Alluvial - Sarcoma (Nuclear Blast) [Richard Oliver]
There has been major upheaval in the Alluvial camp since the release of their debut album The Deep Longing For Annihilation in 2017. The band back then was an instrumental showcase for guitarists Wes Hauch (ex-Black Crown Initiate/ex-The Faceless) and Keith Merrow (Conquering Dystopia/Merrow) but in the intervening years Keith Merrow has left the project and been replaced with a full band line up (rather than the use of session musicians previously) for their second album Sarcoma. I lamented in my review of The Deep Longing For Annihilation that Alluvial’s music would be all the more effective with the inclusion of a vocalist. Well obviously someone was paying attention as Alluvial now has a full time vocalist in the form of Kevin Muller (The Merciless Concept/ex-Suffocation). The inclusion of Kevin’s furious bellows means that the music on Sarcoma is a bit more ferocious and crushing than previously albeit with all the progressive and technical flourishes that gave the band their identity. The opening trio of songs are hell bent of levelling any building in the vicinity of the speakers that the album is being pumped out of with the title track being a particularly vicious beast of contemporary death metal.
The death metal on offer is very much a modern sounding take on the genre which draws in elements of deathcore and djent but uses these elements to good effect to make the songs as heavy as humanly possible. The prog elements don’t really come to the fore until 40 Stories which has a very jazzy feel to it and is far less sonically devastating aided by the inclusion of clean vocals. There are also nods to Gojira in this song whose influence can be clearly heard at multiple points during the album. Exponent carries on the momentum of skull crushing heaviness and The Putrid Sunrise proves to be an album highlight by leaning into more traditional thrash-influenced death metal. There are also a couple of interesting instrumental tracks Zero which has a very dark and uneasy feeling about it and veers on noise and dark ambient and Sugar Paper which showcases Wes’ guitar skills and a bit of a throwback to the first album.
Sarcoma is a good album of contemporary death metal which is technical, progressive and atmospheric in equal measure. The band excels when the progressive elements come to the fore as the death metal parts are a bit too chuggy for my liking and lacking in enough good riffs but that’s just down to personal taste. The lead guitar solos throughout are utterly fantastic as would be expected from a guitarist with the skills of Wes Hauch. The transcendence of Alluvial from the side project of two guitarists to the fully fledged band has definitely yielded results and the inclusion of a vocalist has done Alluvial the world of good. This is far from a flawed album but it is still a great example of contemporary sounding death metal. 7/10
Khandra - All Occupied By Sole Death (Season Of Mist) [Paul Scoble]
For the past few years the Belarusian band Khandra have been making music together. The four piece, featuring Uladzimir B on Vocals, Dmitry R on Guitars, Pavel V on Drums and Anton S on Bass, have released two Ep’s before All Occupied By Sole Death; 2017’s All Is Of No Avail, and 2018’s There Is No Division Outside Existence. All Occupied By Sole Death is Khandra’s debut album. The album opens with a 2 minute intro of spooky noises and atmospherics called Mute Moleben, before first track Irrigating Lethal Acres With Blood arrives with a slow riff that absolutely drips with dissonance. The drumming takes a turn for the dramatic before Khandra drop the listener into one of the fastest Blast Beats I’ve ever heard, a serious breakneck blitz of rapid drumming and tremolo picked riffs. A lot of the blasting on this album has this ultra high speed style. The track then returns to the slow and dissonant mode from the beginning of the song, the slower riffs are also full of melody despite all of the dissonance.
The song vacillates between these two styles until a slow, melodic and expansive ending. Nothing But Immortality For Aye has a similar structure to the song that preceded it, mid-paced sections with nicely melodic yet dissonant riffs and super fast blasting; the juxtaposition of expansive, slower sections with savagely rapid parts works very well. Next we have In Harvest Against The Sun which has a huge opening which is sweeping and dramatic, the main part of the song moves between slow and mid-paced with the occasional faster section, but this is mainly slower material with lots of melody. Then we get to the last minute which is an insanely fast blast beat to the end of the song. With The Blessing Of Starless Night is another song where the slower and more expansive material takes the lead, don’t worry theres still the occasional savagely fast blast beat, but this is mainly about slow and huge right up until it’s big dramatic ending.
Thanatos is a great track, it has a slightly different feeling to the rest of the album, the mix of fast and slow is still there, but the slow is far more doomy and tri-tone heavy than on a lot of the other material, the expansiveness has taken a back seat to putrid nastiness. The album comes to an end with the title track All Occupied By Sole Death, which is probably the best track on the album. All Occupied By Sole Death is full of melody from it’s slow opening to the high speed blasting, which on this track I find to be very reminiscent of Mare Cognitum, and is full of tunefulness. All Occupied By Sole Death is a fantastic Black Metal album. It manages to pull off the very clever trick of being full of melody and fantastic tunes, whilst also being breathtakingly fast and savage. The blast beats have to be heard to be believed, the guitar and bass work is fantastic and the vocals are also very effective. If this was from a band that was established with a few albums under their belt, this would be impressive but for a debut it’s down right awe inspiring. 9/10
Chelsea - Meanwhile Gardens (Westworld) [Zak Skane]
Chelsea is four piece Punk bands that have formed in 1976 in London. The band are known for their debut single Right To Work that was released in 1977. From there the band made a name for themselves a name of being one of well-known bands that came from the underground Punk scene in London. With albums and singles released under their name the band have released their most mature album in Meanwhile Gardens. When I was listening to this album, the first thing that came into my mind when I reached the last song was that, I wouldn’t really call this a strict Punk album. For example there are a lot of Rock moments that reminds me of Bruce Springsteen especially the opening title track, Ladbroke Grove and the closing song Little Venice. There are also songs that pay homage to other bands outside that genre like the track Falling Apart that remind me of a more punky sounding version of The Cure. With the Folk/Blues Rock tinted Ladbroke Grove and the politically driven song Here And Now which sounds like a more punk infused Bob Dylan song.
My personal highlights from this album is The Great Divide, which shows off the bands musicianship by providing texture in the guitar parts, especially in the chorus. There is also some cool sounding bass lines in verse sections that will satisfy any JJ Brunel (bassist of The Stranglers) fan. It's follow up It’s Friday which a can see being a fan favourite when gigs finally come back. The faster pace song that comes after it, Shine The Light, which is the most up-beat song on the album and the folk infused Ladbroke Grove that kicks off with a Harmonica. Finally the last song Little Venice shows off the bands song writing skills as well as there ear for melody in the guitar parts. My biggest gripe is that I have with this album is, the whole pace from start to finish.
I felt the tempos and the drum beats on each song kept the same, which don’t get wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. AC/DC have a whole back catalogue that have the same drum beat performed on their songs, but they always varied in tempo. I also even though I got admire this album is well recorded I found that the production on this album was a bit too polished and as a result it took away some of that edge that you would expect from a Punk record. Overall even though there were good moments on this album it wasn’t stimulating enough to put in an album concept, but if you are an old school punk fan that listens to The Damned and The Clash it’s definitely worth a listen to. 6/10.