repetitive, it means it’s an album that flows by effortlessly and before I had realised I had actually spun it three times before putting fingers to keyboard on this one, which is either a sign that I have bad news to break, or that I really like it. In this case it’s the latter and that’s all the more unusual in that this is not a genre of Metal that normally appeals to me, but the rather different sounding song-writing, unexpectedly mature and rich vocal and instrumental delivery combined with a the production polish makes for a remarkably all round strong piece of music. 8/10

Thursday 22 April 2021

Reviews: Astrakhan, Sylvatica, Temple Balls, Sacred Shrines (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Astrakhan - A Slow Ride Towards Death (Black Lodge/Melodic Passion Records/Sound Pollution)

In the review for Astrakhan's previous release, a live adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar, I noted that on the back of it I would delve into their discography. I did so and found a band who I'm a little annoyed I overlooked as they play a style of progressive rock/metal that brings a multi-faceted approach to the songwriting for a deeper understanding of 'mainstream' music. (Also they are not to be associated with the Canadian doom/sludge band). What makes Astrakhan so good is that frontman Alexander Lycke is probably the best singer in Sweden, his voice is brilliantly resonante and theatrical with emotional resonance too. 

So then A Slow Ride Towards Death is their third studio album and as with their previous records it's a cinematic, progressive metal album with a dark, stirring compositions. A little like Von Hertzen Brothers if they drew from prog bands such as Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth and numerous John Mitchell projects (Until it Ends). A Slow Ride Towards Death, opens with Lonesome Cry driven by nasty sounding riff from guitarist Johan Hallgren, counteracted by the soaring chorus that gives a little Train Of Thought Dream Theater where the heaviness was amped up but yet that melodic sound still was the major factor, Control also follows this template. Following on from here we have the metallic Deep Purple soundscapes of Take Me With You which shifts between more distorted riffs and expansive spacial tones. 

These first two tracks show you that Astrakhan are more than your normal prog metal act, sculpting intriguing musical journeys. What You Resist Will Remain and Never Let You Go both have thick rhythms from bassist Per Schelander and drummer Martin Larsson, the first moves into a choral ending bringing those numerous influences as the keys/synths are ever present, Youtopia really using the piano to great effect against the euphoric chorus and twisting heavy riff. A great album from a band that hopefully break out of their native Sweden on the back of this album. 8/10  

Sylvatica - Ashes And Snow (Pest Records/Satanath Records)

Now I know a few of my colleagues, aren't to positive about symphonic death metal but when done well I think it can be bloody brilliant. A great balance between blistering death metal extremity, galloping power metal and huge orchestrals. In February I raved about Starforger's album, as soon as the folk/orchestral intro Daybreak began, it was looking like Ashes And Snow was going to set the rave-o-meter reaching the red again. Sylvatica come from Denmark and Ashes And Snow is their second album, bringing everything they had on the debut to a much higher level. They craft cinematic soundscapes such as Pillars Of Light where the folk instrumentation and especially the organs begin a journey that rapidly shifts into powerful melodic death metal. 

Once again I have to mention bands such as Wintersun, Ensiferum and even Children Of Bodom when talking about Sylvatica as they have that same level of epicness in their songwriting. Jardén Schlesinger leading from his position as vocalist and lead guitarists, roaring with clarity as well as bringing the virtuoso soloing Christian Christiansen's guitar providing the gap between Schlesinger and the rhythm section as they carve through tracks such as the explosive Cosmic Strings. Speaking of the rhythm section, bassist Thomas Rysgaard Haxen must be nuts to try and keep up with drummer Jacques Harm Brandt Hauge. 

Not quite as immediate as Starforger, Sylvatica's second album is a non-stop ride through the symphonic melo-death sound, melding aggression on melody very well indeed. If you're missing Wintersun or Children of Bodom (and you haven't yet heart Bodom After Midnight) then i suggest you unleash the glacial assault of Ashes And Snow upon your stereo. 8/10

Temple Balls - Pyromide (Frontiers Music)

Let's get the band name out of the way. Temple Balls is a terrible name for a band. It made me think that this Finnish act would be similar to joke rockers Steel Panther. However behind the band name Temple Balls have a punchy, anthemic melodic rock that sounds a lot like Def Leppard and H.E.A.T, whose Jona Tee produced the record. Packed with throbbing synths, Pyromide is a very polished third record from these Finns, similar to fellow Finns Reckless Love where these pulsing electronics are used to flesh out the big anthemic choruses (Long Days, Long Lies) and as an addition to the slinky rhythms on T.O.T.C where Antti Hissa (drums) and Jimi Välikangas (bass) get that strutting beat going. 

Fallen Youth comes from the pre-Hysteria Def Leppard catalogue, while Bad Bad Bad has a touch of Ratt, vocalsist Arde Teronen adding a bit of grit. Where Temple Balls have a bit of an advantage over some of their contemporaries is with the big, ballsy dual guitar attack from Jiri Paavonaho and Niko Vuorela, which shift between flashy soloing and focused riffing, You Better Run being a perfect example. It's not all flirty, rock n roll wonder though, the Heart Of A Warrior is a darker toned rocker that takes a little from power metal. All in all Pyromide is a good rock record but the name is still rubbish. 7/10  

Sacred Shrines - Enter The Woods (Rebel Waves Records)

In the early to mid 90's there was a whole glut of English bands that drew from the 60's psychedelic boom and brought it to the ears of raving teens/20-somethings who were having their own spiritual awakening. Acts such as The Farm, Inspiral Carpets, The Charlatans all were the originators with Oasis probably the ones that took the whole thing international. Well it seems like Sacred Shrines driving force Phil Usher has created Enter The Woods as a rediscovery of these now 30+ year old bands(!) Hailing from Brisbane perhaps it's taken this long for the psych/indie pop rock to make its way to Australian but I'm sure is Tim Burgess were to listen to this record on his Twitter Listening Party he'd be trying to remember if it wasn't in fact one of his albums. 

Drenched in hazy psychedelia, choppy jangly guitars and echoed vocals, it's exactly the record you'd want from a band who have toured with The Dandy Warhols, imbued with a D.I.Y spirit that had them recording it in multiple locations with multiple engineers, including Michael Badger (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard) and Donovan Miller (FOREVR), it gives the record an organic flow through valve tubed Vox amps. Yes I know before we get letters that the bands mentioned previously all took heavily from The Beatles, The Kinks, Jefferson Airplane and even bands like the MC5, so Sacred Shrines do as well but there's a modernity to it meaning that the early 90's style is the pervading one. Great for letting you freak flag fly a little, crank up the volume, it's not to late for 4:20. 7/10 

Reviews: Hideous Divinity, Void Vator, Hail The Sun, Gods Of Space (Reviews By Dr Claire Hanley, Richard Oliver, Alex Swift & Paul Scoble)

Hideous Divinity – LV-426 EP (Century Media Records) [Dr Claire Hanley]

Hideous Divinity are known for bringing their unique take on technical brutality to the mix. LV-426 builds on this theme by offering up death metal with a touch of the extra-terrestrial - inspired by the Alien franchise - and to quote the original film, in reference to this EP: “son-of-a-bitch is huge!”.

Acheron, Stream Of Woe sets the tone for the EP, with an ominous atmosphere-building introduction that would put the most stoic of characters on edge. The gears begin to churn. You’re poised to strike but you have no idea what awaits you. Then the beast is unleashed. The opening riffs rip you from your comfort zone, and the onslaught of double-kicks signal that there is no going back. The prominence of the bass further darkens the mood as you’re forced forward, through a spectrum of ferocious vocals. An incredible journey from start to finish: the organ at the beginning that makes the track feel almost biblical in stature, the accents and phrasing on the guitars, and the use of delays and pauses to build anticipation are simply breathtaking. 

The composition of this track is as out of this world as the subject matter, and an absolute credit to the band as artists. Time to crank up the energy, if that were even possible, as Chestburst spews out of the speakers: a bludgeoning track that takes no prisoners. Given a film classification, it’d have to warn of severe peril and sky-high heart rates. The frantic guitars and dynamic drum patterns serve to build an aura of chaos amidst the musical precision. If the spirit of the opening track was nervously awaiting your fate; now you know what was waiting for you, you’d better run! 

The grand finale, Delirium Trigger, is theatrical to say the least – beginning with almost anthemic guitars and breaking down into a more sludge-ridden, progressive sound (even reminiscent of bands such as Dark Tranquillity in places). By no means aversive but quite unexpected, as it definitely stands out and perhaps isn’t a natural choice for such a focused showcase as an EP. Nonetheless, the utmost of respect for pushing the boundaries. As for the preceding tracks, the emphasis is on the experience; with jarring moments of discordant piano against a backdrop of blast beats, and the abrupt ending creating the illusion that you’ve just been devoured.  

A few final words, firstly on production, which is absolutely flawless. Each element is perfectly balanced and positioned to command attention, and it is always a pleasure to hear a dominant bassline take the spotlight rather than be lost in the abyss. The desire to challenge the very conception of death metal and the passion for the project are also evident; a rarity in a domain that is too often formulaic. A dynamic and powerful release, by a group of musicians who clearly pour their guts into their material. 9/10

Void Vator - Great Fear Rising (Ripple Music) [Richard Oliver]

Great Fear Rising is the debut full length album from LA heavy metallers Void Vator.  The band formed in 2015 and have a couple of EP’s under their belts - 2017’s Dehumanized and 2019’s Stranded. Great Fear Rising is an album born out of frustration having to contend with both their drummer Moura having to return to Germany due to visa issues and then a tour having to be cancelled a mere five shows in due to the pandemic putting an end to live music. The band poured their frustrations into the recording of this album and there is definitely a spark and a fire to this album. The music on Great Fear Rising can be described as an amalgamation of influences from hard rock and heavy metal music from the decades prior from 70’s hard rock, 80’s heavy metal, 80’s sunset strip glam, old school thrash metal and 90’s groove metal. 

It also has a contemporary sheen sounding both fresh and new and old school and classic at the same time. It is only a short album being a mere 32:30 in length but the band pack in enough hooks, catchiness and fist pumping anthems that not a single second is wasted. The songs themselves are short and sweet and also fairly varied from the anthemic heavy metal of I Can’t Take It, the speed metal of the title track, the raucous rock & roll of McGyver’s Mullet and the dirty groove of Poltergeist. Void Vator have a bright and flashy debut album with Great Fear Rising. It is just over half an hour of upbeat, party-friendly hard rock and heavy metal anthems. The band already have a reputation as a take no prisoners live act and they now have an extra nine killer songs to add to their arsenal when they can hit the stage again in the months to come. 8/10

Hail The Sun – New Age Filth (Rude/Equal Vision) [Alex Swift]

With their sharp sense of memorability fused with some serenely darker sensations which give them a unique bite in alternative-prog, Hail The Sun take a genre that’s triumphed by the likes of Circa Survive, Dance Gavin Dance and – my personal favourite - Coheed And Cambria, and shape the style into something that’s unique to them. I know that doesn’t sound like to much to expect but much as I love many bands in this genre, many of the ones that have emerged more lately sound a lot like each other. This band achieve their uniqueness precisely by bringing the soaring melodic cohesion and sonic exploration to the forefront, while being reserved enough to value subtlety and tension. The complex moments feel measured and multifaceted, like they are there to serve a purpose in elevating the anthems to enthralling heights. 

Standing as the acts fifth album, New Age Filth still shows a sense of vibrancy and uniqueness. It’s’ the type of record that will make you wish they were discussed as much as the previously mentioned acts, as opposed to being fairly unknown outside of a cluster of hardcore fans. Garcia and Gann’s guitar textures guide the songs in intriguing directions, while the bass tones are stark and noticeable. Meanwhile, Meleros' vocal register has the soaring highs we’ve come to expect in this genre, but also the conviction and emotion to carry the impassioned quality of pop-inspired moments like Made Your Mark and the commanding presence of seething moments like Parasitic Cleanse and Hysteriantics. This quickfire chopping and changing between styles, light to soft, brutal to buoyant aids Hail The Sun in their mission to be progressive and experimental, but also accessible and striking. On top of having a huge amount of technical impressiveness, New Age Filth actually has the song crafting abilities to make for an enthralling listening experience – and element that’s aided by a detailed and careful production that allows the intricacies to shine through. 

Although, taken to their most bare essentials, Hail The Sun really aren’t all that different from the peers in the genre, much of the lyric-writing is far more contemplative and introspective than you might expect, dealing in issues of self-loathing and anxiety. Again, not exactly a new concept in alternative music, but one that’s here executed with a degree of honesty and earnestness that makes what’s being sung about strike with a deep and emotional resonance. Further bringing out the emotion of these songs are the visceral and intense performance. Despite the sound itself not being one you haven’t heard done well before, there’s just something about Hail The Sun that works to move and stimulate the listener. Even if this style is not for you, I would recommend Hail the Sun for their grip of contrast, their insightful lyrical palate and their ability to use their talent to captivate. 8/10   

Gods Of Space - Against The Falling Sky (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Gods Of Space have been making huge noises at a nicely relaxed tempo in Wilkes - Barre in Pennsylvania since 2012. The trio have released 2 Ep’s in that time in 2017’s Gods Of Space EP, and 2020’s Acoustic Sessions. The Band, which is made up of Matt Hannan on Bass, Tyler Lepkowski on Drums and Jacob Wavmonsky on Guitar and Vocals, have also released one album called Till Human Voices Wake Us, which was released in 2018. Gods Of Space play a fairly cosmic style of huge Stoner Rock/Metal, which on this Ep is telling a story about a crew of navigators that take a space ship into earth orbit, where the ship begins to fail leading the crew to attempt to escape the ship. 

The EP opens with the track Against All Odds which has a fantastic central riff that is done in huge and heavy as well as minimal and reserved styles. The vocals are very good, Jacob has a clear and fairly high register voice that is maybe a little bit reminiscent of Geddy Lee. The songs tempo is perfect for relaxed head-banging, and the song also boasts a very good guitar solo. Next track Exit Point is darker than the opener and also feels brooding. The track has an aggressive chorus and a taut, minimal section in the second half. 

Falling Sky is a great track, it’s uptempo, driving rock that is tuneful and melodic, whilst also being driving and purposeful. Again there is that perfect head nodding tempo and a fantastic guitar solo. Next up is Sub Orbital which is driving and very rhythmic stoner doom, that feels brooding. The song has a very impressive chorus and features some sections that feel inspired by Progressive Rock. 

The EP comes to an end with Surf, a track that is all about dynamics. The track opens in a minimal and brooding way, it builds slowly, there is a hypnotic feel to this song. The track builds to huge proportions, and we get an extended solo/instrumental passage that is so good; tuneful and dripping with melody. The track slowly drifts off into space after this part giving the song, and the EP a satisfying ending. 

Against A Falling Sky is a fantastic EP. Five tracks of exemplary Stoner Doom/Rock that will fill your head with great tunes. The tempos and pacing are practically perfect, it is so easy to get into, within seconds your head will be nodding in time. Most of all this works due to really great songwriting, rather than due to any single factor; great songs performed really well by talented musicians. Great EP, highly recommended. 9/10  

Tuesday 20 April 2021

Reviews: While She Sleeps, Body Void, Crown, Bongzilla (Reviews By Liam True, Paul Scoble, Matt Bladen & Paul Hutchings]

While She Sleeps – Sleeps Society (Sleeps Brothers/Search & Destroy/Spinefarm/UNFD/Universal Music) [Liam True]

UK album chart is weighted heavily in favour of musicians whose fans actually buy their albums – rightly so, you could argue, given how hard it is for artists to make money these days. One sale of an LP, CD or download is equivalent to 1,000 streams, meaning that if an artist gets their ducks in a row – pre-order campaign, enticing vinyl editions, merchandise bundles – they can gatecrash the Top 5 off the back of fan purchases, as the cult likes of Dry Cleaning, Thunder and RJ Thompson have found in recent weeks.

On the strength of this stupendous a fifth album, and the formidable passion of their fanbase, Sheffield pop-metal band While She Sleeps could probably have secured a No 1 spot – they sold out Brixton Academy on their last tour. Instead they used a local distribution company for their pre-orders that isn’t recognised by the Official Charts Company, reducing their chart position but giving something back to their area and scene.

This is just the latest way the quintet have turned their backs on the music industry’s markers of success and methods of business. In 2016, they walked away from Sony to release their third album independently, its title You Are We laying out their vision of communality. Sarcastic posters promoted their fourth album So What? with the words “no one buys music anymore, but it’s OK, we only need 4m streams to pay for these posters and our rent this month”. They have since deepened their direct-to-fan connection with a monthly subscription model: for between £5 and £60 a month you get extras like soundcheck access, instrument tutorials and mental-health advice. As mass culture continues to atomise into individual “content creators”, While She Sleeps are consolidating an intense connection with a smaller number of people. On the opening track of Sleeps Society, Enlightenment(?), they declare in their trademark massed vocals that “there’s no me without us”. Later, they fold recordings of 200 singing fans into Call Of The Void.

Where While She Sleeps’ previous album So What? was overly ambitious – each song full of exciting moments but poorly finessed – those structural problems have been tightened here, and the band finally realise their pop potential in cheesy but magnificent songs (particularly You Are All You Need and Nervous). Vocalist-guitarist Mat Welsh sings yearning boyband hooks, before frontman Lawrence Taylor responds with stark realisations: “We are so blind!” It makes for a reliably exhilarating pattern of tension and release, with Sean Long’s clean and peeling lead guitar tone evoking Eddie Van Halen in virtuosic solos.

In the past, the band’s lyrical focus has occasionally blurred into lazy homogeneity “Sick of division in colour, religion, when we’re all the same” ran a misguided lyric on So What?) but their humanism is often invigorating. Just as fellow British metalcore stars Bring Me the Horizon imagined the apocalypse on Post Human: Survival Horror, and Architects confronted the climate crisis on For Those That Wish To Exist – both excellent albums in their own right, While She Sleeps aim to vent the pressures of 21st-century common life. Their shared sound is essentially an intense update of the nu-metal plied by Linkin Park a generation ago, but with the world having demonstrably worsened since then, personal angst is transplanted into a wider civic context.

Architects sounded like a jaded bishop on their album, with a clever, sardonic irony to their use of sermonising language about the end of days; While She Sleeps are more plainspoken, and reject religion’s salve in a much more straightforward way “There’s no hope in a rosary”. Written down, While She Sleeps’ lyrics like can read like the ramblings of a redpilled Redditor down a conspiracy rabbit hole: “How many more times are we going to be tricked, by society and more importantly our own minds?” runs a spoken intro. But nuance was always likely to be drowned out by music this loud, and in the eye of a storm of drums and thrashing guitars, their bullhorn slogans prove gripping.

After all, it can be difficult to pinpoint where anxiety stems from in a loose fog of different forces. Blunt lines such as “if the worst is yet to come then I don’t think we’ll make it out” could map on to pretty much any crisis, be it personal, environmental or political. There are rallying cries for protest but to no specific end. This isn’t so much a cop-out as music for a world where so many things are badly wrong it’s difficult to focus on a single one. The pleasure of a band like this isn’t in poetry or perspective, but in a howl of shared fear, and a fraternal paw on your shoulder to let you know, as they say, “it’s OK to not be OK”.

The fact the WSS are heading on a massive UK headliner later this year and are headlining small venues shows their respect to the grassroots shows they’ve had behind them. The fact they haven’t even headlined an arena yet is criminal. Not everyone like the band of course. But tickets to even one arena show should sell out fast than Metallica after a 10 year hiatus. Sleeps Society is their best album. Period. 10/10

Body Void - Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth (Prosthetic Records) [Paul Scoble]

San Francisco based duo Body Void have been making decidedly nasty music since 2016. In that time Eddy Holgerson (Drums) and Will Ryan (Guitar and Vocals) have released 2 albums; 2016’s Ruins and 2018’s I Live Inside A Burning House, and an EP in 2019’s You Will Know The Fear You Forced On Us. The band have a reputation for high quality, deeply unpleasant music, have they continued their trend with Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth? Body Voids style can best be described as a mix of Blackened Doom/Sludge and Blackened Hardcore. The album is formed of four long tracks, which in many ways feel like one huge fifty two minute long song.

The doomy side of their sound is the part that dominates, this is mainly slow and heavy with the occasional blast of Blackened Hardcore. When I say slow and heavy, this isn’t stoner Doom with a nice groove to it; this is slower than continental drift and heavier than continents. In some of the sections of Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth there are two or three seconds between drum beats, all the tracks have sections of these ultra slow riffs, but the opening of final track Pale Man is the most extreme example of this. A lot of the Blackened aspects of this album come in the production and guitar and drum sound. The guitar is always on the verge of feeding back, and most of the transitions between riffs or distinct sections of the songs are signalled by a blast of feedback; the album itself ends with a blast of feedback.

Forest Fire uses a lot of feedback and nasty dissonant noises to great effect, this helps to increase the intensity of the song, which is one of this album’s features; huge intensity. That intense feel is helped by Will Ryans vocals which are savage, nasty and massively impassioned. They drive the album along, and add to the feeling that, despite the slowness, the album could spiral out of control at any moment, Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth feels like a pressure cooker on the point of exploding. One of the ways the album does this is to occasionally explode into savage Hardcore. The hardcore is fairly loose in style, but with a huge amount of viciousness and spite, The track Fawn has a section that despite this loose feel, is a potent as Grindcore.

The last song on the album brings another nasty aspect to the table; Noise. Pale Man has some elements of Harsh Noise, with some horrible electronic filth adding to the filthiness of the album. Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth is a fantastic piece of Doomy, Sludgy nastiness. A lot of people will be put off by how hostile, ugly and filthy this album is. However, if you enjoy this kind of extreme vileness, you won’t find it done much better than this. If this album was palatable to everybody then it couldn’t have been this successful at pushing the boundaries of what extreme music can be. Not for everybody, but those that can handle it will find a huge amount to love about this album. Beautifully nasty. 9/10

Crown - The End Of All Things (Pelagic Records) [Matt Bladen]

I'll admit, I nearly overlooked this one. However when it's sent to you by a very trustworthy source of excellent music (For The Lost PR) and the band themselves are featuring on the Roadburn Redux stream (which took place this past weekend), you really have no choice but to give it a spin. Crown are a French based industrial/doom/sludge metal band consisting of musician/producer/engineer David Husser and vocalist/engineer Stéphane Azam, their initial set up was to be two men and a drum machine relying very heavily on the influence of bands such as Ministry, Killing Joke and also band such as Depeche Mode, NIN and Alcest all artists/members David and Stéphane have played/engineered for. Now with the first listen, I'm glad I decided to play this record, on second listen I was angry with myself for even thinking about not playing it. The End Of All Things is probably the most accomplished Crown album so far, for this French duo. 

The End Of All Things sees them take a slightly different approach than previously heard. Their past two albums have been built on industrial beeps and sweeps with crushing sludge riffs and screaming vocals marrying with the numerous vocal guests. Here nearly all the vocals come for Stéphane, who relies on his low, emotive croon rather than harsh aggression, though Shades calls back to the previous albums as does the ragged Firebearer. It's a revelation that brings a sound of Dave Gahan or Jonas Renkse, to the introspective lyricism, the guitar driven electronic thrust washes over you with waves of melancholy. Illumination really taking you deep into that esoteric Depeche Mode electronic haze There is one guest on the record however; Årabrot's Karin Park lending her resonant tones to the final track Utopia a tender, almost stripped down number that is in opposition to the throbbing opener Violence, which, along with the pulsating Neverland are key in establishing the album's dark overtones, and allowing you to settle in to the clean vocals as if they have always been there. The twisted Flevue fades into the raging Firebearer giving a neat duality. The End Of All Things is a near perfect representation of how to create a industrial music. 9/10   

Bongzilla – Weedsconsin (Heavy Psych Sound Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Having returned from hiatus in 2015, the past few years have been somewhat of a roller coaster for Wisconsin’s weed appreciating Bongzilla. The band who took the decision to put things on hold in 2009 are now making their debut for Italian label Heavy Psych Sounds with album number 5, Weedsconsin. 
It won’t surprise those not acquainted with the band that their primary source of inspiration for their material is related to marijuana and its legalisation. Tracks such as Free the Weed, the sprawling ten-minute Space Rock, and the tumbling 15-minute meander of Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags aren’t subtle but the overall downtuned riff fest of this 40+ minutes is a delight to those who worship at the altar of the riff. 

It’s a pummelling, piledriving rampaging beast that punishes those who dare to involvement. Snarling vocals that aren’t often associated with stoner also work brilliantly. Formed in 1995, it was sad to read that original member Cooter Brown had to step down in March 2020 due to ill health and family reasons. Undaunted the band have continued onward, with Weedsconsin one of several releases that the band are involved in including several split EPs with bands on their own Gungeon label. Weedsconsin was written by Muleboy (bass, vocals), Spanky (guitar), and Magma (drums) and recorded and engineered by the late John Hopkins at Future Apple Tree Studios in Rock Island, IL in October 2020. Whilst the rest of the world has been locked down, it’s clear that Bongzilla have put in some gargantuan work to push themselves right back to the top of the pile. 8/10 

Monday 19 April 2021

Reviews: Icon Of Sin, Howling Giant, Crummer, Gabe Is A Unit (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Icon Of Sin - Icon Of Sin (Frontiers Music) 

Despite the title track opening like Whitesnake's Still Of The Night Icon Of Sin, are very much in the traditional NWOBHM vein. Especially Iron Maiden, this is due to vocalist Raphael Mendes, who is something of a YouTube sensation because he sounds EXACTLY like 80's Bruce Dickinson. I mean it's ridiculous how close his vocal style is and if weren't for the few Latin American pronunciations you'd think it was the Air Raid Siren himself, on songs such as Virtual Empire. So it's obvious that the music you would build around this vocal would be as close to Maiden as possible but I also hear a lot of Bruce's solo projects on Road Rage. No matter what you hear, this Brazilian band faithfully pay tribute to the classic sounds of UK metal. 

The rest of the band are all well versed Brazilian musicians with much of the writing coming from Sergio Mazul (Semblant) and Marcelo Gelbcke (Landfall), who go against their normal styles to make Icon Of Sin a faithful recreation of the power of Iron Maiden. Lyrically there's all sorts of fantasy and historical songs here Batman on Clouds Over Gotham, Feudal Japan on The Last Samurai and the pandemic itself on Pandemic Euphoria. The real star here of course is Raphael Mendes but of course this album does veer into shameless pastiche at times, which I normally mark down but blow me down if I didn't feel the same sort of rush I do when I listen to Maiden. Classic heavy metal with a vocal performance that should have Steve Harris on the phone if ever Bruce wants some time off from the mothership. 7/10   

Howling Giant – Alteration (Self Released)

Last heard on this blog on a split with Sergeant Thunderhoof, Nashville psych rockers Howling Giant drop a surprise digital-only instrumental EP. Bored by the pandemic and the lockdown, the band took to Twitch and performed some streaming shows. During these shows they asked fans to give them potential song names and wrote instrumental tracks on the spot to suit them. Merely live jams, the band went back and crafted four of these into the tracks that feature on this EP. 

A novel idea that has turned into another mind-bending record from this Nashville four piece as it once again makes great use of newest member Marshall Bolton’s kaleidoscopic keys and synths. Though it opens with probably the most direct song on the EP, the thrusting Understudy is driven by the insistent bass and drums of Sebastian Baltes and Zach Wheeler, while Tom Polzine’s arpeggios keep the adrenaline level high making for a song that takes a major hit of Rush in its melody. 

At just 20 minutes Alteration is actually pretty long for an EP, Luring Alluring Rings meandering through some stratospheric space rock as Enemy Of My Anemone brings a jazz-meets-trad metal tone, the fluid guitars adding a real hook. Finally the album finishes with Farmer Maggot’s Crop a song that shifts into echoed Echoes-era Floyd with Mike T. Kerr adding some bluegrass guitar. Alteration gives you four instrumental explorations from a band with a wide musical scope. 7/10

Crummer - Deathwards (Pathologically Explicit)

Deathwards is the debut full length from Spanish death metal duo Crummer, Abel Suárez is the growling voice of the project and Gonzalo “Lalo” Glez the musical backing playing guitar, bass and keys (yes folks that means programmed drums). Their music style is straight up death metal, no frills just brutal OSDM with some atmospheric touches to make it similar to bands such as Bolt Thrower and Pestilence. There’s a good mix of primitive grinding groove and pummelling blastbeats, which will excite death metal lovers, a good thing seeing as the entire purpose of this record was to make music for death metal fans by death metal fans. Self-recorded and produced mainly due to Lalo’s day job as a producer and sound technician. Its 37 minutes of death metal paying homage to the big bands in the genre. Not revolutionary but jolly good fun. 6/10

Gabe Is A Unit - Gabe Is A Unit (Self Released)

Any album that pairs a reading of 'The War Song Of Dinas Vawr' by English poet Thomas Love Peacock with fuzzy doomy riffs is going to get your attention. Especially when that rendition is delivered in lilting  'proper' Welsh accent (I say that as a Cardiffian). It's the third song debut EP from the oddly named Pembrokeshire two piece Gabe Is A Unit, comprised by two blokes named Ben, and it's very bloody odd indeed! At four tracks long there's a whole load of madness going on, the band categorize themselves as grunge/doom but that's quite a simplistic overview of what they do with a guitar and a drum set. 

The most song-like track is Stressful Evening which has reverbed surf rock moving into growling sludge rager, starting the album in a quirky style as it shifts into Pissed God (Wibbly Wobbly) an instrumental that is very Wibbly Wobbly in it's sound. Now this brings us to Dinas Vawr which has Wayne John reciting the poem on top of doom rock riffs and leads into I've Had an Absolutely Marvellous Evening Babes a very weird, drunken train of thought set to frizzing electronics, I do hope the protagonist got the menu for dessert wine after all. Certainly an acquired taste Gabe Is A Unit are a strange duo but they manipulate music well. 6/10 

Thursday 15 April 2021

Reviews: Holding Absence & Bruit ≤ (Reviews By Liam True& Matt Bladen)

Holding Absence - The Greatest Mistake Of My Life (Sharptone Records) [Liam True]

Trying to top a debut such as their self-titled album, Holding Absence have been teasing up with clops and portions of the new album since Afterlife dropped in January earlier this year. Since then the hype around The Greatest Mistake Of My Life has been building with the release of Circles and nomoreroses. Ditching their previous presence of social media as a drab black and white background the change left fans everywhere scratching their heads with what’s coming next. A change of sound & change of direction from their debut? Thankfully not.

TGMOML has risen above the hype and crushed the self-titled offering from the band as they’ve taken the sound that made noticeable across the modern Rock scene, polished it and tweaked it to create the monstrous album they’ve created by vocalist Lucas Woodland the album starts with an atmospheric opening before Woodland proclaims ‘I’m Alive’ while the band launch themselves atop a shimmering landscape of Post-Hardcore & Hard Rock mixtures that they blend together effortlessly. From here on out the band fluctuate their pace with the slow burning ballad Curse Me With Your Kiss that leads directly into the arena filling lead single anthem Afterlife. The guitar work of Scott Carey and drummer Ashley Green combine with Woodlands vocals to create an addictive mellow vision on Drugs And Love & Circles as they both show the bands skills of pace and tempo as they lull us into a false sense of security as nomoreroses blasts back into their faster heavier side.

The Cardiff three piece are down a man as bassist James Joseph announced he’d left the band prior to Afterlife’s release. But the band hasn’t shown any signs of stopping as TGMOML is not only more melodic but also more on the heavier side of the spectrum on times. Beyond Belief & Die Alone are the perfect back to back duo that encompasses the bands ability to shift their style tempo to make the album that much more moving. Phantoms is a haunting interlude that sounds as disturbing as it is beautiful. Mourning Song is a slow burner clocking in at 7 minutes but shows the band are more than capable at writing longer songs that still sound fresh. Ending the album is the title track that was performed in the 1930’s and then discovered by Lucas’ great uncle in the 50’s by some incredible feat. Feeling that it holds true to the narrative of the album, they play the original song straight from the vinyl with the signature crackling noises in full effect to give the feeling that the past has coincided with the present. Another small note about the album is that almost every single song transitions into each other, making it a better experience to listen in one sitting.

It’s a dazzlingly fantastic album from the band that shows the band are moving forward with their sound but still retaining the signature tone they’re known for that is a shoe in to be album of the year and even album of the decade. You’ll need to pay close attention to Holding Absence as after their upcoming UK & European tour they’ll be spearheading the Rock genre to all new heights. And in a few years time they’ll be at the forefront of the modern Rock scene headlining arenas with their names in lights. It’s a beacon of hope in these tough times that we all needed to shine through us.

The Greatest Mistake Of My Life? Far from it. The greatest record of 2021. Without a doubt. 10/10

Bruit ≤ - The Machine Is Burning And Now Everyone Knows It Could Happen Again (Elusive Sound) [Matt Bladen]

For all the heavy metal we get here at MoM Towers, we do occasionally get something different that breaks from the heavy riffs and growled vocals. Toulouse four piece Bruit ≤ are an ambient/neoclassical/post-rock band with an encompassing sound that draws heavily from Mogwai, Mono, Explosions In The Sky on the post rock side, bringing the ambiance of Massive Attack and Portishead. The band members are Theophile Antolinos (guitar/tape), Clément Libes (bass/violin/keyboard), Julien Aoufi (drums) and Luc Blanchot (cello), as you can see from the instruments that this isn't going to be a steamroller, but more of an exploration of soundscapes, the multi layered instrumentation beautifully composed to ebb and flow across these four long running tracks which need to have room to breathe. 

This musical exploration culminates in the cathartic title track that closes out the album with a level of emotion, that just builds and builds towards a much needed release 5 minutes before the end, the comedown a reverb/echoed last part. Theophile's guitar playing is wonderfully lucid, folksy acoustics and shimmering clean electric guitars, Luc's drumming is sparse but multifaceted shifting these audio journeys as Clément's bass throbs deep in a grooving well, the keys are integral to the ghostly encompassing sound that brings a darkness to Industry, which also highlights the stirring cello of Luc who combines with Clément's violin on the Renaissance, an ethereal folk number that evolves into a widescreen mid-section. 

Two tracks in and I was enraptured by this album, the four members of the band orchestrate a stunning musical vision with Florianne Tardy (clarinet), Benoit Huet (French horn), Fabien Dormic (bass trombone) and Juliette Carlier (vibraphone) all adding their own touches to this wonderful album. Not metal, but it carries a weight of bands like Cult Of Luna. Staggering. 10/10