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Sunday, 13 June 2021

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: Royal Glam (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with Royal Glam by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc? 

Royal Glam: Royal Glam are a four piece Glam/Heavy Metal band from South Wales. They are; Steevie Dentz (Guitar and Vox), C.C Belle (Guitar and Vox), Johnny Thunder (Drums) and F-ROG (Bass). Their sound has been compared to early Kiss and Van Halen as well as Mötley Crue and Vain. Originally formed in 2010, but revived and resuscitated in 2020 with more energy than ever. 

MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up to? 

Royal Glam: The pandemic is directly responsible for us writing new material as we've been practicing hard (social distanced style) between Cardiff, Bristol and Newbury when possible. When that's not been possible Steevie and C.C Belle have been penning lyrics and practicing their vocal chops in parks and green spaces across Cardiff. The pandemic has also given our new bassist F-ROG time to get familiar with the old material ready for the stage. We’ve also managed to start work on the recording of a new single and b-side. It’s been a bit of a disjointed experience but we’re hoping to get his out before the M2TM Cardiff Event. 

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past? 

Royal Glam: We've had no previous experience playing Bloodstock or a M2TM event other than seeing some of our friends bands play M2TM events in the past. We are really excited to have this opportunity to play with great bands and hopefully introduce some new people to our music. 

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format? 

Royal Glam: We are just grateful to be playing a live event again, even in a restructured format. It’s been way too long and will be a blast no matter what the format is. 

MoM: What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music? 

Royal Glam: It would mean the world for us to play Bloodstock this year and share energy and good vibes with like minded people who have been deprived from live music. It would be life changing for the band to get its name on such a high profile event and we'd love to keep the momentum going by touring and spreading the name Royal Glam. 

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance? 


Final Thought: Have the glitter and spandex ready, Royal Glam have clearly come to party!

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: Suns Of Thunder (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with Suns Of Thunder by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc

Suns Of Thunder: Greg Bombroffe - Geet/Vox, Matt Williams - Geet/Vox, Chris James - Bass, Sam Loring - Drums. BEER BOOGIE RIFF ROCK
MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up to?
Suns Of Thunder: We were in the studio when the first lockdown came in and we were very fortunate to get back in to record demos for the new album in between lockdown's. It has been a killer not making noise though, we had a few zoom call's but it is not the same. We did a bit of recording and sent ideas back and forth. If I had left it any longer my hearing would have grown back. ha. The rest of the boys worked throughout the entire thing, I'm a Technician in a Theatre so it was a little different for me. I had all the homeschooling crap to deal with. Teachers do not get paid enough. FACT

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

Suns Of Thunder: Zero man, nawt, naddy, zip. Never Been...It looks amazing! We were lined up to play the M2TM heats last year but this shit storm kicked off last year 

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format?

Suns Of Thunder: I think it's all gonna be a bit odd for everyone at first but everyone is gaggin' for gig's and human interaction again. Can't wait to play a packed room again. It's always good looking out on a crowd and seeing smiles 5. What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music?

It would be huge for us to play bloodstock, we have definitely paid our dues, over the years we've travelled thousands of miles in shitty vans. Suns started in 2000 and we kinda missed our 20 year anniversary last year....let's face it last year was about as much use as a wet fart. Onwards and upwards, we are back in the studio this summer to record our 6th Studio album, 10 new bangers ready to go. 

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance?

Suns Of Thunder: TINNITUS BOWEL MOVEMENT (Sorry that's the best I could think of) 

Final Thought: I think Boogie Riff Rock is a better three word description of Suns Of Thunder, could be a dark horse. 

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: And The Sky Darkened (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with And The Sky Darkened by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc?

And The Sky Darkened: We are And The Sky Darkened hailing from various undisclosed medical facilities around South Wales

Our lineup consists of Ryan Lewis - Vox/Guitar, Ollie Hansen - Backing Vox/Guitar, James O'Donovan - Bass and Matt "Animal" Thomas - Drums. We play a hybrid style, taking from old and new school influences including classic thrash, groove metal, modern hard rock and metalcore. We fuse a mixture of vocal styles, twin guitars harmonies and double kick drum patterns to big choruses, challenging rhythms and ambient guitar textures.

MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up to?

And The Sky Darkened: We released our EP "Between Ghosts" just as the pandemic hit so the first few months were basically us trying to plug it as much as we could via social media as gigs weren't on the cards. We also spent some time during the 1st and 2nd lockdown writing and demoing as much new material as we could so at this point we have enough for an album (and more! Recently, we've been recording a new track remotely too which has been a fun and challenging experience (especially to our production skills!) 

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

And The Sky Darkened: We entered a few years ago (2018 maybe?) and got through to the semi finals which we were collectively quite proud of at the time as the heat and semis were our 5th and 6th gigs respectively so we were still pretty green as a lineup back then. We made loads of new friends and the feedback from the judges and public alike was really positive so we it was inevitable we would return!

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format?

And The Sky Darkened: I think we would be lying if we weren't a touch nervous but all the bands are going to be in the same boat so it's more about getting back out there and blowing the cobwebs off! The change in format however isn't an issue to us, it's more important to have a blast and try to get live music up and running again in as safe a manner as possible.

MoM: What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music?

And The Sky Darkened: It would be a huge honour to play Bloodstock in any year, but in light of the last 14 months it has been taken to a whole new level. People need a release from the pandemic and to be a part of that would easily be the highlight of our musical career so far.

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance?

And The Sky Darkened: EPIC CHUNKY METAL

Final Thought: Talent, ambition and big proggy riffs are what And The Sky Darkened do very well, so let's see if it can get them to BOA

Friday, 11 June 2021

Reviews: Crypta, Hammer King, Sinoptik, Red Dawn Rising (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Crypta – Echoes Of The Soul (Napalm Records)

Crypta is at its core the rhythm section of Brazilian thrash monsters Nervosa, vocalist/bassist Fernanda Lira and drummer Luana Dametto both left the band and formed Crypta in 2019 with the future found in the extreme, accentuating the death metal sounds of their previous band while adding lashings of black metal mastery. They added Sonia Anubis (ex-Burning Witches) and Tainá Bergamaschi (ex-Hagbard) as guitarists and set about recording their debut album, after an extended hiatus due to the pandemic, the record was quickly put to plastic (digital) in January of this year, then mixed by Arthur Rizk (Code Orange/Powertrip) and mastered by one Jens Borgen. The result is a terrifying, textured extreme metal album that skilfully manages to walk a tightrope between battery and beauty. After the atmospheric intro the blistering drum patterns of Dametto and bludgeoning basslines of Lira drag you into the menacing world of Crypta, Lira’s croaked vocals rising out of the influence of Darkthrone, Mayhem etc. 

At 10 tracks it leaves it’s mark whether it be the modern death assault of the towering Death Arcana or the wild, blasting Kali which sees Anubis and Bergamaschi unleashing tremolo picking and lots of angry dive bombing, there are lots of traces to various extreme music genres running through the album, with tracks such as Shadow Within ripping flesh from bone due to its nasty vocal and nastier riffing. Crypta are much heavier than the band two its members hail from, the thrash metal influences very sparse between the death and black metal explosions. Echoes Of The Soul happily languishes in its heaviness, capturing you with its rage but keeping you involved with the virtuosity of those involved. Crypta look ready to seize any extreme metal crown in their sight with this debut. 8/10

Hammer King - Hammer King (Napalm Records)

When you're reviewing albums, you can often come across a lot of po-faced, super serious records that have a major message or ideology behind them. Often they are prog but some can also be doom or death metal. It can get a little bit wearing to the old brain, meaning, that like an actor that does a lot of small indie films, you occasionally have to listen to something a bit silly, like they do a big budget action flick with lots of explosions. I call this the John Cusack equation. Hammer King have always been an escapist band since their 2015 debut, coming from Ross The Boss's solo band and Saltatio Mortis, these Germans have been peddling speed metal riffs, fantasy lyrics (mainly about the titular Hammer King or indeed Hammers) ever since this self titled release being their fourth album of historical/fantasy metal.

Ably led by Titan Fox V these metal warriors will appeal to lovers of Hammerfall, Manowar and any other Hammer related band you want to mention, their music taking big swings of heavy metal power as the attack starts with blistering Awaken The Thunder, while Atlantis (Epilogue) is a mid-paced nautical rocker ripe for fist in the air before it evolves into some Maiden like instrumentals, the meanest song on the record though is Hammerschlag which features members of Tankard, Epica and Warkings. I've highly rated all of the previous Hammer King albums, and Hammer King is no different, it thunders like a horde of angry deities having a fight, Into The Storm especially is one of the speed metal anthems of the year (it's also one of the best Maiden songs they never wrote)! Give the high brow a rest for a while and delve into the continuing saga of the mighty Hammer King. Fists to the heavens, beer in hand, stereo up. Make sure the whole street can hear it! 8/10

Sinoptik - The Calling (OneRPM)

Ukrainian trio Sinoptik play a very psychedelic style of power rock that sit them in a middle position between Hawkwind, Cheap Trick and Muse. Drenched in lots of twiddly synth and lush organs, Sinoptik are a band unafraid of a little experimentation a track such as Apple Tree for instance reminds me a lot of The Alan Parsons Project but equally the musch missed Bigelf, while the final song The Call shifts from Muse into some Von Hertzen Brothers all while casting the listener back to Echoes-era Pink Floyd. From what I can decipher this is the fifth album by Sinoptik and it's a concept record about what awaits you when you or a love one passes away. Will you hear the call of those waiting for you? Again like with a lot of prog, it's quite a lofty concept meaning that musically they have to live up to this ambition.

I'd say that throughout the The Calling that they prove again and again that they can live up to their moniker as "the world's best band" according to a Global Battle Of The Bands. When you listen to this record you can understand why they would have been awarded this title as their musical style is quite broad meaning they could appeal to hardened classic rock fans (Planet Rock Massive) but also bearded proggers and even those who are into something a bit heavier. For a country with not that many rock/metal bands, Jinjer (who's Eugene mixed/mastered this album) and Stoned Jesus are two that come to mind, Sinoptik show that Ukraine is clearly fertile ground for music as all three acts are very different, Sinoptik being the most eclectic. Despite being a fifth release from Sinoptik, it's got all of the attributes to make it the one that will see them burst out of the Ukrainian scene into the rest of the world. 8/10

Red Dawn Rising - Weight Of The World (Self Released)

Belgian metalcore band Red Dawn Rising certainly wear their influences on their sleeve. Weight Of The World veers between the American sound of Killswitch Engage and In Flames, so Take A Stand is very much NWOAHM, packed with melodic leads while Pain/Victory has more death/black metal approach. There's the obligatory breakdowns on nearly every song, the guttural/clean vocals and groove stylings are also pretty standard across this concept record that deals with the lazy attitude of people today. The issue I have is that bands like Killswitch or In Flames do very little for me and this record sticks rather rigidly to its influence never really moving out of the metalcore comfort zone. Fine perhaps 10 years ago but not really as impressive in 2021. Still there's a market for it still, but for me it's a little one dimensional. 5/10

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Reviews: Mental Cruelty, Archon, Angstskríg, Wristmeetrazor (Reviews By Liam True, Zak Skane, Matt Bladen & Rich Oliver)

Mental Cruelty – A Hill To Die Upon (Unique Leader Records) [Liam True]

Since blackened deathcore has existed for well over a decade, thanks to torch-bearers like Winds Of Plague, Carnifex, and Bleeding Through. However, acts like Lorna Shore and Shadow Of Intent have helped reinvigorate the previously dormant style in unexpected and delightful ways. This is where Mental Cruelty’s third record comes seemingly out of nowhere to slam into the scene.

Where these Germans particularly excel is in two really important areas: guitarwork and atmosphere. A Hill To Die Upon travels through a myriad of subgenres: deathcore, symphonic black metal, tech-death, and slam, so it’s due to the massive efforts of Marvin Kessler, and Nahuel Lozano that quality stays consistent through the record’s varied sounds. Riffs tend to feel more influenced by slam and melodic tech-death, though the blackened leads and stunning guitar solos that pepper the record really reveal a vibrancy that’s feels unique to the band. However, it’s in the building of atmosphere that the record shines. Both in the utilization of synths and in shifting their writing style to emphasize atmosphere over brutality, it’s a rare treat to have a deathcore record where most of the breakdowns feel both earned and enjoyable. It’s a meaty record for sure, but it doesn’t take long to appreciate how much effort was put to trim the album’s fat. Listening back to Mental Cruelty’s previous records reveals a talented band on the cusp of greatness, which puts the excellence here in better perspective.

If there’s one complaint, it’s of the brick-walled production and a mix that somehow makes everything sound a tad sharper on the ears than necessary. Look, I get that deathcore should have loud production, and there’s definitely some variance in the dynamic range, but it’s hard to fully appreciate when it goes from really loud to super duper loud. That aside, for those who were sad to see Lorna Shore without a vocalist or wishing Shadow Of Intent went even harder, welcome to your new favorite band. The BEST deathcore album of 2021 is here without a shadow of a doubt. 10/10

Archon - Altiora (Prime Collective) [Zak Skane]

Archon are a brand new Metalcore act hailing form Aarhus Denmark. Archon consist four members vocalist Sofus Nielsen, Guitarists Kresten Maigaard, Jonas Larsen and drummer Jeppe Bo Kibsgaard. The bands sonic structure is based on ambient and classic genres accompanied with political and personally challenged lyrical themes.

From the opening ambience of Begin to the closing tech filled riff factory of Purgatory, there are some great moments on this E.P. Especially with tracks like Begin and Dark Grounds where Kresten Maigaard and Jonas Larsen’s guitar parts lock in with Jeppe Bo Kibsgaard drum grooves, resulting in some good face gurning, head bobbing moments. Gloom takes influences from old school metal-core bands like All That Remain and Killswitch Engage and combines it with the newer sounding bands like Architects and Wage War to produce a sonic brew that could please both the old and new metalcore fans. Also Playing The Victim utilises hardcore style riffs that take ode bands like Beartooth and Vanna and mixes it up with tech metal guitar riffs that you would from bands like Erra and Currents. 

The production on this EP sounds amazing, Chris Kreutzfeldt (who has worked with Cabal, MOL and Ghost Iris) has done a great job of making the guitars sound tight and crushing, whist locking with the drums that are sounding punchy and cutting through the mix, which especially helps highlighting some of the more technical and polyrhythmic moments on Jeppe performs on songs like Begin and Purgatory. My only criticisms that I have with this E.P is that, even though the songs well structured I found especially with the melodically harsh sung choruses, is that they don’t really stand out to me. For example when you listen to a songs like Wage War’s Twenty One and Don’t Let Me Fade Away they use a lot more variation to make them sound more catchy and melodic.

Overall this is great debut e.p from the four piece metal act from Denmark. If you are a fan of modern metal-core i.e bands like Wage War, Eera and Currents it’s definitely worth checking out, 7/10

Angstskrig - Skyggespil (Despotz Records) [Matt Bladen]

Featuring the likes of Attila Vörös (Satyricon, Sanctuary, Nevermore, Tyr), Frédéric Leclercq (Kreator, Dragonforce, Sinsaenum), Mathias Lillmåns (Finntroll), Tomas Elofsson (Hypocrisy) and Sylvain Coudret (Soilwork). Mysterious Danish duo Angstskrig have a wide rolodex of acquaintances appear on this debut album, clearly a lot of friends considering they are masked and their identities highly guarded. Skyggespil means Shadow Play in Danish and it sums up the sound of Angstskrig very well, delivered in their native tongue this album is full of Northern Darkness, the extreme metal assault on the record inspired by black n roll luminaries Entombed as they interpret their own sound of raw, ravaged black metal (obviously), but they have grooves, melodic guitars and gloomy atmospheres. The first three tracks are strongly in the black metal vein while Lucifer Kalder is more straight ahead style as Slæbt Gennem Sølet is a much more doomy affair. Skyggespil travels across the howling barren landscapes with a more aggressive style of black n roll than many around. A furious debut from this duo. 7/10  

Wristmeetrazor - Replica Of A Strange Love (Prosthetic Records) [Richard Oliver]

It’s been a good long while since I’ve had to suffer through any metalcore but all good things come to an end and ruining this nice long streak of non-generic painfully bad metalcore is Wristmeetrazor with their second album Replica Of A Strange Love. As you can probably tell already I am really not a fan of the metalcore genre. Despite having some promising bands at the genre’s inception it is now a painfully stale, uninspiring and repetitive genre that rarely produces anything new, different, exciting or listenable. Wristmeetrazor are unfortunately one of the worst examples of the metalcore genre it has been my misfortune to listen to as not only do they produce appallingly generic metalcore they incorporate a load of influences from post-hardcore and screamo (another genre that makes me want to feed myself head first into an industrial wood chipper). 

The vocals are the worst offender here with screams that sound like a 14 year old having a temper tantrum after having their X-Box confiscated by their parents for bad behaviour and the most obnoxiously whiny clean vocals. If there was meant to be any genuine emotion portrayed in this music then it is absolutely laughable. The riffs are about as memorable as paint drying with a stream of endless chugs and monotonous breakdowns. Even when something half resembling a decent riff comes along it sounds like a piss-weak Machine Head ripoff.

This is easily the worst thing I have listened to so far this year. Metalcore dumbed down so much that is sounds like a bad parody of itself. This album has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever - I’ll give them half a point for writing and performing their own music and half a point for a good production but seriously avoid this at all costs. Now excuse me whilst I pour bleach down my ears to clean them out and smash my head against the wall to induce a concussion that will hopefully make me forget I ever spent time listening to this band. 1/10

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Reviews: Interloper, Go Ahead And Die, King Buffalo, Satlan (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Interloper - Search Party (Nuclear Blast)

New to the progressive metal scene Search Party is Interloper's debut album and it's a full of the technically proficient progressive music that founding members Miles Dimitri Baker (Guitar) and Aaron Stechauner (Drums) did in their previous band Rings Of Saturn. However while there is heaviness here it's not in the colossal death metal style of RoS. Interloper have been a band who have been through the mill with this record attaching a lot of emotion to each one of the tracks.

The album itself recorded with a 'no-limits' attitude and it's to the benefit of this band who blend the sounds of Trivium, VOLA and even Haken their multi-layered style brought to full fruition on the title track and the crushing Drift, both are a frenzy of explosive riffing and destructive drumming but while the latter is much more in the Trivium sound Andrew Virrueta (Guitar/Vocals) using both his growls and cleans with the thundering riffs and melodic passages, this can also be said of the incendiary Baring Teeth.

The former has a lot of acoustic guitar running through it for a big progressive bent to it, these acoustics come back in force on Idle Years which even has a edge of Iron Maiden to it, feeling like a nautical cinematic tune. Across the record the quality never drops, each song pairing and emotional gut punch with a powerful musical backing filled with virtuoso playing. The record finishes with a cover of Duran Duran's Rio which flavours the 80's-tastic original with a lot of progressive metal flourishes. Search Party is what I would call an almost perfect debut album, it's announced Interloper as potential world beaters in the progressive metal game. 9/10

Go Ahead And Die - Go Ahead And Die (Nuclear Blast)

I jumped into the debut album from Go Ahead And Die without doing any research, as the shit kicking death metal assault blasted out of my speakers, I started to make notes that read "Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy", then I did some research and found out that Go Ahead And Die is a collaboration between Igor Amadeus Cavalera (bass/guitar/vocals), Black Curse/Khemmis drummer Zach Coleman and Amadeus' father Max Cavalera (vocals/guitar). This power trio play punk-infused death metal full of that legendary Cavalera groove and fuck you attitude, they say it has elements of Celtic Frost (I.C.E Cage), which I can hear in the biting guitar tone, however it's the thrash/crossover style that the Cavalera name is synonymous with that comes through on Toxic Freedom and Isolated Desolated amongst others. 

Driven by the powerhouse drumming of Coleman this record is a politically charged one with the Max's lyrics pissed off at the state of the world so the music is composed to reflect that, rarely letting the pace drop from absolute carnage. You can feel the pits Prophets Prey will bring to the live stage, the blasting first part shifting into some good ol' stomping in the middle, it's classic Cavalera noise making with a sprinkle of youth and some more traditional death metal noise than previous Cavalera projects. An aggressive audio assault from Max, Amadeus and Zach, Go Ahead And Die is perfect for civil disobedience (not that we encourage that sort of thing)! 7/10

King Buffalo - Burden Of Restlessness (Stickman Records)

Burden Of Restlessness is the second of three albums to be released by US prog/psych rock band King Buffalo in 2020/2021. They clearly have a hell of a work ethic as on this record alone they craft a prog/psych record that features strong influences of Tool, Wheel, The Sword, All Them Witches and Monster Magnet. Throbbing basslines and atmospherics are the order of the day from the opening of Burning which lulls you into King Buffalo's hypnotic world. The three piece of Sean McVay (vocals/guitar), Dan Reynolds (bass) and Scott Donaldson (drums) have previously released 3 full lengths and 4 EP's and Burden Of Restlessness continues the evolution of their 'heavy psych' sound.

Born out of their lack of touring ability, King Buffalo settled into the studio to record their third album and found that their creativity and frustration unravelled itself into them writing their third, fourth and fifth albums one after another. So essentially you can pitch this record as the mid point of a musical trilogy and it feels like that, almost as if you're stuck in a mind bending exploration through desolate wastelands propelled by a rhythm section that purrs like a well cared for high performance engine with guitars that take you away into more existential realms on a track such as Locusts, which has an archetypal King Buffalo sound. The Knocks has that heady fug of Tool building into something more otherworldly as it undulates though it's running time.

McVay's voice really reminding me of Dave Wyndorf's druid like drawl. Grifter is a track that lets you drift away into a different universe, the lyrics open to a lot of interpretation as most of them on this record are. Burden Of Restlessness, like most of the bands albums, needs multiple listens to truly appreciate but with repeated plays it unravels itself into a powerful piece of prog/psych! 8/10

Satlan - Panacea (Self Released)

London based stoner/doom band Satlan formed in 2015 by singer Soozi Chameleone and guitarist Roy Nadel. The band gained Alex Monad on bass and James Loh (The Bleeding) on drums and set about doing shows, however with Soozi also being the vocalist of Dead Witches there left little time for recording, but with a global pandemic and Soozi leaving Dead Witches, they set about recording their debut album entitled Panacea (named after the Greek Goddess of Universal Remedy). It's musical remedy that has been picked from the finest sounds of psych, blues, doom and stoner channelling Aphrodite's Child or Curved Air filtered through the psychedelic fuzz of Electric Wizard and Sleep, rich with politicised, occult and personal lyrics this is certainly a medicine that needs to be taken whole. 

Out of the 6 tracks here five have labyrinthine rhythms and long running times with jazz-inflected bass runs of Monad cutting through the repeating grind of opener Control as we are brought into the twisted carnival on Nash where the album becomes very traditionally doom sounding the winding guitars of Nadel pitched perfectly against Chameleone's hypnotic vocals as the beat is kept driving forward by Loh. For non doom lovers Panacea will be a little overwhelming due to the slow, elongated riffs, but for those of us that know and love the genre will gain great pleasure in songs such as Kingmaker which really up the crushing heaviness and the psych tones at the end or Watchmen which has a strong stoner vibe to it while the final rager Insanity is raging punk. Panacea is the cure for what ails ya, crank it up nice and loud. 8/10     

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Reviews: Billy Gibbons, Rise Against, Charlie Benante, Quinn Sullivan (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Alex Swift)

Billy F Gibbons – Hardware (Concord Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Solo album number 3 from the bearded legend and once more it oozes class and charm. Whilst the previous two releases, The Big Bad Blues and Perfectamundo contained several cover versions, Hardware features a solitary recreation of the Texas Tornados Hey Baby, Que Paso. Recorded in the desert, where Gibbons holed up for a few weeks with a plethora of A list musicians, the album’s title is a tribute to legendary recording engineer Joe Hardy who worked with Gibbons and ZZ Top in the mid-1980s. All tracks apart from Hey Bay, Que Paso were co-written by Gibbons with drummer Matt Sorum, Mike Fiorentino and Chad Slosser. It may have taken Gibbons until the age of 66 to release the Latin-tinged Pefectamundo, but with ZZ Top’s last album now close to a decade ago, clearly Gibbons has the recording bug. Hardware is sticky, dirty and rocking. The lyrics remain at times as close to the bone as they were on some of those ZZ classics, and you can feel the desert heat permeating through the songs. Most tracks are short, sharp, and full of that bluesy groove, of which Gibbons is genuinely the master. 

From the addictive swing of Shuffle, Step & Slide, which features some delightful picking, to the opening rage of My Lucky Card, this is rockier than Gibbons has been for some time.
He can slow the tempo with ease, and Vagabond Man, with its rich Hammond tones cools the heat, reaches deep to the emotions, a gentle, ambling song that teases out another fantastic solo. The swing of West Coast Junkie ups the pace and groove, whilst Stackin’ Bones sees Larkin Poe join in the fun. Desert High which closes the album perfectly, sees Gibbons narrate over a chilling, spine tingling soundtrack. Hardware sees the Rev Willie G in fine form and clearly enjoying this solo lark. At 71 years of age, the man is speeding up instead of slowing down and if he continues to produce music of such quality, long may it continue, for this is probably his best work so far. 9/10

Rise Against – Nowhere Generation (Spinefarm Records) [Alex Swift]

Some acts lose appeal with you over time the more your music taste grows and the more you mature as a person – that’s perfectly natural and not at all to be scared of. I can count plenty that I liked who I either no longer listen to, or still respect while seeing differently. Counter to that, the opposite is true – many types of music would have alienated me as an adolescent, which I now found exciting and relatable. Even some of the pop which I immaturely lambasted as mainstream back in my “rock is the only worthy genre” days finds a new meaning with me today as I re-evaluate what those artists meant to the music scene they helped shape. Through all of this, however, one of the constants in my music taste has been Rise Against. 

I brought Appeal To Reason and Endgame when they came out and you know what? Those albums have lost none of their poignancy, resonance, or power. Even their older records like Siren Song Of The Counter Culture and The Sufferer And The Witness have aged brilliantly in comparison with some of their contemporaries. They're a band from the Bush-era of American post-hardcore whose music is still as commanding today as it was when it first broke onto the scene. That leads me to the third act in the career of Rise Against. For what it’s worth I still hold up The Black Market as a far more intriguing album than many people gave it credit for at the time, and while Wolves wasn’t all that memorable it was still a solid offering. The challenge Rise Against encounter now is not becoming a pastiche of themselves to the extent that their writing is no longer interesting. Thankfully, this is a challenge they surmount on Nowhere Generation – the full-length has a distinctly huge sounding aesthetic, making for a thrilling listen that still has all the hallmarks of an album by Tim Mcilrath and co. but manages to excel despite those familiar elements.

The Numbers opens the piece on an incredibly strong note. “Is this saddle comfortable? Do these reins feel tight enough? Will you gallop when you’re kicked, or throw the rider off?” runs one line in a motif that compares the public to horses and uses its galloping rhythm and cathartic chorus to summon images of the Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion that has gripped the west in the past year. It’s a fantastic opening number that spares no dynamism in its determination to make an impression on the listener. Not as fast but still as strong I Sudden Urge – beginning on guttural, industrial-tinged riff before spilling over into a fiery chorus, the anthem summons that feeling of grinding your way through life, only to be consumed with rage as the inequalities which make up society are laid bare. This idea of the disenfranchised is the central theme of the album as a whole, and the central concept of the triumphant feeling title track. 

Musically, the song is triumphant, yet the lyrics paint a different story of generations forced to “climb burning ladders” and having their hometowns sold out from under us. The piece is a brilliant example of the depth of imagery this band employs to make their stories both relatable and empowering. Talking To Ourselves for instance is a great case study in just how well these musicians combine the personal and the political in a way that makes their songs resound with people regardless of their situation in life – a strong reason why, regardless of when you become a fan of Rise Against, they don’t lose their ability to inspire. Equally, lines like “I have seen what you call progress, every warning sign ignored there’s a muffled voice of reason but we can’t make out the words” on the incredible Broken Dreams Inc. could just as easily be sung from the perspective of someone whose city has lost its culture and sense of community, as someone who has lost their job due to cuts. It’s that balance between vague and specific which makes for an explosive listening experience.

Just as intriguing is much of the instrumentation on this album – it’s cutting and impressionistic yet strangely detailed when you scratch beneath the surface. The layers upon layers of guitar interplay between Blair and Mcilrath is frequently rich and vivid, while the rhythm section courtesy of Barnes and Principe accommodates excellently for the altering rhythms and frantic tempo changes. Forfeit brings the instrumentation to the forefront for a sombre and heartfelt ballad, comprised of ethereal harmonies and haunting acoustics. By contrast, Monarch and Sounds Like are visceral pieces composed of layers of noise and distortion. Both lament words without actions, so the chaos of the compositions fused with the fuzz and rawer of the instrumentation excellently convey that message of the only result of “empty words” being more grief and turmoil. On a more melodic note, Sooner Or Later exudes an apocalyptic sense of urgency, the chorus being one of the most arresting on the entire record, and the scream of “Our precious time is running out!” striking that galvanising terror into the heart and mind of the listener. 

Middle Of A Dream sees the band once more bringing that sense of grandiosity that defined their mid-era output. Carefully penned, the piece explores being caught between the politics and the personal, being a spokesman and a father, taking the listener into the depths of anxiety that comes from that division through the swirling crescendoing and gigantic sound palate of the track. This is made yet more exciting through the addition of the closer – Rules Of Play see our narrator stepping back from the role of instigator into a far more vulnerable position, which is fraught with a passion and a willingness to do right in the world, yet also an admittance that he does not know how to personally achieve any of the changes he commands his audience to stand up for.

It’s an admittance that the issues which plague the Nowhere Generation – anxiety, personal crises, environmental destruction – are all worries that the musicians in Rise Against are pray to. In that sense, the line ‘we are the nowhere generation’ makes more sense. It’s a cry not just for the young to take up arms but demand for togetherness in that face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. In that sense, through a delicate balance of bittersweet songwriting, intricate musicianship and astute storytelling, Rise Against have crafted another excellent record, which addresses the challenges of the post-Covid world, while also being brave enough to grasp a sense of fallibility in the face of them. 9/10

Charlie Benante – Silver Linings (Proper Music) [Paul Hutchings]

If you’ve followed the Anthrax drummer during the past 15 months or so, you’ll have seen him spend much of the pandemic collaborating virtually with fellow musicians from the world of rock and metal to provide some stellar cover versions of tracks both obscure and old favourites on his ‘Quarantine Jam Sessions’. It seemed obvious that an album could be the result of these endeavours and Silver Linings is exactly that. Benante is at pains to point out that this isn’t a solo album. "This is a record of my favourite songs done with some of my friends during a very dark time. We found a shining light, and this is the result of that light. I was really happy that my musician friends came on board and helped make this record what it is. I appreciate all of them, and they all did such a fantastic job. Despite all of the darkness we've experienced this past year, there are 'silver linings,' that's why I chose that title for the album."

The track listing is eclectic to say the least, and metal fans could be disappointed that the heavy versions on Silver Linings are kept to a minimum. There’s even a cover of Billie Eilish's Bad Guy! But what it does show is that Benante is a music connoisseur. The list of stars who join Benante on this album is impressive, ranging from Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda who does a fine job on opener City Of Blinding Lights (U2) and Mother Love Bone’s Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, band mates Frank Bello and Jon Donais, former bandmate Rob Caggiano and Benante’s partner Carla Harvey of the Butcher Babes. There are plenty more, just Google or buy the album.
As well as drums, those who followed Anthrax in the 1990s will know that Benante is a mean guitarist and he takes the lead on a couple of songs, purely because he can. The attempt at Massive Attack’s beautiful Teardrop features Harvey, who does a sterling job replicating Elizabeth Fraser’s perfect delivery from 1998’s Mezzanine, is respectful and features Suicidal Tendencies Ra Diaz, who joins on several songs, including the Run DMC Medley. Clearly you can’t ignore the past.

The delicate and faithful reproduction of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon sees Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Jennifer Calla deliver the Stevie Nicks role, whilst NWOBHM fans will enjoy the rip-roaring delivery of Maiden’s Transylvania, which features David ‘Snake’ Sabo, Bello and Donais jamming along. Two rare cuts from KISS are amongst the standout tracks, with Mr Speed and All The Way great choices from the albums Rock N Roll Over and Hotter Than Hell respectively. Certainly, better than Love Gun or Lick It Up. Whilst it may be outside the remit of those diehard thrashers who still wear cut-offs and hi-tops, Silver Linings is a refreshing and enjoyable listen and well worth an hour of your time. 8/10

Quinn Sullivan – Wide Awake (Provogue Records) [Alex Swift]

For an artist whose solo music has gone fairly overlooked, Quinn Sullivan made his career from being in the public eye – in his home country of America mainly. He appeared on several talk shows from the age of six, released his first album at 12, and has performed with artists like Buddy Keeping and B.B King. In line with those influences, his music is deeply blues and country-inspired. Listening through his past few releases, they mainly demonstrated his impressive skill as a guitarist – interestingly though, Wide Awake takes a different approach. Touches from his stylistic idols are still all over this project, but there’s an evident development in songwriting at the heart of the record which makes for a more gratifying and emotional experience overall. I think the best way to think of this piece is that if albums one to three were Sullivan the child-star turned musician, this one sees him honing his craft and carving out a place for himself as a serious artist. The result is a pleasurable and considered anthem.

“I’m not the man I was yesterday” our frontman sings against a background of gentle guitar musings – the opener soon breaks into a joyous chorus which proves heartfelt not joyous. Notably, while the guitar work is detailed and intriguing, it’s not as much of a focus as summoning a feel and using the instrument to aid in conveying that. In many ways, Quinn Sullivan has learned to play the song and not the instrument. Take She’s So Irresistible where the rhythm section drives the song, aiding in creating that strutting feel so that when the song does explode into a guitar solo it's impressive and not simply a feature of the album. How Many Tears? Is an excellent show of sentimentality the notes rising like wind and falling like rain in time with the romantic lamentations in the lyricism. At the same time, horns and keys help in fostering that outpouring of sympathy to the person being addressed in the song.

On a different note, In A World Without You commands with a danceable sense of tension, proving perhaps more dramatic and chorus-driven than anything Sullivan has yet written. I adore the frenetic percussive elements on this track and the way the melodic elements combine to create a funky and exciting aesthetic. She’s Gone (She Ain't Coming Back) takes the diversification even further through the addition of subtle electronics and acoustics, creating a graceful yet sombre feel. These may not be the absolute limits of blues-rock yet they show signs of a maturing artist harnessing an ability to make their audience feel. I should point out at this stage that for all of the progression on Wide Awake if you are just not a fan of this yearning, sanguine style of blues, you will likely not enjoy this record very much. Speaking as someone who tends to be quite forgiving of melodrama though, I found this to be quite an interesting listening experience. I will admit that some moments do tend to become derivative – mid-album cuts Baby Please, Real Thing and You’re The One are egregious examples of Quinn unsuccessfully trying to apply a formulaic framework to his already polished music.

That said, for the most part, while you can attribute the sound of this album to certain musical movements or artists, these songs are undoubtedly coming out of the mouth of someone passionate about the style, having devoted his entire life to learning how to play in such an accurate way. The title track for instance might not seem like anything special or unique but exudes a certain charm since it’s a great homage to the classics, albeit one with a modern flair, courtesy of the crisp and precise production. That said, if you need an example of this musician coming into their look at Strawberry Rain - I love the layered instrumentals of this track, as well as the way the swaggering verses build into a blissful pre-chorus, anticipating the exuberant hook which explodes in a myriad of texture and colour. 

By contrast, Jessica proves a gorgeous and sweet acoustic ballad - this piece is not only musically poignant in being a humble, scaled-back moment that stands on its own merits, but is lyrically reassuring to anyone who’s ever had any doubts about their appearance or ability. Given that this brings the album to such an expressive high point, the closer, Keep Up, rightfully feels like a solemn and thoughtful refrain. It’s a reflection, of sorts, on having expectations placed on you and constantly needing to be ‘awake’ to everything around you. Although this might be a song that Quinn Sullivan wrote at least partly for himself, it’s a message we can all relate to in a way. That’s what makes this album a marked improvement in his discography – it’s intensely personal, yet looks beyond itself to see how it can be relatable and memorable to a wider audience. Not everything here is successful in doing that but it’s certainly a noble effort. 7/10

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Reviews: Red Fang, The Sheepdogs, Boom Dox, Hwdu (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Red Fang – Arrows (Relapse Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The first album in five years from the Portland quartet sees the band continue their relaxed, sludgy stoner approach. The eerie, space rock feel of opener Take It Back segues into Unreal Estate, the onslaught of downtuned fuzzed up riffs, the combination of vocalists Bryan Giles and Aaron Beam once again mixing clean with gruff to max effect. With producer Chris Funk back at the helm having been absent form 2016’s Only Ghosts, there is a spring in the step. It’s more the dragging of a huge, clubbed foot, such is the gargantuan sound that this band can summon up. The title track maintains the riff fest, and indeed, that continues for the entire 43 minutes. Red Fang’s style hasn’t changed much since their debut single, the fabulous Prehistoric Dog which emerged way back in 2009, but that doesn’t mean that this is a dull album. 

Far from it. The vibrancy of My Disaster is supported by a driving tempo which gets the head nodding and the feet tapping, the distorted guitar tone only adding to the overall flow and feel. There’s a slight change in feel to Anodyne, but the aggressive, punk and funk gives a groove which is addictive and a hook that you won’t be able to remove for days. Arrows is punctuated by short, sub-two-minute tracks that nestle between the longer songs. Interop-Mod is all interference and feedback, jarring the listener out of any comfortable position they may have adopted; Rabbits In Hives is an exercise in raging explosive power, a short sharp blast at 1:36. 

The three final tracks are all pacy ragers with Dr Owl summoning up all kinds of crazy images amidst the thunderous bass lines, the rumbling drumming and the searing guitar work. Solid without being spectacular, Red Fang continue to deliver strong stoner rock that oozes class and quality. And if nothing else captures your imagination, at the very least check out the video to Arrows, directed by Whitey McConnaughy, which is brilliant. 7/10

The Sheepdogs - No Simple Thing EP (Warner Music Canada)

Ah The Sheepdogs, these Canadian rockers are a prolific recording and live band. Across their 17 year existence they have rarely stopped so when the pandemic hit, they took a break and didn't hit the studio until all of them could as they wanted that natural authenticity that comes from a band all vibing off each other. The No Simple Thing EP is 6 songs that will remind you just how good The Sheepdogs are if you have forgotten about them since their 2018 album Changing Colors. Though I don't know why you would have as they play the style of twin-lead Southern rock that was made famous by The Allman Brothers. You get immediately shown what they do with the hip shaking the punchy Rock N Roll (Ain't No Simple Thing) and bouncy Keep On Loving You brings some great boogie keys. There's a warmth to all of The Sheepdogs music and unlike the arena/mainstream aspirations of Blackberry Smoke, The Sheepdogs have maintained their underground-feel which makes them to me more entertaining. Sun-dried songs that give you a fuzzy feeling throughout. 7/10 

Boom Dox – Dead Nation (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Paul Hutchings]

There’s always a bit of trepidation when you see the genre listed as rap metal. When it comes together, such as the awesome Body Count, then there’s nothing better. But there is always the risk of some utter crap. Thankfully, the first album from Boom Dox is sprinkled with so many riffs that it’s a neck snapper from the start. The bonus of a guest slot from Body Count’s Vincent Price on Guns Blazing merely adds to the credibility. Formed in Greece in 2017, you’d be un-surprised if they hailed from New York, such is their attitude and drive. The band comprises Nickal (ex. Overgarven, Wild Souls), who decided to start a new rap metal project with a local Hip Hop artist/DJ AK47 a.k.a Mr.Sharp. 

They recruited drummer Dino George from the band Nightrage and bassist and long-time friend Dr.V. Dead Nation fuses rap and metal with the obvious influences of Body Count, Slayer, Pantera, RATM and Public Enemy. What they do isn’t new, but they do it well. It’s a short record, at just 26 minutes long, but there is ample groove to make those speakers rock. Unsurprisingly, Dead Nation sees the band tackling topical issues including racism, social injustice, police brutality, corruption and abuse of power. It’s a worldwide palette from which so many bands can draw their themes, and Boom Dox deliver their message with power.

The tracks are ferocious, with the title track changing the tempo and style to incorporate clean singing as well as the strong rapping of Mr. Sharp. Songs such as Death From Above, Black Light and Leave No Man Behind (also featuring Vincent Price) are punchy, groove-filled and full of passion. I’m no connoisseur of this genre but I found this album vital, contemporary and crammed full of some of the fiercest riffs of the year. There’s enough to appeal to most metal fans who can broaden their minds and appreciate the quality on offer. 9/10

Hwdu - Love Crime EP (Savage State Music)

Four space punks from Swansea came together for what they call Tŵp Rock. Essentially Tŵp Rock is stoner punk, driving riffs, shouty vocals and a general ruggedness to their rock n roll. Made up Matt Williams (guitar and voice), Jonny Randell (guitar and vocals), Owen Foote (drums, piano, vocals & words) and Gavin Smith (bass) are the four men making this racket, this Love Crime EP opens with the raging Space Punk the trio voices in unison for this jerky Hawkwind-like opener that gets the blood pumping, though Jessie reminds me more of Springsteen or The Gaslight Anthem as a bit of blue collar ballad. They bring fuzzy guitars back on the title track which has touch of Supersuckers and Black Spiders to it as well. The six tracks on this EP all segue well into one another keeping the pace lively, with members of other Welsh stoner/punk/rock bands (Suns Of Thunder, Sigiriya & Estuary Black) there's a lot experience on offer here that translates into a wild ride. It's time for Hwdu to get out there and that voodoo that they do so well. 8/10 

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: Pearler (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with Pearler by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc?

Pearler: We are Pearler, featuring Wendell Kingpin on Guitar/lead Vox, Freaky on Bass/Vox, Evsy on Guitar/Vox and Gwarrington Hunter on Drums. We are apparently the Connoisseurs choice as the purveyors of Stoner Glam

MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up too?

Pearler: We've had an absolute Belter during the Pandemic. We have been getting absolutely Wazzacked off our tits in our hot tubs (we've got separate ones 2 metres apart in our garden at Pearler HQ), while listening to a constant soundtrack of Metal through the decades. No stone left unturned! We've also been bathed in Goats blood while howling at the moon every Friday in the hope that Beelzebub will return & Fuck this Pandemic off with a quick swish of his Putrid Meat Stick! 

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

Pearler: Absolutely Nothing!!

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format?

Pearler: We are feeling Pearling!

MoM: What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music?

Pearler: It would mean the World to us to Grace Bloodstocks hallowed turf! It would be significant any year to us to be honest, this year would only be more significant because we'll probably be twice as fucked up as usual because we are finally being let out of the pen like Rabid Dogs! One thing's for sure, we are getting moist & sweaty already just dreaming of everyone Having One at Bloodstock

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance?


Final Thought: A unique sound that and tonnes of attitude I'm sure we'll all have one the end of the night!

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: State Of Deceit (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with State Of Deceit by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc?

State Of Deceit: We are State of Deceit, a heavy metal band from Cardiff, South Wales. We are a four piece band which includes Pete Scammell (vocalist), Jon Russell (guitarist), Matt Wilson (bassist) and Matt Toner (drums). We have been a band for around 2 years and we’ve been described as range of styles including thrash, groove, hardcore, metalcore, and heavy metal. I guess people hear a diverse range in our songs.

MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up to?

State Of Deceit: Sheesh! What a year! It has been tough but we are a very close knit band and very good friends so we have gotten through this together. We haven’t been sitting on our arses too much (except the drummer who needs to get down the gym). We have been writing new material, working on promoting our current EP around the world with a number of organisations, contacting promoters and most recently we have been in the studio with Tim Hammill at Sonic One Studios recording our new EP due for release this year. In some respects this year has been tough because we have only had a handful of practices in between lockdowns but we have also kept ourselves very busy.

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

State Of Deceit: It’s one of our favourite shows to be a part of and we just love playing them, whether we get through to the next stage or not. The people and fans who turn up to the shows are amazing and the atmosphere is electric. Until we make it through and win, you will always see State of Deceit at M2TM. Even after we win, we’ll still be there supporting other bands. We’re fans of other local bands too.

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format?

State Of Deceit: Pretty awesome… I mean we have a guaranteed pass to the final this year due to winning our heat last year (pre-COVID). This will be our first ever final at M2TM in Cardiff. Something we have wanted to achieve since we started and we are bringing something special to the final this year. We’re currently working very hard on our live performance and I have a feeling that we are going to be a threat to the other finalists.

MoM: What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music?

State Of Deceit: Let me answer the second question first. No. It wouldn’t be more significant to us this year than any other. Bloodstock is a festival that has ALWAYS been significant to us and to play it would mean the world to us. It’s one of those festivals that we would want to come back and play again and again in the future. It’s absolutely fantastic and the talent that plays there is insane! To be a part of that would be a dream come true for us all.

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance?


Final Thought: State Of Deceit have already done a lot of the hard work so let's hope they really bring it in the final

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Metal To The Masses 2021 Interviews: Inerrant (Interview By Matt Bladen)

Interview with Inerrant by Matt Bladen

MoM: Give us an introduction to the band for anyone that doesn't know you. Band name, members, style etc?

Inerrant: We are Inerrant. Our lineup consists of: Paul Fortescue (Vocals), Ben Woosnam (Vocals), Jake Thomas (Drums), Lee Jenkins (Bass), Gareth Rowley (Guitar)

Our style varies quite wildly which is kind of essential for us as we never know where it's gonna go from track to track which keeps things fresh and exciting for us. Who knows what we'll do next but if we were forced to sum it up, at it's core, I'd say we're essentially a hardcore/punk band.

MoM: Elephant in the room. How have you coped with the pandemic? What have you been up too?

Inerrant: Well, this band started right around the time that the pandemic hit and to be honest, it's been some kind of fucked up blessing in disguise. All our music is home recorded. We do everything in our own houses and pass ideas back and forth so where this pandemic has stalled a lot of bands doing their thing, we've kind of thrived and maybe got a little bit more attention than we otherwise would've. You have to try and look at the positives in everything and we see this as mother nature giving us a leg up. During all this we've written, recorded and released 2 albums and a covers EP and we're currently in the middle of writing and recording a double album. No complaints here.

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

Inerrant: Well, 2 of our members have played Bloodstock via M2TM. I can't really speak too much on their behalf about their experiences, but I know that they had a blast and are raring to give this another crack.

MoM: How are you feeling entering this slightly restructured M2TM format?

Inerrant: Super excited. Doesn't matter if we win or not, we're all just itching to get out there and level some venues. Nobody really knows how this is gonna go, but it's been long overdue and we can't wait to let out our frustrations on that stage.

MoM: What would it mean to play Bloodstock? Would it be more significant doing so this year, after everything that's happened with live music?

Inerrant: Absofuckinglutely! I think this will be very significant, not just for bands, but for audiences also. Everybody needs that release and it's gonna be euphoric. I think we'd be very surprised to win. If we do, our tiny minds will be blown. And if we don't, we'll go down fighting.

MoM: Give us a three word rundown of what to expect in your performance?


Final Thought: A vicious experienced band who good do very well!

Reviews: Blackberry Smoke, Flotsam & Jetsam, Worm Shepherd, Holoslade (Matt Bladen, Richard Oliver, Paul Scoble & Paul Hutchings)

Blackberry Smoke - You Hear Georgia (Thirty Tigers) [Matt Bladen]

The band that has always rallied against what a person from the South is supposed to be like, on their seventh studio album they are actively aiming at these often overly stereotypical ideal of rednecks and racists. You Hear Georgia is both a title and a mission statement, letting the listener experience what Blackberry Smoke consider to be Georgia, intelligent, whitty, heartfelt lyricism and boogie-infused Southern rock, but without the Southern Crosses of their contemporaries and influences. So then what is the sound of Georgia? Well Blackberry Smoke have been refining and redefining this for 20 odd years now and on You Hear Georgia is Blackberry Smoke immersing themselves in their newfound arena rock credentials. 

Well what they've done on this record is bring things back to their country roots, most of the songs from this record are in the more laid-back country sound, from the slide-driven, acoustic picking Old Enough To Know to the rockier numbers such as All Rise Again which features bluesman Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule/The Allman Brothers) while Lonesome For A Livin' has country singer Jamey Johnson contributing vocals. It does unfortunately languish a little too long in these laid back vibes, forgetting about the rock part of their Southern rock genre tag. This will no doubt appease those who have been on board with the band since The Whippoorwill and have seen them grow into the arena titans they are now, but there's not as much rock to this roll as I would have liked. 7/10  

Flotsam And Jetsam - Blood In The Water (AFM Records) [Richard Oliver]

Arizona’s Flotsam And Jetsam have earned the reputation as “the most underrated metal band on the planet”. That can certainly be said to be true as apart from being celebrated by old school thrash aficionados, Flotsam And Jetsam are more known for who used to be in the band rather than the material they have been putting out since 1986. The band have been in a purple patch of late with 2016’s self-titled album and 2019’s The End Of Chaos being heralded as spectacular returns to form for the band. With their 14th album Blood In The Water the purple patch very much continues and as guitarist Michael Gilbert states “It’s angry, it’s aggressive, and our emotions pour out all over this album”. It’s very much impossible to argue with this statement as Blood In The Water proves to be one of the very best albums the band has produced.

Flotsam And Jetsam have a sound that sits somewhere between thrash metal and US power metal being highly melodic yet bristling with rage and aggression. This is most evident in the opening trio of songs which is some of the strongest material the band has ever produced. The opening title track positively bursts out of the gate with a thrashing rage and certainly will have people sitting up and paying attention. Burn The Sky and Brace For Impact keep up the momentum being high energy, high octane and highly melodic songs with ridiculous amounts of catchiness going on. The Walls proves to be another highlight with its greater emphasis on power metal leanings and another earworm of a chorus whilst Grey Dragon is a speedy neck wrecker guaranteed to get any self respecting metalhead working those neck muscles. The energy and intensity throughout the album is staggering with only Cry For The Dead providing any sort of respite with its acoustic opening and slower pace but it still bristles with energy and has a solid emotional core as its heart. Instead of fizzling out towards the end the band save one of the best songs until last with the power thrashing goodness of Seven Seconds ‘Til The End Of The World bringing things to a close.

“With everything that’s happened in the world, the friends we lost this last year, and not being able to perform or tour… you hear all of that in our music” states Michael Gilbert and that fury and frustration boils over in the performances with everyone putting in absolutely killer performances. The riffs rage, the bass rumbles and the drums absolutely destroy and of course fronting this arsenal is the mighty Eric A.K. whose powerhouse vocals lay everything to waste in their path. Eric has a vocal style that is highly melodic but bristling at the seams with anger, outrage and emotion.

Blood In The Water is a phenomenal album and sees the band at the height of their powers. It is without doubt their best album since 1988’s No Place For Disgrace and should have all metalheads who have managed to bypass this band thinking why the fuck haven’t I heard these guys before? Blood In The Water should be the album that finally shows the world what Flotsam And Jetsam are all about instead of being “that band that Jason Newsted used to play in”. A serious contender for album of the year. Not bad for a band that has been going for nearly 40 years. 9/10

Worm Shepherd - In The Wake Ov Sòl (Unique Leader Records) [Paul Scoble]

Worm Shepherd formed and self released their first album last year, these guys do not take their time. The album is now being released on a record label. The band, based in Connecticut, feature Devin “Omen” Duarte on Vocals, Brandon “Agares” Cooper on Guitar, Ryan “Nephilim” Ibarra on Guitars and Leo “Oryx” McClain on Drums. Worm Shepherd describe their sound as Blackened Deathcore. If I’m being honest I’ve never been a fan of Deathcore, to me it sounds like Death Metal with all the good bits taken out; everything with speed, flow or energy removed in favour of slow, plodding and staccato boredom. So, I was very interested to see how ‘Blackening’ Deathcore would effect the worst style of music to ever carry the name Metal. After all, at the moment my favourite genre is Blackened Doom, and I’ve always been a fan of Blackened Death Metal, so, maybe adding some Blackened elements to Deathcore would help me to appreciate and enjoy Deathcore?
Oh, how wrong I was. Turns out adding elements of Black Metal to another Metal sub-genre just makes that genre more concentrated; Blackened Doom is heavier, Blackened Death Metal is more savage and intense, Blackened Deathcore is far more catastrophically god fucking awful than just plain old fucking awful Deathcore. I should explain why this is so spectacularly dire. What Worm Shepherd have done is combine plain old fucking awful Deathcore with a particularly rubbish, turn of the century form of Symphonic Black Metal, the style that Dimmu Borgir or Cradle Of Filth were playing circa 1999 / 2000. In many ways a shorthand description of this album would be that it sounds like Cradle Of Filth playing Deathcore, I’m starting to feel nauseous just reading that. Musically this has all the problems that Deathcore has; there is no flow, the band bounce on one chord in a rhythmic way instead of actual writing riffs. It feels like the songs go nowhere, any fast or flowing elements almost immediately disappear to be replaced with staccato 1 chord non-riffs. 

The fact that the mix is terrible doesn’t help matters; The Guitars are so low I can barely hear them, the keyboards (of which there are a lot) come next and are louder than the guitars, on top of that are the very Impressive and very loud Drums (the drumming is impressive, but as the songs go nowhere, technical ability cannot save this), and over the top of all that is the worst part of this album; the vocals. A lot of the material on this album sounds like Vocals and Drums really loud and in your face, some keyboards being played badly in the house next-door, and a couple of guitars crying because they are in the next county so no-one can hear them. Another issue with sound that this album has is how processed everything sounds, everything is synthetic, this feels as far from organic as it is possible to get.

I’ve already mentioned how bad the vocals are, so I should explain and justify my opinion. Vocalist Devin “Omen” Duarte has two different voices on this album; a low and harsh ‘Death Metal’ voice and a very shrill and harsh ‘Black Metal’ voice. The Death Metal voice is ok, not amazing but not terrible either, the Black Metal voice, however, is terrible. Its ridiculously shrill and high register, like a toddler doing harsh vocals. The other issue with the vocals is that Duarte uses ‘Pig Squealing’ as one of his main vocal styles, I’m not a fan of Pig Squealing at the best of times, but this is extremely bad pig squealing in both of his vocal registers. The shrill ‘Black Metal’ voice sounds weird and ridiculous, in a couple of places he manages to sound like a Mouth Harp (which would be appropriate for folk Black Metal, but not for ultra processed Symphonic Black Metal), the first time I heard it I laughed out loud (then realised I was going to have to listen to the whole album several times, and stopped laughing). 

If anything the ‘Death Metal’ voice is even worse when Pig Squealing is used. There are places where the lower register voice is squealing and it sounds as if Duarte is eating, as if he is attempting Pig Squealing with his mouth full, sometimes it’s as if he is trying to eat his own lips. Again, this is pretty funny until you realise the band is serious about this. Vocals that sound like bodily functions are hilarious for one verse and chorus, but for an entire album it’s exhaustingly crap. The band would have had better vocals if they had just recorded themselves having diarrhoea.
This version of the album has an extra track called Chasm Dweller, which sounds like an attempt at a Ballad with clean vocals that are just as bad as you are imagining them to be. In The Wake Ov Sòl is a terrible album. Usually when I write a bad review I try to find something about the album to be positive about, so I can end the review by suggesting the band take their sound towards that element to improve their sound, but in this case I can’t. Nothing on this album should be saved, the only way to improve this is for Worm Shepherd is to shut the fuck up and go away. I can’t find any redeeming feature of this album, even the bands name is stupid (I know it’s a reference to Jesus referring to himself as a ‘Shepherd Of Men’, the band are saying that Christians are worms. However, when I saw the name I immediately thought of the band being ‘Worm Shepherds’ with tiny shepherds crooks, protecting their worm flocks from packs of Starlings or groups of Anglers looking for bait). 2/10

Holosade – Anastasis (Cherry Red Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The first album since 1988’s Hell House, Thrashers Holosade return to a burgeoning UK thrash scene and do their best to muscle back into the action. For those who haven’t done their history, Holosade burst out of Darlington in 1985, releasing several demos before the aforementioned debut record. Having split in 1991, the band reformed in various guises but have been active more consistently since 2011. At long last the veteran thrash machine returns with the current line up comprising Phillip De Sade on vocals, guitarists Paul Trotter and Adam Ironside, Huw Hopkins on bass and drummer Adam Sayer. This is very much a marmite album, with the vocals of De Sade the defining factor. His Mustaine-esque drawl doesn’t always work with the searing guitar lead breaks and relentless drive of the engine room. There is a strain on the delivery which doesn’t sit that comfortably despite the huge efforts of the rest of the band. 

It’s not that De Sade can’t hit a note, because he certainly can but there is a challenge delivering the lyrics in a manner that matches the music. If you can overcome the vocals, and I repeat that they just don’t work for me, others might have no problem, then Anastasis is a fast and furious thrasher which musically is rock solid. The dual guitar work is slick and fiery, whilst the drumming is punishingly accurate and provides the engine room from which the band feed. Tracks such as Through The Eyes Of Wrath and the weighty Detonation To Oblivion stand out as the two epics here whilst the opener 7 Seconds and the pumping Rise are also songs to move to. Whether Holosade can challenge the plethora of new and hungry thrash bands or jostle shoulder to shoulder with the vibrant old school (Elimination, Virus, Trapped in Purgatory, Solitary etc) is debatable. Anastasis is decent listening, but for me not quite the triumphant victory parade. 7/10

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Reviews: Boss Keloid, Decapitated, Somnuri, Desaster (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Paul Hutchings)

Boss Keloid - Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

Continuing their magisterial run of form that began around their third album Herb Your Enthusiasm, Boss Keloid return with their fifth full length entitled Family The Smiling Thrush. It returns you to the kaleidoscopic world of Boss Keloid, a world full of positivity and people power. The album is based around the concept that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and that we are all a collective family, flaws and all. It sees Boss Keloid retain the doom metal stylings but push much more into the progressive sound, with bands such as The Grateful Dead, Hawkwind, Yes and even Camel phased into the heavier styles of bands like Conan and of course Sabbath. 

Layers of dense organs add to a cacophony of clean, bright guitars, that flow out of the speakers at full dynamic range courtesy of Chris Fielding's immense production. His style of combining modern techniques with retro styles works wonders for these 7 spacial jams, which has Boss Keloid producing their cleanest sounding record, the sludge elements almost forgotten on favour of Canterbury/classic prog styling and folk flourishes. It's this more melodic, lighter styling that leads to lots of musical work outs every member given a chance to show their prowess and virtuosity without detracting from the overall delivery. The opening duo of Orang Of Noyn and Gentle Clovis having a start-stop sound, that brings you in to the record, whirling around your speaker system with woozy power. 

I'm not saying however that they've gone all fluffy, they still retain that sense of foreboding heaviness that has punctuated previous releases and gained them lots of kudos but here it's savoured, nuanced blasts of stoner metal to shake things up rather than an all out assault. Hats The Mandrill, brings the heavy in droves starting off a run of more thunderous numbers as things get more wide eyed and crazy on Smiling Thrush highlighting the unique vocals of Alex Hurst. In the same way that a band such as King Crimson use a diverse range of styles in their music, Boss Keloid's songwriting has developed into something that sets them apart from many of the current stoner/psych crop. Family The Smiling Thrush is an album that requires multiple listens to truly enjoy the immense quality of the music on offer. Another fantastic record from a band rapidly becoming British prog-metal icons. 9/10

Decapitated – The First Damned (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s a fact that Decapitated are one of the most revered bands in the world of technical death metal. Although their more recent albums, Blood Mantra and Anticult have edged towards a slightly more groove-ridden feel, they still make music that makes the ears bleed.

Take a trip back to 1997 & 1998 and the early days of the band, with the line-up of Wojciech "Sauron" Wąsowicz (vocals), Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka (guitars) Marcin "Martin" Rygiel (bass) and Witold "Vitek" Kiełtyka (Drums – RIP) and their two tape demos. 1997’s Cemeterial Gardens and 1998’s The Eye Of Horus were the first recordings of the band and have long been sought after pieces of work. With both demos now being combined in a single outing, this release provides fans with the opportunity to own those early recordings. Transferred from the original DAT Masters, it is promised that there has been no remixing or remastering. The result is evidence, if it was ever needed, as to why Decapitated were such an exciting band nearly quarter of a century ago.

The Eye Of Horus is perhaps the more accomplished of the two demos, with the band demonstrating their sheer intensity and power over 30 minutes of brutal yet controlled and crafted death metal. Tracks such as the title track, The First Damned And Blessed hold their own today whilst the cover of Slayer’s Mandatory Suicide is every bit as punishing today as it was back then. The musicianship from a band who were all in their teens remains breathtaking, with Vitek’s battery drumming still an overall highlight. Whilst Cemeterial Gardens is the rawer of the two works, there is little to criticise here either. The haunting intro may be a little ‘Casio Keyboard’ but the riff that kicks in on Destiny is perfection. As you’d expect from a first demo, the pace is relentless, with Vitek’s drumming and the sheer energy of the overall music massive. The explosive power of Way To Salvation, complete with Sauron’s low-key gravel-soaked growls, and the experimental synth work all combine to produce a track which veers more towards black than death metal.

This will be a pleasing addition to those fans who worship at the Decapitated altar, and for those who want to trace back the origins of possibly the finest band to emerge from Poland, then this is a piece of work well worth getting those paws on. 8/10

Somnuri - Nefarious Waves (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Matt Bladen]

From the rough concrete streets of Brooklyn New York, Somnuri's music is as brash and brutal as their hometown. The three piece play neck-wrecking progressive sludge metal that has the hardcore aggression of Converge along with explorative riff scapes of Mastodon. Nefarious Waves is the band's second album and what you have on offer here is another sizeable slab of sludge metal power, tracks like Watch The Lights have a dissonant, thumping groove and echoed vocals, it carries things into the progressive while Tied To Stone is a battering hardcore-influenced number. The both styles manifesting themselves throughout fusing together perfectly, with numerous tempo shifts (In The Grey). 

Somnuri is made up of Justin Sherrell (guitars/vocals/album bass) and Phil SanGiacomo (drums), they added  Philippe Arman (bass) for live shows (when they happen) in 2019, bringing the huge scope of their albums to the stage. As the title track lays waste to what's left of your stereo the power of Somnuri is felt fully. Progressive sludge can be a little polarising but Somnuri do full of grit and power. 7/10   

Desaster – Churches Without Saints (Metal Blade Records) [Paul Hutchings]

With a history dating back to 1988, and a catalogue that includes eight full length albums, the four-piece that currently comprise Desaster don’t waste any time in bringing the noise and blackened thrash that they have carved their reputation from over the past three decades. Influenced by Venom, Hellhammer and Destruction, Desaster leave no quarter in their full out aural assault. Vocalist Guido Wissmann, a mainstay celebrating his 20th anniversary with the band rips, growls and roars his way through track after track. The vocals sit comfortably alongside the aggressively paced intense riffing, the hammering drumming, and the overall metallic storm that rages over the course of the 46 minutes. It’s pretty much similar in theme and tempo from the opening blast of Learn To Love The Void, with only the industrial tinged Aus Asche changing direction or style. 

Elsewhere the frenetic power and pace which has surged through their works for 30 plus years is very much in evidence with long term members Infernal and Odin in fine form. Newest member, drummer Hont is on point with a barrage of thunderous drumming which rarely lets up. Infernal’s snarling guitar wails and screams above the pounding rhythm section and it’s a demonstration of muscular fire power which works on every level. With a new wave of blackened thrash metal crawling through the open metal borders, Desaster take a huge fist and smash back hard. The pretenders to the throne are pushing hard, but one can only say that on this performance, those youngsters will need to wait a bit longer. 8/10

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Reviews: Wardrum, ΛΔΛΜ, Night Resident, Sonic Blast (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Wardrum - Mavericks (Steel Gallery Records)

Wardrum are one of Greece's premier power metal acts. To most non-fans they are the band that featured Beast In Black frontman Yannis Papadopoulos, before he joined that BIB. However they now have George Margaritopoulos behind the mike and his pipes remind me a lot more of Hansi Kursch and Russell Allen, listen to Silver Of Eternity to get that Symphony X sound proper. Mavericks is the Thessaloniki band's first album with George behind on vocals and he has infused this album with a new focus carrying the lyrical power of this conceptual record. Yep in true Blind Guardian style this is concept record based on the "Mavericks - The Story Of The Messenger" a novella written by band leader/drummer Stergios Kourou. It fits in well with the band's rampaging power/prog metal style for tracks like Μαύρο (Ulreh’s Song). 

Stergios and Strutter Bass (bass) giving it the full power gallop on Μαύρο (Ulreh’s Song) but also on No One Believes. The guitar duo of J. Demian and Kosta Vreto display flair and technicality throughout, be it on the anthemic Promised Land or the more stripped back No One Believes where the folk sounds move in. The production is handled by the band making the record sound very big, sound-wise letting it breathe in the same way as Symphony X do with bombast fused with virtuosity. Sands Of Time is the most theatrical song on the album full of Middle Eastern influence, that takes things into more progressive realms again re-establishing those prog/power credentials. Mavericks can be seen as something of a rebirth for Wardrum. This concept record based upon their album cover mascot sees them embrace their 10 years of making music with the most ambitious record they have made. Let's hope this is a new beginning that leads to at least another 10 years of stirring Wardrum music. 8/10   

ΛΔΛΜ - Sun (Venerate Industries) 

This is a bit of musical exploration I really enjoy. Athenian five-piece ΛΔΛΜ (Adam), play an esoteric, atmospheric, psychedelic style of music that's a melting pot of grooving stoner, dirty grunge, shimmering post-rock and traditional music all brought together in a potpourri of musical goodness. Sun is a concept record about the celestial body itself, dealing with fatal hope that even though it brings so much good, it will at one point come to an end taking us all down with it. The three song suite Monolith is the climax of the unnamed protagonist returning to earth and reality from another plane of consciousness which is why ...And Then There Was Light is such an ethereal sounding record with an echoed sound and the hints to the broad scope later on. 

There's a mixture of Alice In Chains Never Say Never) and Soundgarden psychy/grunge, the desert rock leanings of Kyuss and then later on crushing riffage from bands like Monolord or Windhand. What makes Sun sound different is that they of course have that cavernous rhythm section and serpentine riffage that so often change between dual harmonies, thunderous heaviness and even lighter fluid melodies. But ΛΔΛΜ also bring keys and slide guitar to the record to flesh out their widescreen musical identity. I was listening to Sun in my garden with a beer in hand and I must say this is probably the ideal way to indulge in it. You can totally lose yourself in Sun, a psychedelic journey with soaring highs and crushing lows. 8/10    

Night Resident - Darkness Is My Home (Endless Grey Records)

If you ever wondered what Ghost would sound like if it was three dudes from Greece, then Night Resident will sate your curiosity. Bass player/vocalist/producer John Tsiakopoulos leads the band from the front with vocals that are very similar to those of a certain Tobias Forge while his bass playing brings the guys to the bands doomy, gothic hard rock. So yes they do sound a lot like Ghost but early Ghost before they added the 80's electro-pop. Darkness Is My Home is a record with a much broader scope than their previous efforts, lodged into the doom rock base (title track) is jaunts into some NWOBHM (Little Emperor Nothing), some proggier touches and strong vein of hard rock. 

Into Her Eyes is the closest song to that of Ghost with a driving riff and those spectral vocals. Though to be honest that can be said of most of this album from the chanting Stardust through the more atmospheric In The Mountains Of Sorrow all maintain a strong melodic edge. If you enjoy the music of BOC, Uncle Acid or of course Ghost, without the visual gimmicks then let darkness become your home and shift into the twilight realm of Night Resident. 7/10

Sonic Blast - Humanity Divided (Boersma Records)

After listening to this album for the first time, I immediately messaged Fury frontman Julian Jenkins to let him know about the album. It was mainly to gauge how he was going to gage the incredible similarities between this Kozani, Greece based band and the Worcester/Birmingham road warriors. I'm still not sure if he was flattered or called his solicitor, as Sonic Blast have a sound that is a dead ringer for Fury. Now as anyone who knows me will attest, I love Fury, so it stands to reason that I'll like this record. However I feel that in few places they let themselves down a little. I'll get to that in a bit but first a little background on the band, formed in 2015 by Nick Dedes (guitar) and Dimitris Gkatziaris (guitar/bass) they added Thimios P. (drums), Nick Vogiatzis (keyboards) and Dimitris Vachtsevanos (vocals) and set about recording their debut album Humanity Divided

It's a record that clearly takes its influences from Maiden with the bass playing taking the lead, the Steve Harris sound very prevalent across the whole album, as well as very high in the mix. The keys too are used as another melodic tool along with the twin leads but due to the mix of the record, they don't really stand out that much because of the heavy bass overwhelming everything. So that is one of the problems of this album, the second is Vachtsevanos' vocals which are similar to JJ of Fury but, unfortunately not as good, often finding him reaching for notes he can't quite hit such as on Queen Isis. They also tend to stay in the mid-pace a bit too much. Humanity Divided is a decent enough album for classic metal fans, but despite being very similar to Fury, it's not in their league. 6/10 

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Reviews: Noctule, Silver Talon, Nephila, Cross Vault (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Noctule - Wretched Abyss (Church Road Records)

For anyone who has played a lot of the video game Skyrim, you will almost certainly associate it with frozen winter peaks, epic fantasy battles, witchcraft and the heavy use of Norse mythology throughout. All of which makes for perfect black metal fodder. Svalbard co-guitarist/vocalist Serena Cherry has said that Skyrim for her embodies all of these things and that she associates it with black metal more than any other style of music. As such she has used her love of the game to inspire this, debut album of her black metal solo project Noctule. Lyrically drawing from the world of Skyrim and musically having the dense, foreboding, harshness of Scandinavian black metal. Written and recorded throughout the 2020 lockdown Wretched Abyss is the sort of one-person black metal record that many would aspire to make but few manage. 

It's densely woven music, that at times is as cinematic as the game itself, the large instrumental sections holding it together like a soundtrack of blast beats and tremolo riffing bolstered by the orchestral swathes as the revereb-filled but clear screams pierce the musical wall. Serena clearly understands what can make black metal so fulfilling to listen too, avoiding too many of the rinse and repeat, songwriting tropes and more importantly forgoing the need to make things sound 'raw', there is a sense of D.I.Y grit to the recording, to make it authentic, but it doesn't feel like it was recorded in a bathroom. A track such as Labyrinthian is a epic, piece with lots of  brilliant lead guitar breaks, even as it breaks down into folksy acoustics, the sheer musical power is obvious.

The way Wretched Abyss is structured and composed, it works as companion piece to the game itself almost, displaying the dual nature of black metal from the harsh, desolate noise of the originators to the more multifaceted sounds of the bands that came later (or indeed just the career of Darkthrone). The title track for instance has echoed vocals and blistering blastbeats, but some classic metal lead guitars to make for an absorbing listen, that deviates into something a little different on Evenaar forging a path out of just being 'standard' black metal, creating atmospheres that linger long after the end of the record, especially when final track Become Ethereal is a plaintive piano piece ending the record with an emotional note. Wretched Abyss is a brilliant black metal offering from Serena Cherry, a measuring stick for one-person BM projects to come! 9/10    

Silver Talon - Decadence & Decay (M-Theory Audio) [Matt Bladen]

Created as a vehicle to showcase the guitar wizardry of Bryce VanHoosen (ex-Spellcaster) and soaring vocals of Wyatt Howell, Silver Talon are muscular addition to the NWOTHM sound, with a distinctly American style of thrashy, doomy, riff friendly power metal. Think Nevermore/Sanctuary, Savatage and I*ed E*rth but also some Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest and Accept as well. It's with these influences that will be where your head should be as soon as you press play on this record. I mean record here as well because the physical release of Decadence & Decay seems to focused on a 12 inch vinyl (along with cassette). 

Bryce VanHoosen has made sure that Silver Talon is all about the guitars as he is one part of a triple axe attack accompanied by Sebastian Silva and Devon Miller. This triple guitar assault means that tracks such as Resistance 2029 are as heavy as hell, with lots of solo breaks, this track particularly going one better by adding a special guest solo from King Diamond's Andy LaRocque. But it also means songs such as What Will Be have dense layers of instrumentation. With three guitarists it's up to the rhythm section of Walter Hartzell (bass) and Michael Thompson (drums) to be impressive and they certainly are adding a progressive tone to As The World Burns which is a Nevermore song by another name, while they blast away merrily on the thrashy Divine Fury

Before this debut full length Silver Talon covered a Sanctuary song, with Jeff Loomis no less, so it's safe to assume the Wyatt Howell has the chops to live up to Warrel Dane, his wide vocal range shifting from snarls to ear piercing screams. You can hear all the full range on the aggressive Kill All KingsDecadence & Decay is a guitar-fueled riot of dark and heavy power metal, gets your head banging. 7/10

Nephila - Nephila (The Sign Records)

With members from sunshine psych rockers Children Of The Sün, Nephila play a similar kind of Hippie-era psychedelic/progressive rock from the Woodstock generation. A seven member band featuring two female vocalists in harmonic unison while the masked instrumental members ooze out a theatrical style of space rock that's a little bit of Uriah Heep Jefferson Airplane, some Hawkwind and even a bit of Hendrix too on Guidance To Agony. This self titled record is their debut full length and starts us off on the cosmic journey with first single White Bones, introducing you to the bands experimental blues style, fuzzy clean guitar melodies and lots of Hammond organs get the track rumbling, driven by the the pulsating bass. 

There's an insistence to this track that suits it to being an opener, it does what you need it to do, bringing Nephila's core approach, following on is the riffier Who Are You which features jazzier textures and some Wurlitzer-styled organs. It's the first song where both singers are in full unison, their voices working well of each other bulking out the theatrical sound to the band, similar to fellow Swedes Goat but without the frenzied assault they bring. Nephila choose to be more laid back, still muscly but more laid back washing over you with the quirky Mushroom Creatures and the witchy Belladonna. Unashamedly retro, this kind of 60's/70's influenced sound is yet another style of music the Swedes do well and Nephila prove this again. 7/10  

Cross Vault - As Strangers We Depart (Iron Bonehead Records)

If ever there was a band who epitomise these often desolate, uncertain times then it's German doom crew Cross Vault. Their third record, As Strangers We Depart, is dressed in a beautiful but upsetting cover painting by WÆIK and the music on it is equally stirring yet harrowing. Moments of acoustic beauty such as on Ravines, which I believe features a zither or as the Greeks call it a cithara, are washed away with the colossal, all-consuming doom riffs and mournful vocals, that keep the flame of British doom legends Warning, the 8 minute Golden Mending really coming across. Cross Vault having that same emotional touch that makes grown men weep at the hopelessness of it all. Even on shorter songs like As Strangers We Depart there;'s that lingering sense of complete desolation of as they put it "A home that never was". 

Performing under just letters, with the exception of their drummer aptly named Skullsplitter, it maintains the anonymity of the band and adds to the air of mystery cast over this record for the better. On the longer tracks, 6 minute plus, the dynamics of the bands playing are on display, the thunderous rhythm section of M (rhythm guitar), F (bass) and the previously mentioned Skullsplitter (drums) add glacial bone crushing riffs to Gods Left Unsung as N's vocals have a low croon with grit on Other Rivers. They aren't all about the low end doom though as lead guitarist G soars on The Unknown Rewinds and elsewhere adding melody and melancholy equally. As Strangers We Depart is an excellent doom metal album, full of touching and powerful moments, it brims with an energy and emotion that many doom bands don't have. 8/10