Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 30 July 2021

Reviews: Underdark, Rebellion, Electric Six, Fetid Zombie (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings & Zak Skane)

Underdark - Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry (Surviving Sounds) [Richard Oliver]

Our Bodies Burned Bright On Re-Entry is the debut full length album from Nottingham based post-black metal band Underdark. It follows their debut E.P. Mourning Cloak which was released in 2016 and is also the first release to feature vocalist Abi Vasquez who joined the band in 2019. Underdark fall under the post-black metal bracket meaning they combine elements of atmospheric black metal, post-rock and shoegaze together in a melodic, atmospheric yet furious way but they also incorporate elements of post-hardcore throughout. Furious is definitely a defining factor of the Underdark sound with far more rage, fury and bile spat out in their songs than a lot of post-black metal contemporaries. There are definitely the calmer passages on the album which make t hose moments when the band explode in uncompromising rage and fury all the more effective. 

It’s most effective in songs such as With Ashen Hands Around Our Throats and especially the title track which has a calming acoustic mid section which slowly builds in menace and unease with the vocals by Abi becoming steadily more unhinged before it explodes in black metal fury. Lyrically this album tackles themes of injustice and inhumanity with subjects such as inhumane border control, exploitation of the lower classes and the Grenfell disaster with the vocals by Abi conveying the unbridled fury at the state of society through a combination of black metal shrieks and some low almost death metal growls. The incorporation of post- hardcore elements is definitely going to be a talking point for many. I myself like many in the metal community look at the post-hardcore genre with general disdain but here combined with an atmospheric black metal sound it absolutely works. 

The deeper feelings of pain and angst in post-hardcore mixed with the unabashed fury of black metal is a compelling combination and something that is either going to be embraced, discussed or completely disregarded by black metal fans. Personally I think it is great to see black metal treading new ground and doing it in incredible style. This is a confident, mature and assured debut album from Underdark. 8/10

Rebellion - We Are The People (Massacre Records) [Matt Bladen]

German heavy power metal band have always used fantasy and war imagery in their songs. They've even played around with Shakespeare and The Vikings however they have never been as overtly political as they are on We Are The People, covering the period when Europe was rife with Nationalism and Racism, from the French Civil War to World War II a period of unrest that led to Millions upon Millions of deaths all for the sake of the country's stake in the world. It's an album that very much against the idea of Nationalism and Racism, ideas that are particularly frightening in Europe and mostly of all the UK right now with the rise of the extremist Right probably at it's fastest for many years. 

There are probably a fair few bands who would be able tell these stories with a bit more nuance, Rebellion's heavy power metal style making these quite harrowing tales seem a little trivial. With a new line up in toe, there is no new sound for Rebellion, if you've spent your entire career trying to be Grave Digger why stop now? This style may lend itself to Macbeth or Henry V (two previous concept albums) but not to the horrors of war and nationalism. For that I'd suggest Bolt Thrower/Memoriam as they truly allow the darkness of that time prevail. The trouble with this album is that it has a noble intention but limited by the bands well established style making for a record that aims for theatrical but sounds a little tired (and too bloody long). Maybe stick to historical fantasy or literature, on future? 5/10

Electric Six – Streets Of Gold (Cleopatra Records) [Paul Hutchings]

It’s unsurprising that Detroit’s finest have gone down the covers album pathway. It’s a route that many artists have travelled during the past 18 months after all. 2018’s fine Bride Of The Devil saw the band continue to tour relentlessly and the pandemic must have hit the band, whose entire approach is based on the live show, harder than most. 

Streets Of Gold is a mixed bag. There are some gems hidden here. The cover of That’s Entertainment by The Jam works. As opposed to the version of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies which is unable to add anything to a song that is one of the supergroup’s least impressive songs anyway. There are some rarities. The version of L.O.V.E.’s Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark And Hilldale and the funk of Slippery People, a track by Talking Heads, a band that Electric Six often slip into their set both work well whilst Under The God, the debut song from David Bowie’s Tin Machine is a nice inclusion. 

For hard rock fans, there are spunky versions of Alice Cooper’s No More Mister Nice Guy and the Kiss anthem Strutter to enjoy. More funk with an electro version of Yah Mo B There. The inclusion of High Voltage and Gay Bar are uninspired, and whilst they are the band’s biggest hits, there’s little to excite. Overall, a rather flat package. It’s live where Electric Six thrive and one can only hope that come December, those tickets that have been held for so long can be used. 6/10

Fetid Zombie – Transmutations (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Zak Skane]

Fetid Zombie is a one man solo act organised by the multi instrumentalist Mark Riddick. Fetid Zombie has released tones of split releases with other bands around the world in addition to releasing six full lengths (including their last full length Epicedia). In direction of Mark's writing he likes to divert from standard popular song structures by inserting passages weather it’s melodic, ambient or heavy to push boundaries and create something unique.

When the album opens with Chrysopeia I just got sucked into a trance-like wall of dissonance with diminished sounding riffs backed with sharp edgy lead lines before it’s accompanied with female choirs. Throughout the song I have been greet by various guitar sounds and arrangements that take inspiration from other genres of music like the phaser effected guitars that you would commonly hear in 80’s glam rock to the chimney cleans that you would hear from 80’s new wave bands like The Cure and Fields Of The Nephilim. Conscious Rot brings us old school Sepultura and Slayer vibes with the chuggy thrash riffs before halfway through the song it changes atmosphere by going into chiming cleans and epic leads. Beyond Andromeda bring 80’s Shred (think Steve Vai) melded with Atmospheric Black Metal, where as Dreamless Sleep Awaits mixes gothic atmospheric clean sections with slow paced chuggy sections that remind me of Paradise Lost. The closing tracks Deep In The Catacombs and Breath Of Thanatos provide 90’s Death Metal (think Death and Morbid Angel) to left the six track on a high note.

In conclusion this was a really enjoyable listen, especially with genre mashing highlights like Chrysopeia, Conscious Rot and Dreamless Sleep Awaits reimagining the Death Metal sound. My only criticism is that the mix could do with some improvements, for example on the Breath Of Thanatos the guitars tend to over power the drums and bass in the mix. Overall if you’re looking for death metal with an out of the box approach this a project for you. 7/10.

Reviews: Paradigm Blue, Axel Rudi Pell, Polyfrenetics, Sweet Teeth (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Paradigm Blue - Transist (Self Released)

I usually try to avoid reviewing albums that came out more than a month ago, but occasionally you stumble across something that appeals to your taste so much that you have to review it. If not just to get it off your chest how bloody brilliant it is. Paradigm Blue are a prog rock three piece from Raleigh, North Carolina, made up of Juan Mantilla (guitars), Ruben Moreno (vocals, bass & keys) and Steve Laur (drums), now experienced proggers will be able to gather from looking at the line up and that this album is comprised of two multi part suites that the main musical influence here are Canadian Prog icons Rush. Transist is brimming with musical nods to Geddy, Alex and Neil, the rippling keys, exploitative basslines, soaring guitars and expressive drumming all very similar to Rush while vocally Ruben is not up in the higher falsetto of Geddy Lee, he often slips into the lower end, but mostly his voice is very similar to another major soundalike for the band, John Mitchell. 

There's times on this record, such as on The Mobius Trip V: Solar Sails that the emotive, modern prog energy of Lonely Robot makes its mark. Transist is a concept record that started out small and sprawled into a 14 song tribute to Rush, made all the bittersweet by the death of Neil Peart last year. As with Rush everything on this debut record is created by the trio with exception of the keyboards on Perihelion and the final keyboard solo on Mobius Trip VII: Resistor, both of which are supplied by the keyboard maestro Derek Sherinian. Yes it was released on June but it would have been remiss of me not to review this, as after one listen I was hooked. I'm a massive Rush fan so this album, that pays homage to the late 70's period when Rush played double neck guitars and had the biggest drumset on the planet, was bound to stir something. 

Add to that the more modern edge of John Mitchell and the cinematic touches of orchestrations we have a record that could have easily followed up Clockwork Angels, maybe even Hemispheres. With Rush now gone it's up to bands such as Paradigm Blue to carry that torch, to remind people what made them so good. It's easy to be cynical, as I have been in the last with bands that draw to much from their influences but Paradigm Blue walk that narrow edge between pastiche and admiration. There's a few prog releases coming this year but very few will stand up to Transist. My only gripe is that it's not available on CD. However it's a magnificent album and a proper tribute to one of the greatest bands ever! 10/10

Axel Rudi Pell - Diamonds Unlocked II (SPV)

In 2007 German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell released Diamonds Unlocked, a covers album featuring big hitters such as U2, Kiss, Free, The Who and even Phil Collins all done in the man who is both a heavy rocker but will be known mainly for his numerous ballads. For the first time since then Pell has decided not to release a record of his own music, as he would want to tour that, which at the moment is still up in the air. So now we have Diamonds Unlocked II the second covers album that Pell has been working on for about 3 years. Again he's backed by his longterm band of Johnny Gioeli (Hardline) vocals, Ferdy Doernberg on keys, Bobby Rondinelli on drums and Volker Krawczak on bass. 

It kicks off this album with a riffy version of Sammy Hagar's There's Only One Way To Rock which is perfect for Johnny's soulful vocals, the second track is a proper guitar workout for Pell as he takes on The Man In Black Ritchie Blackmore for Rainbow's Lady Of The Lake. So far so hard rock but the addition of Paul Anka's She's A Lady, here as fireside ballad is the first wtf moment, as we get a real deep cut in Black Cat Woman by Geordie, Gioeli adding his own style rather than trying to ape Brian Johnson.

As you'd expect the tracks are all very well played the band in fine form throughout, but it's not all older stuff as The Subways Rock N Roll Queen is given some big organs as Paint It Black moves into power metal realms. I mean Diamonds Unlocked II is a completists record, made to keep the Axel Rudi Pell fans happy before a new album of originals. Despite the varied amount of songs covered, they all sound very similar but then I suppose that wouldn't be the ARP style if they didn't. 6/10   

Polyfrenetics - Self Titled (Argonauta Records)

What makes an EP an EP? There is a definitive answer regarding timings but here at MoM Towers we've discussed this at length, Messer's Scoble, Hunter and myself normally, however we've yet to really decide whether there is an credence to the definitive answer. Why am I starting this review like this I bet you're asking (all 12 of you)? Well Polyfrenetics is the debut release from the band of the same name and they state it's an EP. At four songs I guess you could agree however the final track Comfortably Dumb is nearly 12 minutes in long taking the run time somewhere near 30 minutes, in the 80's that's an album. Anyway I digress you're here to hear about this Oslo psych rock outfit so here goes. 

This self titled debut has been snapped up by Argonauta Records for release and it's plain to see why as the Norwegian trio have a swirling psychedelic bent, that builds on top of their punk rock fury. Like bands such as The MC5, latter period Iggy and numerous prog rock acts. There's long instrumental passages that bring much experimentation, the final track certainly fits this with its persistent drum and bass beat while guitars scream and wail across your headphones. But the shorter songs all have a drive that's very non-conformist and punchy but never goes to far in the way of punk to get sloppy. It's kind of like Therapy? jamming to Hawkwind, across 4 tracks. EP or album? Doesn't matter just get grooving! 7/10

Sweet Teeth - Acid Rain (Lövely Records)

Punchy power pop from Sweden as Sweet Teeth unleash their debut EP Acid Rain. Brimming with jangly guitars, fuzzy bass and emotive vocal rawness, Acid Rain conjures the likes of Husker Dü and the early Foo Fighters releases. It's packed with 7 direct punchy rockers, all with sing along ability but a sadness that lays behind. You will have heard something like this before, I can guarantee but Sweet Teeth make properly slick and inviting. The run time is around 15 minutes, which is perfect for these punky, poppy nuggets of 90's alt rock. Nothing on Acid Rain hasn't been done before and if you're a Feeder fan you'll have heard it a 1000 times, but Sweet Teeth is a treat you've sampled many time but keep coming back too. The musical equivalent of a digestive, simple but enjoyable. 6/10

Thursday 29 July 2021

Reviews: Flame Dear Flame, Tantric, Sense Offender/NIL, Wings Of Destiny (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Flame, Dear Flame - Aegis (Eisenwald)

Aegis is the debut album from Brunswick, Lower Saxony based Epic Doom Metal band Flame, Dear Flame. And put simply it's a fantastic record that sends Flame, Dear Flame straight near the top of the epic doom metal pack. Channelling acts such as Atlantean Kodex, King Witch and the brilliant Avatarium, this record is essentially two tracks split into sections. So the first three are part of the The Millennial Heartbeat suite consisting of the formation of the ocean and the earth itself, primordial and torrid, the three parts crawling from the beginnings of the Earth with a traditional metal foundation taken for a slow, powerful doom laden ride through elongated musical journeys. The deft drumming of Jan Franzen and steady, ground shaking basslines of Martin Skandera keeping the tracks always moving forward carving grooves with every low slung note. 

In this first trio of songs we get glimpses of brilliance from vocalist Maren Lemke, her beguiling, soulful vocals style adding emotion to these compositions. However it's on the second suite which deals with a feral child and a prioress where she really shines through the folkier textures of The Wolves And The Prioress Part III and Part IV where we almost get to the point of a doom metal Fleetwood Mac the final song especially is breathtaking. Now I haven't yet mentioned the scintillating guitar playing of David Kuri, but he is the glue that brings together, from the haunting light and shade on opening number Millennial Heartbeat Part I the classic doom sound is established very early, with Part II adding crunch as it moves into atmospheric bass-led main part as Part III slows again, a simple single guitar riff that gets distortion and ends this suite with a titanic power. 

As alluded to earlier The Wolves And The Prioress brings more acoustics and folk flavours on top of the doom metal power that is already so brilliantly done. It opens up a brand new musical landscape for the band as they creep toward this records climax adding yet more fantastic feasts for the ear. For a debut Aegis is a wonderful epic doom metal record that will have fans of the genre placing Flame, Dear Flame in the top echelon! 9/10

Tantric - The Sum Of All Things (Cleopatra Records)

We haven't reviewed Tantric on this blog before and their is probably a reason for that. The Californian alternative/post-grunge band are apparently beloved by their fans. Well they obviously hear something here that I can't. The Sum Of All Things is like every B-List Post Grunge from the early 2000's think Staind, Puddle Of Mudd and Seether level of crunch riffs and low baritone vocals. They had two big hits on 2001, both of which are here on re-recorded form. However it pretty much stays in 2001 musically, the majority of the songs are pretty basic, many range from "meh", to "oh Christ what the fuck is that!?" An example of meh is the instantly forgettable Compound, the faux-country of Ten Years and Walk The Way which has over used electronics. On the other hand you have a song such as Can't Find This which is dreadful, overly emotional crap with terrible lyrics which sounds like a song so saccharine even Nickelback would have left it on the cutting room floor. The shocking lyrics continue on Living With Out You and The Words You Say another awful ballad. I really struggled with this record, nothing appealed in anyway, mostly the fact that it's 14 songs in length, including some re-recorded tracks. I don't think I'll be featuring Tantric again on the back of this eighth (!) album. 3/10

Sense Offender/NIL - Split (Sludgelord Records)

If you're feeling angry, frustrated or even homicidal at any point soon I suggest sticking on the new split EP from Northeast England's blackened hardcore mob Sense Offender and Leeds' masters of the groove laden technical aggression NIL. Both bands have been featured before in these pages and been given quite positive feedback. Sense Offender especially are no strangers to a split album having previously released them with Pupil Slicer and South Wales own They Live We Sleep. You can see this as a continuation of Sense Offenders' goal to bring some of the more underground sounds to a wider audience by both bands getting equal footing, two songs each. 

Sense Offender are first with the tumultuous rage of Prayer Sheet bubbling over into blast beats and a more off-kilter riff driven by some wild drumming. Skin Of Your Teeth is a little more what you'd expect from Sense Offender but with a lot more dissonance added to the hardcore battery. NIL's first track is more similar to their colleagues here, with a grindcore thump kicking off their contribution to this split before breaking down though on The Falling Man things go back into the NIL remit of extreme metal with added grooves. Both bands work well in unison complimenting each other well with a lot of similarities to their music but enough differences to let the first time listener tell who is who. This is the point of course a split to introduce these underground bands to a wider audience. Yet more moody, angry music from those folks at Sludgelord Records. 8/10 

Wings Of Destiny - Memento Mori (Wormholedeath)

I'm unsure how many albums are actually called Memento Mori but it got to be well into the hundreds. The Latin phrase that means "Remember that you die" has been used by countless bands as a title over the years so have Costa Rican metal band made sure that it takes on another life? I mean in a word no but that doesn't detract from this being a decent power/prog metal record. Formed, as Wings Of Destiny, in 2015, Memento Mori is the bands sixth album, their last was in 2020 and it keeps them plugging away at their Helloween, Rhapsody and Angra influences. Now obviously this album was recorded during a pandemic and although I don't know how the pandemic affected South America, the song Death Wish the protagonist of the song as an anti-lockdown enthusiast, talking about living their life despite against being told to lock down. Hmmm. Thankfully (or perhaps not) the next song is a galloping Stratovarius rip off that is full of Dan Brown level conspiracy talk. Now as enjoyable as the songs are, they do get your foot tapping and the overarching theme of human beings not being immortal or infallible is a noble one. Even if it is a little religious at times. A shame as the music is very generic and the vocals are all over the place. Another album that aims for greatness but falls a little short. 5/10

Reviews: Swallow The Sun, Eastern High, Godeth, Tombstoner (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Swallow The Sun - 20 Years Of Gloom Beauty And Despair Live In Helsinki (Century Media Records) [Paul Hutchings]
Seven albums into their 21-year journey, and Finnish doomsters Swallow The Sun’s first live album arrives almost out of necessity rather than obligation or planning. Recorded in Helsinki just as the world was going to shit around them, 20 Years Of Gloom Beauty And Despair Live In Helsinki is much more than just a ‘live album’. It’s a reminder to those older fans as well as those who fell in love with 2019’s When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light that Swallow The Sun are still alive and kicking. Recorded in February 2020 at the famed Tavastia Club in Helsinki, it is a record of two halves. The first sees the band’s acoustic performance (with a string quartet) of Songs From The North II before the second half draws on a plethora of fan favourites voted online in advance of the gig. 

At over two hours in length, it’s a mighty listen and as one might expect, it’s a challenge to absorb unless you dedicate the time to sit and focus on it. And it deserves that dedication, for the Finns have weaved a double album of greatness. The blend of dark, melancholic riffs, the mix of acoustic and crushingly heavy riffs all work without a problem. It’s a record that soars with dramatic highs before dragging the listener deep into the darkness and gloom, such is their ability to manipulate the emotions. The highlights are many. In fact, almost too many to list. Instead, I would urge you to invest the time in a copy and enjoy the sheer sadness, the despair but also the hope as it washes over you. The Finns may be 20 + years, but this album is perhaps the most detailed, perfect, and crafted album they have released yet. 9/10

Eastern High - Halo (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

As soon as you hear the opening chords of this 8-track record it's pretty much obvious that Eastern High come from that hotbed of progressive extreme metal Sweden. This Malmö five piece evolved from a thrash band, that brothers Ola (vocals) and Johan Svensson (guitar) were members of, into the more multifaceted act you hear on Halo. The progressive metal band released their debut in 2017, though this was essentially the brothers, on the back of that record they morphed into the fully fledged band that has recorded this follow up. Adding Niklas Cvetkovski (guitar), Fredrik Rosdahl (bass) and Christian Lindström (drums), they now have a much broader and well rounded sound, albeit not one that has been honed in the live scene due to the pandemic. 

This lack of touring has meant that the band can focus on this album a bit more, this attention to recording has led to Halo being a very entertaining prog metal album, the heavy/melodic balance can be heard on Dystopia which has blistering melo-death blastbeats and the kind of riffing Trivium are known for now, fluid and technical but with lots of down-tuned thunder. Now the PR mentions that Eastern High will appeal to fans of Gojira, Opeth and Soen. I'd have to agree as the title track clearly has that downbeat, dark, passionate sound Opeth and Soen bring to the table, while the final track really ends the album in an introspective slow burning ballad called Ashes To Ashes, it lingers long in your memory, the themes of grief, sticking with you. The rest of the record though needs a few listens to fully appreciate as the songs are all brilliantly composed but also full of nuances that only reveal themselves after a couple of plays. 

As Erosion Of Hearts starts things off there's a real punch of Dream Theater, that is until Ola's vocals come in with a grizzled longing that easily shifts into various styles, from a high register to guttural growls. Erosion Of Hearts features segments of a speech from Greta Thunberg for added power. It's followed by Emperor which moves into the sound of Gojira with a touch of Viking/Folk metal and is about a battle within you. Other lyrical influences on the band are whether we are alone in the universe on Morning Star, Covid-19 on Notorious Enemy and also the current state of the world on the chunky, swirling DystopiaHalo brings a Swedish slickness to produce an album of emotive, progressive metal. 8/10  

Godeth - Life To The Flame (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Life To Flame is the debut EP from Leeds bruisers Godeth, it features their previous released tracks Animal Side and All But One and sees them once again work with producer Jack Murray, who worked on their previous single Burn. This EP sounds huge, perfect for Godeth's heavy groove with progressive edge. It's difficult to pigeonhole the band as for every death metal battering, there's a progressive metal time change or a big alt metal groove ala Korn. Add to this a primarily clean vocal style that sits somewhere between Devin Townsend and Mike Patton, meaning that is stands in opposition to the growls at the beginning of the title track, a song about 16th Century Witch Burnings, where vocalist Eddie shows off his expansive vocal range which is similar to that of Warrel Dane. 

All But One very much sitting in the Nevermore sound, though you can hear it across these five tracks. Guitarist Dylan bring riffs and as Luke has the melodic phrasing and plenty of lead/solos, meanwhile bassist Lewis and drummer Danny supply these songs with a powerful bottom end. As the extreme metal influence is in unison with the trad metal style, I'm drawn to say that Godeth sound a lot like the now inactive Sacred Mother Tongue with the technicality and melody. A meaty EP from this Leeds five piece that will see them launch their assault on the UK scene soon, especially after their album launch on 30th at the Key Club. 8/10

Tombstoner - Victims Of Vile Torture (Redefining Darkness Records) [Paul Hutchings]

The Staten Island quartet’s debut EP, Descent To Madness struck the right nerve with me just over 14 months ago when it landed. Muscular chunks of extreme metal combining hardcore, grindcore, thrash and death metal with an underlying groove more infectious than the Delta variant. Well, my wish for a full-length release has been answered with the first full length, Victims Of Vile Torture.
41 minutes of skull pounding metal follows and it continues in the same vein as that impressive EP. Sitting neatly amongst the modern metal groove of Power Trip, sourcing old school from Cannibal Corpse, and dragging a bit of Gatecreeper into the fray, this release continues where Descent to Madness ended.
It’s a savaging of the nastiest kind, the riffs rain down whilst the aggressive, snarled vocals fit perfectly. What Tombstoner do well is to utilise the combination of vocals of Thomas Megill and Jesse Quinones to excellent effect; the pair feed off each other, one taking the higher screams whilst the other adds the gruffer, lower growls. Sledgehammer is aptly named, a real battering to the skull, the driving drumming of Jason Quinones pushing hard, fast and with unerring accuracy. The pace can be slowed though, Fractured Souls case in point as the riffs grind louder and longer, the frenetic blast beats working away beneath monolithic movement.
It’s often hard to source variation in death metal but this album has plenty as the sound switches, responding to the bludgeoning with rapid staccato blasts, searing solos that rip out of nowhere and punishing, always punishing explosive breakdowns. It’s difficult not to engage one’s neck muscles. Thunderous pace isn’t far away on tracks like Grave Dancer, or the blistering Armageddon which provides more doom-laden crushing flavours that unexpectedly meld into a melodic instrumental section before powering back to more bone splitting delivery. Even more surprising, the blasts of sci-fi style classical music that lace together with the demonic speed of closing track Trepidation. An unusual and dramatic conclusion.

Victims Of Vile Torture brings Tombstoner to the forefront of their genre. It’s a visceral, punishing, and brutal debut. An album well worth listening to if you like your music with absolute lashings of the extreme. 8/10

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Reviews: Ingested, Fimir, Moon Reaper (Reviews By Charlie Rogers, Simon Black & Paul Scoble)

Ingested - The Surreption II (Unique Leader) [Charlie Rogers]

As is often the case with Sophomore albums, when Ingested first released The Surreption, it didn’t receive the praise or attention their debut album Surpassing The Boundaries Of Human Suffering did. So it comes as no surprise that after a successful remastering of their first releases, they thought it wise to have a second attempt at releasing The Surreption. And In my opinion, it was the right move.

Not just a remaster, this is a full re-recording of all the material, with their current equipment and their fantastic engineer Nico at Kimera Recordings overseeing all the production. Even the artwork has been updated to include additional detail not present on the first release. This sums up how I feel about the album - clearer, more detail. You’d expect this considering a decade has passed since the original, but the magnitude of how far they’ve come has to be heard to be believed. The riffs are absolutely crushing, with ferocious attack from both Sam and Sean on guitars, underpinned by Lyn’s monstrous drumming. Jay’s vocals are sublime too, showcasing his immense range from seismic gutturals to stratospheric highs.

Ingested pulled no punches when these songs were written - written as a blend of death metal, deathcore, and slam, they leave your face fatigued from the knowing stinkface you’re forced to pull for the full 44 minutes. High tempo, high intensity, high excitement, as we look back at their back catalogue it’s no wonder songs like Kingmaker frequently highlight in their live sets. It’s this consistent commitment to releasing higher and higher quality material that makes Ingested stand out as true nobility in the UK Death Metal scene, and there’s no sign of them stopping any time soon. Pick this record up, and bang your head until it comes off. 9/10

Fimir – Tomb Of God (Argonauta Records) [Simon Black]

Once upon a time, there was a Finnish Doom Metal band called Church Of Void. After a few years of producing albums and EP’s the band splintered, with drummer Byron heading in one direction and the remainder remoulding, forming Firmir and filling out the vacant slots. They identify themselves in the Doom camp, but I would say that there’s an equal portion of Stoner in their as well, with a healthy dollop of the Psychedelic/Cosmic on top for good measure - creating music that builds mood over time, but does so with a heavy, sonorous and monotonously building beats. This band are not about brevity, with the shortest of the six tracks on this debut racking in at five and a half minutes, and three clocking in at seven, eight and nine minutes respectively. It’s a heady combination of the classic occult Doom sound with the more ambient but achieves this without sounding boring or repetitious.

Lengthy opener One Eyed Beast is well named given the nearly ten minutes it takes to deliver and yet strangely is the weakest of the tracks on here, as although it has plenty of mood it doesn’t quite feel like it achieves its direction. You probably need to come back to this one after the rest have had a chance to reel you in, as the remainder are the complete opposite in terms of ability to engage. The positively punchy by comparison Horde Of Crows benefits from a much stronger structure and a bit of vocal style variety from both Magus Corvus (vocals & guitar) and H.Warlock (Vocals and Bass). Adding the more extreme vocal sounds mixing with the cleaner, haunting doomier ones gives this balance, edge and a way more epic feel. It’s a stark comparison to the opener and that pace and energy continue from hereon in. 

By the time we get through White Wolf, I’m nodding away quite happily, thank you very much, and the lengths of the arrangements are being used to positive effect – holding your attention despite their length. Obsidian Giant is way slower, but no less hypnotic, and gives whichever of the two is on vocal duties a chance to show a softer side, but nestled in the heaviest of musical backdrops. It’s a beast in more ways than one and the song I came back to the most.

The quality and consistency remain from here, which make wonder that perhaps if that overly lengthy opener had either found itself a different spot on the album or lost a minute or so from the arrangement, it would have worked out the better for the record, making it more consistent and hypnotically effective, but nonetheless this is a project with legs, atmosphere and energy. 7/10  

Moon Reaper - Descent (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Moon Reaper are a Bristolian 4 piece who have been together since 2018. The band is made up of Morgan Cradick on Vocals and Guitar, Aidan Rutter on Bass, Zack Esposito on Drums and Noah Burns on Guitar, in the time Moon Reaper have been a band they have released 2 singles; Torture Chamber in 2019 and Spiralism a year later. Descent is the bands first EP. Nearly all the material on Descent is slow and heavy. The sound has a Blackened feel to it in the dissonance that is all over this EP, and the occasional use of Tremolo Picked riffs, there is also a bit of a Hardcore feel to some of this as well, so there is a definite Sludge sense to the material. The EP opens with Time Warper which, after a soft, clean intro, is huge and very heavy with nasty, harsh vocals, the track is very rhythmic and driving and is a great way to start the nastiness. Former single Spiralism feels a little more expansive than the previous song, it has a very pleasing Tremolo Picked riff layered in with all the slow and heavy riffs. 

The song has some very tuneful clean vocals, and has some very heavy material in the second half of the song. Clockwork has a bit more pace to it than most of the other material, it’s closer to Mid-paced than slow, it also has more of a rock vibe to it. The track has some softer sections, which help to temper the more uptempo rock. Godeater starts slow, but gets faster really quickly, almost to Blast Beat territory, before slowing down for a soft and clean ending. Final track Necromancy has a big, relaxed tempo, it’s softer and much more expansive. The song segues between heavy and slow with harsh vocals, and softer sections with clean vocals. Descent is a great little EP. It features five, very good songs and feels like it was made by a band more mature than one on its first EP. The material is crushingly heavy, with savage vocals and a great sense of huge harshness and dissonance. If this is the bands first Ep, I can’t wait to hear their first full album. 7/10

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Reviews: Dee Snider, Prosperina, Chaos Over Cosmos, Nik Laidlaw (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Dee Snider – Leave A Scar (Napalm Records) [Paul Hutchings]

He’s certainly a legendary figure in the world of heavy metal. His last studio album, For The Love Of Metal was a right royal return to form after the distinctly average We Are The Ones in 2016. Having the might of Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta alongside the Twisted Sister frontman in both production and song writing clearly was a positive step and Jasta returns once more in one of metal’s most productive alliances of recent times.

Despite internally committing to the end of his live and recording career in 2019, the change in the world with not only the pandemic but the shift in global and US politics saw Snider change his mind and return to the studio. Leave A Scar is solid album, continuing the heavy feel of its predecessor and crammed with anthems of heavy metal that will soon have you singing along. Snider’s voice is as recognisable as any of his peers and whilst he tripped over the 60 speedo a few years ago (he’s fitter than a butcher’s dog though), Leave A Scar sees him in imperious form. Backed by his band of Charlie Bellmore - guitar & background vocals, Nick Bellmore – drums, Russell Pzütto - bass & background vocals and Nick Petrino - guitar & background vocals. His voice soars and screams, his enunciation as perfect as it’s always been, one of the facts I love about Snider. You can understand every word he says.

From the album opener I Gotta Rock (Again) to the dark, brooding rumblings of The Stand, Snider still has a lot to say about the state of the world. Harnessing his angst into a creative outlet, he’s on fire throughout with his lyrics expressing the anger, unease, and pain he and many have endured over the past year. There are also some fantastic guests, with the power of Time To Kill featuring Cannibal Corpse’s George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher surprisingly fast and good with the echoing guttural roars. All Or Nothing More sees Snider hitting the thrash pit in one of the fastest thrashy tracks he’s every delivered. The backing musicians really hit the tempo and propel the track forward as they do again on the feisty Down But Never Out.

Clearly, there is plenty of life left in Snider yet, and if he continues to produce music of such quality, who are we to argue. It’s a heavy metal album, made by a heavy metal frontman who seems to possess more energy now that he did 20 years ago. 8/10

Prosperina - Flag (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

A long time in production, Flag is the third album from Swansea prog/alternative/doom/grunge band Prosperina. Their last was in 2014 so it's been a long time in production and they still defy pigeonholing, the album is one of the many casualties of Pledgemusic thus why even though it was recorded in 2018 it has only just been released. As things politically haven't changed much since then (idiots everywhere), the themes of this album remain relevant to this day. Flag so often the signals for obedience or revolution, the uncertainness, fear and general confusion of these times we live in. None so much than Boot a crusher near the middle of the album with the iconic line from George Orwell's 1984, repeated in the chorus of the song. 

Gethin Woolcock's vocal a call to the disenfranchised left, the spoken word section coming from George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides. Woolcock and Chris Dean's guitar playing is part-indie rock, part-sci-fi prog with a stoner rock back beat of bassist Liam Scannel and drummer Yotin Walsh. The record brims with Floydian fluidity, A New Cold bringing to mind the darkness of Animals with the swirling groove of Soundgarden. There's also the swagger of Clutch on Art Nouveau but also a wide range of sounds that were key to the experimental nature of this album. From the slow shifting Deep Never we get some heavier  the band pushing themselves in the studio. Melding the darker, heavier tones with lighter moments, Drunk On The Blood Of Tokyo brimming with attitude as the title track swirls with psychedelic, Runner In The Maze taking things to a disorientating level across it's long run time. Flag has benefitted from it's delay in the long run as it sounds more vital now than ever. A great album from a band I will be welcoming back with open arms (when we can all hug again of course). 8/10

Chaos Over Cosmos – The Silver Lining Between The Stars (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Since their formation in 2015, time has rarely stood still for Chaos Over Cosmos. The Polish and Spanish hybrid now include Australia as an outpost with the arrival of their latest vocalist, KC Lyon, who replaces Joshua Ratcliff who in turn had replaced Javier Calderon on the last album, The Ultimate Multiverse. The mainstay of the band remains Rafal Bowman who takes lead on guitar, song writing and programming whilst KC Lyon adds lyrics and song writing as well as the vocals.

The previous two long players clearly touched the right nerves with my fellow reviewers, and I can see why in part. The musicianship is impressive, with Bowman’s technical prowess at times breath taking. His shredding on the ten minute plus Violent Equilibrium is phenomenal, although the programmed drumming is frustrating due to its sheer intensity. At times, the battery is simply unreal and that gives the challenge between reality and artificial. As a showcase of prowess, it’s almost unrivalled.

The middle three tracks on the album are considerably shorter, and KC Lyon’s aggressive and guttural roars add girth to the tracks. The keyboard elements don’t quite work for me, at times rather abrasive in their interplay but this is a minor quibble. If you like technically melodic death metal, you’ll probably enjoy the likes of The Last Man In Orbit, the outer space feel of instrumental Eternal Return or the explosive Control ZD.

But for me, there is something that is lacking within the overall album and I’m not quite sure what it is. The title track which closes the album switches tempo so dramatically from the previous four frenetic pieces of work that I had to check that I hadn’t been given a dud. A gentle, calming intro which is rather out of step with the rest of the album is quickly dispelled by more frantic and familiar aggressive growling, although I like the clean harmonies that echo throughout. This style is repeated and brings a different and more melodic feel to an album that in parts is brilliant but doesn’t quite sit as comfortably as it might. Still, there is plenty to appreciate, and there is no doubting the quality that is on display. 7/10

NIK/Nik Laidlaw Music - Stasis (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Nik Laidlaw Music, stylised as NIK, is the solo record from Seed Of Sorrow guitarist Nik Laidlaw. Stasis is his debut solo record. It's influenced heavily by early 2000's metalcore and melodeath, there's lots of groove, solos and melodic flourishes, even some clean vocals on No Control where Nik even sound a little like Rob Halford sneering. However the rest of the album is strongly in the realms of Ascendancy-era Trivium with the traditional metal sound cutting through the metalcore assault the record has Ruin and Point Of Impact reminding me of Lamb Of God as well, the latter having a thick groove. It's a reasonably short record with little time to ease into things, it just hits and hits hard from the first moment. The melodies and breakdowns vary it from the more straight ahead death metal sound of Seed Of Sorrow, but a pretty decent metalcore record. 6/10

Monday 26 July 2021

Reviews: Heavy Water, Erdve, Anakim, Dear Mother (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Heavy Water - Red Brick City (Silver Linings)

A lockdown project from Seb Byford and his father Biff, Heavy Waters debut album is a modern alternative rock album, with a strong blues ethos to it. As someone who works with his father it can be quite tense occasionally, however there's a load back, free form feel to Red Brick City that is an indication that father and son love making music no matter the challenges facing them.

Sound-wise it's about as far away from Saxon as you can get, being more like bands such as Royal Blood, Band Of Skulls (Medicine Man), Arctic Monkeys (Faith) and Seb's other band Naked Six, Tom Witts joining his bandmate Seb here as well by playing drums. Now Seb is great singer and guitar player, his grizzled vocals suiting the style well and working in tandem with his father's higher register. Yes both Byfords contribute vocals here though Seb has the majority, Biff also plays bass on the record providing a second lower riff on most of the tracks as Dave Kemp rounds things out with keys on Faith and sax, on Follow This Moment.

Now what's quite good about this record is that there's clear influences shared by father and son, Seb bringing the more modern grunge fuzz of QOTSA and Soundgarden as Biff calls back to the psychedelia of The Beach Boys and riffs of Zep. Somewhere in the middle both of them have out their heads together for grooving numbers like the title track. A little D.I.Y with the recording, preferring it to be just loud and proud without any studio trickery. A decent lockdown effort that is essentially Naked Six plus 2 with a more relaxed vibe. Easy listening from 2 generations of rockers. 7/10

Erdve - Savigaila (Season Of Mist)

Bringing introspective, dissonant, progressive, ear piercing sludge heaviness. Lithuanian trio Erdve have followed a path of experimentalism with their music, never settling on on style as they veer between hardcore battery on songs like Betonas while tracks such as Votis and Pleura are more ambient and atmospheric in their approach. The latter undulating with and industrial bent before those sludge and hardcore influences bring the rage again. I'm not sure if the band find catharsis in this music but the album title translates to "self-pity"the theme of the album, revolving around overcoming the numbness within the great challenges of unsettling reality, and accepting them as they are. These are channeled throughout the 42 minutes of forceful, sometimes unsettling metallic hardcore.

The title track ups the extremity a persistent guitar riff and screamed vocals before Skiimas is a piano piece that brings the mood back down again just as Lavondėmės gets the fire burning bright at the start of the 11 song playlist. Erdve don't just concentrate on the music though this record is part of a whole artistic package with the band members also creating lots of visuals to accompany the record. Vocalist/guitarist Vaidotas Darulis produces Savigalia, giving it a claustrophobic sound especially when listened through headphones with the cacophonous rhythm section of drummer Valdas Voveraitis and bassist Karolis Urbanavičius, the hazy fuzz underneath some of the atonal guitar riffs and shrieked vocals. There are few bands that take so many risks with their music as Erdve and as such they be Marmite for many. But this second album is them adding to their own little niche with another interesting album. 7/10  

Anakim - The Elysian Void (Self Released)

Now fronted by The Drowning vocalist Matt Small, who has the most ironic name due to him being a brick shithouse, death metal act Anakim have spent their lockdown creating savagery rather than sourdough. The Elysian Void is their second full length album following Monuments To Departed World's from 2017 and this Weymouth five piece have increased the aggression and the progression on this second album. The addition of Small on vocals gives them a more vicious and diverse vocal approach while the second new member, bassist Anthony Ridout, not only gives this album lots of technically proficient basswork but also additional black metal screams.

Science fiction and horror themes combine with furious, technical yet melodic death metal. The sort of music that makes sure a song like Of Starlit Shrines works as an ideal opening shot, building from a slower style before bringing the furious blast beats and down tuned polyrhythms. This shift between light and shade is what Anakim do very well, their progressive nature imbuing every element of this album. Infinite Realities has a bass solo which moves in some explosive lead guitar solos before we get a coda of arpeggios and chorus before the track ends. Auguries Of Virgin Soil brings black metal dissonance and a relentless rhythm section of drummer Ewan Ross, rhythm guitarist Carl Hunting and bassist Ridout allowing Joe Ryan to unleash lots of lead guitar flourishes on this records most progressive and hardest hitting song.

This will be a definite pit starter when they open the Sophie Lancaster stage at BOA on Wednesday this year but there's much more to Anakim's sound than just outright heaviness and death metal, Malformed Cathotic Dreams is very intelligently composed track that has several time changes and a power metal edge as well before Veins Of The Unlight ups the rage quotient again while keeping things progressive. The Elysian Void is stunning follow up to Anakim's debut record, the injection of new talent has made sure that they are at their most vicious and versatile. A fantastic record! 9/10

Dear Mother - Bulletproof (Self Released)

Formed by ex-Delain members Merel Bechtold (guitar) and Joey Marin de Boer (drums) Dear Mother started to come together when the duo found Russian (UK based) vocalist David Pear. The trio then set about writing music, almost constantly setting out their stall firmly in the style of modern metal bands, taking from alternative metal and metalcore. But with an increased virtuosity and a fireguard for the rules of what these bands 'should' sound like. Using 2020 to crowdfund this album and steadily drip feed their singles in preparation of this album. The album title, Bulletproof, is indicative of the albums theme, that is overcoming struggle dealing with obstacles to become stronger. The thumping Vertigo gets the record moving similar to the Delain albums that Merel and Joey played on, pulsating synths met with djenty riffs as David displays his emotive vocal prowess that shifts between soaring cleans and passionate screams. 

12 Years In Exile is probably the best exhibition of this reminding me of early Haken and even Between The Buried And Me. The synths are a key element to this record reminding me of BMTH but they would feel out of place without the multi layered drumming of Joey more than just a pace setter, but a fully formed rhythm section all by himself. I've said a lot about Merel's guitar playing in the past with previous reviews of albums she's featured on but, I have to say again that she is one of the best around effortlessly moving from the thrashier themes of Symbiose to the slower riffage of A Soil For Hire all while adding tons of tasty soloing. Bulletproof stands as Dear Mothers call to arms, knock them down and they'll keep coming, hopefully to a stage near you soon. 8/10  

Friday 23 July 2021

Reviews: Necrogod, Death Tribe, Crescent, The Hornets (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Matt Bladen & Alex Swift)

Necrogod - In Extremis (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Richard Oliver]

It’s always a reassuring sign when you see an album is being released through Transcending Obscurity Records as it’s pretty much a iron cast guarantee that you are going to get some top quality extreme metal blasted down your lug holes. In Extremis which is the debut album from Necrogod is no exception to this rule. Necrogod is a collaboration between the Sweden based Rogga Johansson (he of way too many bands and projects to list here) and Costa Rica based Ronald “The Master Butcher” Jiminez with Rogga handling guitars, bass and drum programming and The Master Butcher on vocals. The collaboration was born in 2014 and prior to this release has put out an E.P. The Inexorable Death Reign in 2015 and a split with Morbid Stench in 2017.

If you like gnarly old school death metal then this is an album that you simply must hear. Its sole ambition is to bludgeon the listener to death being a mix of the Swedish death metal sound with traits of the Florida sound apparent as well. Spread across 9 songs and 34 minutes is pure unfiltered death metal ferocity with the majority of the songs being exercises in sheer brute force. Songs such as The Brutal Path (Straight To Hell), The Obsessive And The Deranged and Moribund should come with a health warning but there is a bit of variety on this album as well. Remain The Same Again and When Madness Has Taken Control slow the pace down and replace the brutality with filthy old school groove and some absolutely monstrous riffs whilst album closer Transcending To Persist is equally at a slower pace but instead of groove it has a dark and foreboding atmosphere. The riffs and solos from Rogga are simply brilliant whilst the vocals from The Master Butcher are positively hellish.

In Extremis is a very dependable piece of grisly and gnarly death metal which, although with its moments of variation, pulls no punches throughout its duration. Not an earth shattering release but some very strong and dependable death metal which is perfect when you are in the mood for something violent sounding. 8/10

Death Tribe - Beyond The Red Light District: A Canal Experiment (Blood Blast) [Matt Bladen]

From the pissed off mind of Kaoteon guitarist Anthony Assaker, Beyond The Red Light District: A Canal Experiment is a raging, politically charged concept album that rallies at the oppression, manipulation and ignorance of those in power. Standing up for the environment (Crematorium) along with LGBTQ+, BLM, womens and refugee rights it's the music of a man born in the chaos of a war zone. Anthony was born in Beirut so he has seen massive destruction before moving to The Netherlands and it's this jaded world view that he's channeled through the complex musical compositions on this very good record. From the Middle Eastern floruises on The World Is Sick And Dying to the addition of Chris Baum (Bent Knee)'s violin on the destructive Schavuit and the melo-death offering Let There Be No Man.

There's a cinematic, collaborative nature to this record despite Anthony writing and playing the guitar here, as well as adding vocals on to two of the tracks, he has a stellar backing cast with the rhythm section made up of drummer Baard Kolstad (Leprous) and bassist Linus Klausenitzer (Obsidious) but Anthony has also brought in a lot of guest screamers to take their place behind the mic Gyze Hermans raging like Phil Anselmo, as Thrawa has a touch of Ihsahn about it, as Crematorium throws out a djent meets Motorhead sound, it's odd but it works. Each vocalist adds their own style to the songs they feature on but they all stay true to this albums extreme metal roots. Beyond The Red Light District: A Canal Experiment is a musically broad record ideal for fans of cleverly composed, aggressive music. Anthony's rage knows no bounds and has been distilled into this album. 7/10    

Crescent - Carving The Fires Of Akhet (Listenable Records)

As the Sun God Ra punishes South Wales with a week of unrelenting heat. The Egyptian extreme metal assault of Crescent rises from the Arabian Desert. Much like American death crew Nile, Cresent draw from the mythos of Ancient Egypt, though unlike Nile they hold the distinction of actually being from Egypt (though they are now based in Germany), they are actually in fact one of the oldest bands in Egypt having been established in 1999. Their musical style is much more akin to that of Behemoth or Rotting Christ taking a blackened death metal approach, rather than straight up black metal. It means that for all the tremolo picking on this third full length there are also some groovy sections and a diverse vocal delivery that shifts from screams to growls. 

The beginnings of the title track also highlights Crescent's other stylistic addition which is traditional instrumentation and symphonic stylings as well. For those wondering Akhet is an ideogram of Horizon and there is a windscreen sound to this record adding great thundering percussion to Moot Set Waas which is a tremolo picking masterclass leading into the thicker, heavier groove of Serpent Of Avaris. This is only Cresent's third album so they are an experienced band that are still only just getting their music out to the world (their first was in 2014) but Carving The Fires Of Akhet is probably their most accomplished so far! 8/10

The Hornets – Heavier Than A Stone (Go Down Records) [Alex Swift]

While the name of this album might hint that you’re in for something boisterous, gargantuan, and visceral, The Hornets sound, by contrast, is far more one of seventies glam-rock revivalism than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! In recent years acts such as The Struts and Creeper have become superstars for their unashamed Bowie and Queen worship! The question then is what set’s the Hornets apart in that scene? What gives them a unique flair? Well, upon a few listens to Heavier Than A Stone, the answer to that question has to be ‘very little’. Don’t get me wrong, moments like Superman and Rockstar’s Syndrome bear a swagger and an attitude that hint of an appreciation for the flamboyant rock of the ‘70s and these musicians are certainly competent behind their instruments, which despite seeming like the most backhanded compliment in the world, beats not being able to play. That said, nothing stands out about this band at all. Stefano Francia hits all the right notes, yet his vocals fail to emanate any power or emotion. 

The rhythm section, overseen by Alberto Francia and Andrea Rovituso doesn’t leave much of an impression on these songs either, serving mainly to give these songs a beat and doing little else. Giovanni Artioli, the guitarist, does make more of an impression, harnessing his ability to solo well throughout, making the piece more than just a range of four chord songs in the style of T-Rex. That said, overall, there’s little to really ‘sink your teeth into’ here. Retro acts are a fun and important part of today’s music scene, but in my opinion The Hornets have some way to go before they live up to the standards set by either their influences or their contemporaries. I hope they keep at their efforts, as there’s an undeniable adoration for music at play here. I just don’t see much reason to return to their debut. 3/10

Thursday 22 July 2021

Reviews: Mordred, Inner Stream, Rian, Thor (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Simon Black)

Mordred – The Dark Parade (M-Theory Audio) [Paul Hutchings]

For those of us around in the 1980s, the thrash scene was one of the most explosive and exciting times to live through. Coming out of San Francisco, Mordred redefined the more standard Bay Area sound with a fusion of Hip Hop, Funk, and rap alongside the more traditional thrash elements. Their three albums created a buzz amongst the metal fraternity, and remain genre defining over 30 years on.

Over 25 years since the band released The Next Room, they are ready to unleash their fourth long player, The Dark Parade, on the world and make no bones about it, this is an absolute winner. From the opening song Demonic #7, which premiered a few months ago, through to the splendid semi-classic rock feel of Smash Goes The Bottle , this is 39 minutes of your life you need to invest heavily in.

Scott Holderby’s vocals have lost none of their 80s style, but there is now a maturity in the delivery which is welcomed by us old timers. Elsewhere we get the punky crunch of Malignancy with DJ Pause getting stuck into his spinning of the discs, the political stance of I Am Charlie and a darker twist with the heavy Dragging For Bodies. This is an album that shows a maturity that the band has developed since their reformation in 2013. The elements that made Mordred unique remain, yet they’ve managed to bring a contemporary style to the table that works brilliantly.

Their refusal to follow trends and stick to their own path is inspiring and the title track stands alongside All Eyes On The Prize as standout songs on an album which contains no filler. My suggestion: get a copy on order and then sit back and relax as the album envelopes and immerses you. It’s a big welcome back to an innovative and original band. Let’s hope you feel the same. 9/10

Inner Stream – Stain The Sea (Frontiers Music Srl) [Simon Black]

Inner Stream is a vehicle for Argentinian singer songwriter Inés Vera-Ortiz, paired with the veritable album salsiccia factory that is Frontiers in-house Producer Alessandro Del Vecchio and the usual complement of session musicians in Italy, with Vera-Ortiz no doubt delivering her parts remotely from the other side of the world. When they aren’t rebooting old artists, Frontiers do a good job of finding and promoting South American vocalists we would not have heard of over here in Europe. Sometimes these projects can be a bit formulaic, particularly when the genre chosen is of the Melodic Metal or Hard Rock variety that makes up the vast bulk of Frontiers’ output. 

Inner Stream are very much from the Symphonic and Gothic end of the spectrum, and although the minds screams Epica or Within Temptation as a natural comparison, there seems to be plenty of room for competition in this crowded marketplace. The overall sound as always invokes those established acts, but fortunately Vera-Ortiz is not a bad song-writer, and her voice, whilst not always original in its application with regard to melodic arrangement is soulful, haunting and passionately delivered. 

Supported by a group of instrumentalists who technically know how to build a mood, and adding just the right level of technical flourish to raise the eye brows without being overtly flashy. The negatives are that many of these tracks don’t really individually distinguish themselves from each other in style and tone, so once you’ve had three or four of the Goth Power Ballad’s, you’ve had them all, but fortunately the album does not outstay its welcome in terms of duration. The title track Stain The Sea is definitely one of the stronger ones, but I would include Last Drink as it brings a welcome change of up-tempo pace from the slower hand-wringers that make up the bulk of the record. Nonetheless, a promising start. 6/10

Rian – Twenty-Three (Frontiers Music Srl) [Simon Black]

Now normally when something from Frontiers crosses my desk, it’s usually a brand-bending supergroup or career (re-)launch courtesy of Frontiers main man Serafino Perugino, so this is slightly unusual in that Rian are an established act who he has signed for a multi-album deal as they are, with this being their sophomore release. I’m not knocking what Frontiers do by the way - some of those projects are fantastic ideas - bringing together musicians in collaborations you would never have expected, giving new talent from a different continent a wider global audience, rebooting stalled careers and persuading yesterday’s heroes to swallow their pride and work together again. 

The output of the label is formidable and anyone who thinks Melodic Metal, Hard Rock, Power and Symphonic acts are old news without a contemporary market needs to take a look at quite how much of this comes out from this Italian label, and indeed sells. For whatever reason, Rian are perfectly at home musically in the Frontiers stable. Their music is very late 80’s influenced US Radio Hard Rock dripping in Swedish sentiments - complete with Sweeping power chords, clean electric guitar harmonies and twinkly keyboard harmonic and lead guitar overlays. Oh, and a shed load of Power ballads… If this is your bag and plenty seem to, then this has well-crafted and produced addition to the genre is going to appeal. The songs don’t feel rushed, and have had a three year gestation since the band’s debut in 2017. The music is all built around principal songwriter / vocalist / guitarist Richard Andermyr. His voice is clean and crisp, but not particularly exceptional in tone. In fact that pretty much sums the album for me, as I found this sort of sound mass-produced AOR fodder a bit naff back in the day and haven’t really moved from that position since then. That said, the song-writing is pretty robust, and all the musicians deliver solid performances. Where I struggle is that no matter how well-produced this, how well-crafted and structured or delivered is that it’s not a sub-genre that has ever got me going. 5/10

Thor – Alliance (Dead Line Music) [Paul Hutchings]

By Odin’s beard, he’s back again. But this time the sneaky bastard has brought along a whole load of his mates and some members of the C list of the metal world to confuse and bemuse. Yes, the crafty Canadian continues his world domination of the bargain bins and annual bottom 10 lists with another stinking pile of songs that’ll get you screaming towards the off button. So, in the interests of taking one for the entire team, I’ve listened to the whole album just so you never have to.

Thor’s recent releases were complete crap. His last record, 2020’s Rising scooped a whooping 1/10 and I’d been drinking all day when I awarded that. Alliance may not quite be the crawling gutter turd that we are used to, but the bar hasn’t risen that much higher. The one thing I’ll give the great man credit for is that his musicians can play. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Queen Of The Spiders, which as well as featuring Frank Soda of The Imps, sees some rather tasty guitar work.

But you haven’t come here to listen to me eulogise about quality guitar work or fiery metal rhythm sections. It’s all about the song compositions and even with the inclusion of a plethora of vocalists including Raven’s John Gallagher (We Need Musclerock), Soilwork’s Björn Strid on Niflhel (Realm Of The Dead), Death Dealer’s Sean Peck (Thor vs The Juggernaut (War Of The Gods)) and Danko Jones (Rock Around The World), the lyrical quality is still horrific. Ever wonder what happened to Anthrax vocalist Neil Turbin? Me neither but he pops up on We Will Fight Together and provides another reminder, should one be needed, why getting Joey Belladonna to sing was Scott Ian’s best ever decision.

For a man who has released 39 albums, clearly the formula works. Co-opting Chris Holmes and Ross The Boss for lead single The Ultimate Alliance which also features Nina Osegueda (A Sound of Thunder) & Fang Von Wrathenstein (Lords Of The Trident) is a bit of a masterstroke, partly because Osegueda totally owns the song, whilst the duelling guitars bring something a bit different. There’s even a decent hook on the chorus. Somewhere to hang your hat at least. But do check the video out because it’s hilarious.

Lowlights? There are plenty. There are fucking bagpipes, classically misogynistic lyrics (Listen to Good Stuff and try and keep your dinner in your stomach), and simply dreadful cliched metal which leaves you scratching your head. Are we still in 1983? Listen to BattlementsCongregate or the dog excrement of Rock Around the World (how Danko Jones got involved one must wonder) and puzzle long and hard about who buys this music. Answers on a postcard please, because I have the number of a good psychiatrist who can help.

If this was a high diving competition, then Thor would be going off the 1m board and entering the pool with a huge belly flop. None of that double pike with twist from the 10m board nonsense, this is a bomb to beast all bombs. His longevity and tenacity amaze me every year when yet another album drops into my inbox. Alliance is no better than any of his recent output but once again, Jon Mikl Thor demonstrates that it is actually possible to polish a turd. 2/10

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Review: Space Chaser, Ophidian I, Chestcrush, Matt Long & The Revenant Ones (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Charlie Rogers, Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Space Chaser - Give Us Life (Metal Blade Records) [Paul Scoble]

German five piece Space Chaser have been making music together since 2011. The band features Sebastian Kerlikowski on Bass, Matthias Scheverer on Drums, Martin Hochsattel on Guitars, Leo Schacht on Guitars and Siegfried Rudzynski on Vocals and has released 2 albums before Give Us Life; Watch The Skies in 2014 and Dead Sun Rising in 2016. Space Chaser play a very energy packed style of Thrash Metal, although it is a style that is much more influenced by American Thrash rather than Teutonic Thrash, closer to Exodus, Overkill, Anthrax or Testament, rather than Kreator, Destruction or Sodom. 

This is Thrash, and if there is one thing that is synonymous with thrash it is speed, fast riffs, rapid Drums, blistering Bass, breakneck Guitars, this album has them all, when Space Chaser do fast they do not mess about. Album opener Remnants Of Technology is a good case in point, fast tight riffs that are razor sharp and packed with energy. Another track that shows this is A.O.A. which features some very fast and flowing material that has vast amounts of inertia. The Immortals is a cracking high speed track, it has a particularly impressive display of very swift vocals from Siegfried Rudzynski, the pacing and rhythm of the verse parts is similar to the very rapid vocals on Testament’s track Curse Of The Legends Of Death. It’s not all about fast though, Space Chaser are very good slow, heavy and relentless, a little in the vein of Anthrax’s classic track I Am The Law

The aptly titled Juggernaut and the albums title track Give Us Life have this slow to mid-paced tempo, coupled with a feeling of relentless unstoppability, that is just as impressive and enjoyable as the fast stuff. All the material on Give Us Life is very well played, the technical virtuosity is very high on this album. All the riffs are very tight, the drumming is very impressive and the guitar solos are fantastic, full of melody, tunefulness and technical precision. The Immortals, Burn Them All and Remnants Of Technology all have very impressive solo’s that are eminently hummable. Give Us Life is a great piece of high energy thrash. The riffs are tight as anything, sharp as a scalpel, and incredibly head-bang-able. 

This album is so full of energy and inertia it could probably be used to reanimate corpses! One criticism could be that there isn’t anything on this album that wasn’t being done in the nineteen eighties, but this is far too much fun for me to care about breaking ground, I’m having far too much fun head-banging. 8/10

Ophidian I - Desolate (Season Of Mist) [Charlie Rogers]

Icelandic tech death about space - what’s not to like? Light speed guitars, blisteringly fast drums, and roaring vocals to match. There’s a lot to hear on this record, with a clear attempt at the world record for most riffs per minute clashing with plenty of harmonic and melodic diversity. The guitar work really is out of this world, and leaves you breathless with how quickly passages move. Tastefully utilizing many sonic colours, the songwriting flexes a true mastery of scalic and chord knowledge - lead guitars exploring unknown heights while the bass underpins the foundation of the movements at times, while also providing beautiful countermelody. It’s a thrilling listen.

The downside to extreme variety is a lot of it blurs in the memory, with many spectacular passages that are enjoyable during their time in the spotlight fading as the next equally epic lick comes to the fore. I find myself being very invested in the record while it’s on, but with no real memory of how the songs individually sounded once finished. There’s a memory of lightning quick instrumentation, but with no lasting detail. Complexity and dexterity are fickle tools in this manner, and trying to write 300 bpm ear worms is one of the hardest tasks in tech death. Try as they might, Ophidian I have done a stellar job in writing intricate, interesting, and honestly breathtaking music on this album, but for me they’re currently missing the mark when it comes to an album that truly has staying power. Perhaps it’ll take another 5-10 listens for the songs to embed, and I’m certainly willing to give them that in the future, in the hope they grow on me further. 7/10

Chestcrush - Vdelygmia (Self Released) [Richard Oliver]

Vdelygmia is a Greek word which means abomination, filth and repulsion of extreme levels and can be used both to define the feeling towards an act, or a person, who is sorely corrupted and depraved. It is a fitting title for the debut album from Chestcrush which is the Edinburgh based solo project of Greek born musician Evangelos Vasilakos who performs all instruments and programming whilst the vocals are handled by Thomas Blanc (who is involved with a whole myriad of bands including Celestial Swarm, Helioss and Kalmhain amongst others).

Chestcrush build upon the discordant blackened sludge metal they put out on their 2020 demo and have a sound that is utterly bleak, depraved and uncompromising. You will not find hooks or melodies on this release instead you will find a relentlessly soul-destroying mix of black metal, sludge metal and grindcore with the nastiest elements of all these subgenres mixed together to create something completely crushing. This can mean the album is a bit on the one-dimensional side and the especially slow and sludgy moments can get a bit tiresome as they don’t have any really solid riffs to match being more made up of discordant sounding chugs. The album is far more effective when it absolutely lets rip with a mix of grinding fury, blackened tremolo riffs and a barrage of blast-beats whilst also adding in moments of discordant sludge such as in songs like Let Them Crawl and Vothrodoxia.

Vdelygmia is a decent debut full length for Chestcrush but even with only around 29 minutes of music it does have some moments which are dragged out a bit too long. This is meant to be utterly ugly, unpleasant and uncompromising music and in that respect Chestcrush 100% achieve what they set out to do. Vdelygmia is one of the ugliest albums you will hear in 2021 and if an absolutely hellish soundscape is your bag then this album comes recommended. 7/10

Matt Long & The Revenant Ones - The Otherside (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

I didn't really know anything about Matt Long when I came to review this debut solo album. He is singer/guitarist of British blues band Catfish, having won numerous awards Matt set a out on a European tour in early 2020 with this album due for release in Spring of last year. Just over a year later the album has been released with a look to playing it live this summer. Unlike his day job this album with The Revenant Ones, is much heavier, drawing from the American rock/metal scene bands like Alter Bridge and (early) Black Stone Cherry built around driving riffs, virtuoso solos and powerful melodic choruses. The record is bolstered by some excellent songwriting, from the strutting 7 minute So that opens the record with an anthem and the slow burning, emotive With My Own Eyes (which is full Alter Bridge), there's also a full on rock out for Wild Animal a song that if played at Steelhouse would get the crowd going nuts. 

There's a real fire to this record, crafted to be played live, to reflect what is by all accounts an incendiary stage show. Matt himself has a gritty, melodic vocal that's steeped in blues tradition but also works well in this rock setting. His guitar playing too is that of a virtuoso, the solos as fluid as the current Covid rules while the riffs are boosted by the grooving basslines of Catfish bandmate Adam Pyke, who leads the final number, the 8 minute Across The Borderline into its punchy crescendo where Matt unleashes another solo. The trio is rounded out by the powerhouse drumming of ex-Raveneye man Kev Hickman, the rhythms he generates giving this album it's thump. The Otherside is a great debut record from Matt Long, it's different enough from Catfish to win over new fans while keeping those who already know Kong's previous work. Rock radio riffs, sing along choruses and a aim to be played live The Otherside is worth taking a journey to. 8/10

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Reviews: Wizardthrone, Ison (Reviews by Matt Bladen)

Wizardthrone - Hypercube Necrodimensions (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Yep you read that right, Wizardthrone, it's a silly name for what is a silly band. Belying any one genre, their long awaited debut album Hypercube Necrodimensions is a blistering fusion of furious melodic death metal, galloping power metal, cinematic symphonics along with folk/black/groove and multiple others. The entire record is based around wizards and Lovecraftian sci-fi horror while the band itself is made up of members of Alestorm, Nekrogoblikon and Gloryhammer, so there's a lot of elements thrown around everything culminating with the 13 minute final Beyond The Wizardthrone (Cryptopharmalogical Revelations Of The RiemannZeta Function)

It has everything that the band bring to the rest of the album over a longer run time, though the longer runtime isn't that required because the rest of the album manages to be incredibly dense musically rarely letting up with the explosive audio assault. It's breathless stuff no doubt and despite the virtuoso performances and the tongue-in-cheek all-out extreme sound favoured by Devy back when he was heavy in SYL, I did think that occasionally it needed to strip back a little to stop the songs blurring into one long blast of craziness. Hypercube Necrodimensions is a bubbling pot of metal influences that rages without relinquishing even for a moment, however it can be a little tiring. 7/10

Ison - Aurora (Avantgarde Music) [Matt Bladen]

Ison is a project that was created by Daniel Änghede and Heike Langhans, many will know Daniel from his time in Crippled Black Phoenix and Heike is the longing voice of Draconian. In 2019 Heike left the band but Daniel had the urge to create more music for the project so he continued by himself bringing in several guests on vocals. Aurora is the 4th album by ISON with Daniel writing/recording/producing and mixing all of the music here. Additional bass lines come from Katatonia's Niklas Sandin and synths from Mark Furnevall who is also ex-Crippled Black Phoenix. Ison's music is not for balmy sunny days, the ambient, multilayered cosmic, post-metal is emotional and cathartic. Underpinned by an uncomfortable sadness driven by an electronic thump, whispered spoken words and sterling performances.

From the fantastic, soulful approach of Cammie Gilbert from Oceans Of Slumber on Waves or the haunting mysticism of Sylvaine on Meridian, Daniel has brought some of the best vocal talent around for this 70 minute exploration though the outer reaches of musical exploration. From the shimmering Celestial featuring Gogo Melone of Aeonian Sorrow to the slower mystique of tracks like Retrograde (featuring Carline Van Roos) and the title track that features Lisa Cuthbert who has performed with Antimatter, while Penumbra has a hint of Tori Amos about it, German artist circle&wind adding her echoed style. Aurora is an experience of a record that totally justifies Daniel's decision to continue Ison as his own project, with hopefully more to come in the future. 8/10

Sunday 18 July 2021

Reviews; Powerwolf, Yngwie Malmsteen, Lord Of The Lost, Times Of Grace (Reviews By Simon Black & Zak Skane)

Powerwolf - Call Of The Wild (Napalm Records) [Simon Black]

Having a deep love of outrageous and ostentatious Power Metal when it is done well and having missed Bloodstock the year these chaps played recently, I was curious to see what this, their eighth studio record would deliver. Powerwolf have been pumping this sort of singalong melody driven Power Metal tunage for fifteen years now and with almost as many live, special orchestrated editions and compilations to go with them, there was a risk that they may have run out of steam. You need not worry on that count, as this one’s a palpable hit.

From the orchestral opening of Faster Than The Flame, this album delivers the goods. When you’ve been at this a while and have such a distinctive sound, the concern always lingers that the well of originality may be running dry, but there is absolutely no sign of that here. Each and every track on here is Powerwolf at their absolute best, with that rich underpinning of orchestration adding such depth and an undeniable epic quality throughout. The pace and tempo is mainly mid-tempo, but I have to draw out the absolutely impeccable power ballad Alive Or Undead. Karsten Brill opens this up with a little piano support – hauntingly and movingly clear is his vocal delivery here, as the orchestration builds up and the song goes full Power Ballad. It should be a single and it’s likely to work really well live, as indeed does pretty will pretty much every damned corpse-painted track on here. They’ve also opted to include a few folky motes in the mix as well, with Blood For Blood (Faoladh) and the title track adding some folk voices to the keys layering. It’s by no means a change of direction, but you just know it’s going to get people dancing when played live.

Special mention needs to go out to the Deluxe Edition of this as well, which at a whopping three CD’s is well worth the extra cash. This version has the standard studio album as the first disk, with a compilation of existing well-known tracks with collaborative elements. So alongside obvious inclusions like the recent single Demon’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend with Alissa White-Gluz, more established tracks get a revisit with guest vocalists like Ralf Scheepers, Doro Pesch, Johan Hegg, Johannes Eckerström and many more. It’s worth shelling out for this disk alone, as this is the cream of the European Metal circuit delivering the goods here. And for good measure, there’s a third disk with all the studio tracks just with the full choral vocals and orchestrated versions. It’s not so much a different version, as a chance to hear the underlying orchestrations and choral parts in isolation, but I have to say this version doesn’t do anything for them. Maybe some people will want a version they can play to the baby boomers in their family, but in my book you can’t improve on perfection.

Powerwolf are at their absolute melodic, anthemic and catchy best here. This album is probably their magnum opus to date, and totally befits an act in the process of moving from arenas to much larger stages (at least on the European mainland). And not before time. 10/10

Yngwie Malmsteen – Parabellum (Music Theories Recordings) [Simon Black]

I need to level with you. Despite normally getting off on the more classically influenced end of the Metal world, I haven’t really had much exposure to all things Yngwie. OK, there’s a couple of vinyl copies of early Rising Force LP’s somewhere deep in the collection and I certainly remember seeing him play Rock City in Nottingham many moons ago circa the Odyssey album in 1988 when Joe Lynn Turner was in the vocal spot (although there was no way that venue was big enough for those two to share a stage in any respect). I remember being slightly disappointed because that’s a difficult venue to get the sound right in, particularly if your man on the desk is used to playing bigger halls and it doesn’t really lend itself to the kind of subtle harmonic interplay that the tail end of the Neo-Classical collaboration with Jens Johansen was still delivering at that point. After that he completely dropped off of my radar, probably because musically his direction of travel took him away from that sound, but also because the music industry in the UK dropped any kind of pretentious virtuosity like a hot brick in favour of all things Grunge and all dreary crap that followed, until people started going back to the source.

I might be forgiven for thinking that little has actually changed in the intervening years since 1988’s Odyssey, as musically this is well and truly in the Neo-Classical camp, although the reality is this is him going back to his roots fully for the first time in a while. Given that his supporting line-up has been something of a revolving door over the decades, I was curious to know who his new vocalist is, as his timbre and style fits the music perfectly. It’s clean, but not over the top, has presence, range and a nice tone - which begs the question as to why Malmsteen spent so many years putting up with big name egos sharing his stage when this record proves that he’s more than capable of doing it all by himself. Plus it’s got to be cheaper when you don’t have to litigate against yourself when the inevitable fall out occurs…

Wolves At The Door opens the record and sets the Neo-Classical stall out very early, even though this particular stall is reselling Paganini’s 24th Caprice rather blatantly for its instrumental break (that’s the piece they used for the South Bank Show theme tune for those of us in the UK old enough to remember it). The first thing that strikes the ears is the acoustic effects chosen for the mix. This record literally sounds like it was recorded in an empty theatre, which is perhaps not as unsurprising as you might think. In fact it isn’t, he’s done it all himself from his Florida home without the usual studio tie and money pressures thanks to Covid. I wonder how deliberate this is EQ stylistic choice, as it really does sound like the different players are spread across a large empty stage minus the dampening effect of an audience and feels like a supportive nod to the fact that most theatres have now been dark for a very long time. #

That said Malmsteen has made sure he’s got the guitar and mike highest in the mix, with the drums echoing to the back somewhere, the bass in between the two and the keyboards somewhere near the cloakroom in the foyer. It’s quite disconcerting at first but works, although I do wish I could hear the keyboard sparring that used to happen between Malmsteen and Johansen, as it was a thing of beauty in its time. We get a few moments where Nick Z. Marino is loud enough in the mix to clearly hear - the opening of God Particle is a good example, but at this point the focus is on the Spanish guitar style Malmsteen is using. This album is not about that kind of interplay, it’s about the guitarist’s virtuosity, songwriting and what keys there are exist to create a backing mood, not instrumental bickering.

As one might expect, there’s a fair few purely instrumental tracks on here and mostly in the high tempo vein, yet the album feels like a cohesive whole. I’m cautious of using the word ‘Symphonic’ here, as in the Metal world that refers to a completely separate style of music (ironically one directly influenced by Malmsteen himself), but it is the correct word to describe an album that really feels like it is one piece of music and one that surprisingly does not drag or repeat itself other than to reward the patient listener with a few refrains. His playing is also undiminished and where some of his contemporaries might be watching the wear and tear on their fingers, but arthritis is clearly not an issue for this guitar hero of old. I was expecting to unleash my ire on this, but in fact I’ve really rather enjoyed it. 8/10

Lord Of The Lost – Judas (Napalm Records) [Zak Skane]

The German five piece have released their seventh studio, a double (with an additional third acoustic album) concept album via Napalm Records. The band's seventh album Judas is based on two biblical themes Damnation and Salvation which based of the paper called Gospel Of Judas which depicts conversations that Judas Iscariot and Jesus Christ had casted in different lights from the New Testament.

The first thing I got to complement with this album is that the band has nailed the atmosphere of this concept album. The production on this two-part album is amazing, the drums sound punchy and huge, guitars sound thick and the vocals  especially the choirs sound anthemic. A big credit to the producer and mixing engineer for not only making a good quality production record, but also creating cinematic experience for the listener. The band have really made sure that they didn’t want to be pigeon holed to any sub genre with songs like their opening Priest which starts off with tribal drums and Middle Eastern inspired female vocals before it kicks in with the chonky guitars, punchy drums and powerful vocals. Other effort from this album like the symphonic Your Star Has Led You Astray, the catchy Born With A Broken Heart are really great staples for this album and are definitely going to be fan favourites. Songs like the opening track of the second disk the Gospel Of Judas shows the bands more dramatic side whilst the electronic tinged ballad Argent shows the bands more emotional side.

There’s not many criticisms that I can make other than the fact sometimes the songs can get a bit formative which can be a bit overbearing especially for a double album. When it came to listening to the third disk of album that had original acoustic songs, I found that they didn’t hold as much weight as they do when the band stripped away from their cinematic production. Overall I’ll  if you are fans of Powerwolf and Nostradamus era Judas Priest this is definitely an album worth checking out. 7/10

Times Of Grace – Songs Of Loss And Separation (Wicked Good Records) [Zak Skane]

Times Of Grace is a side project that came about when Adam D was writing whilst recovering from back surgery. Whilst writing material for his main band Killswitch engage he also came up additional material that wouldn’t fit with the Killswitch sonic template, so once Adam has recovered he teamed up with former Killswitch singer (this is before he re-joined) Jesse Leach to collaborate on the lyric and vocal department, which therefore Times Of Grace was born releasing their debut album Hymns Of A Broken Man in 2011. Fast forward ten years later stuck in a pandemic Adam and Jesse team up outside of Killswitch engage again to treat us with it’s follow up Songs Of Loss And Separation as a ten year anniversary of their previous album. My overview of this record is that it’s a lot more out of the box sounding in comparison to their previous album (Hymns Of A Broken Man), but it’s still a great album none of the less. 

For instance on this album you get to hear some of best dual vocal harmonies of this year (yeah I said it) from Adam D and Jesse Leach especially from their opening blues tinged track The Burden Of Belief before it goes into the Hard Rock territory Mend You which sounds like if you put Incubus and A Perfect Circle into a room to create ballad for Killswitch Engage. Once we get into the third and fourth track Rescue and Far From Heavenless in which the duo go into familiar metal core territory with Rescue being your classic up tempo chuggy riffs with half tempo sing along chorus where us Far From Heavenless is a gradual build up into metal slugginess. After that the band leads us to back into more Hard Rock territory again with Bleed Me and Medusa before it goes into the Grungy Alice In Chains inspired Currents. After that the band takes us to their more Radio Rock sounding tracks with To Carry The Weight and Cold to provide us with melodies and subjects that will play on our heart strings especially with Cold where the guys tackle the subject of self doubt and dishonesty with ourselves and others which is a subject that comes into our lives one form or another. 

Before the band leaves us with the grand sledgehammer of a crescendo of Forever. In conclusion this is a great effort from the duo, the vocals arrangements that Adam D and Jesse Leach are heavenly as well brutal when it comes to the heavy sections. The distorted guitars sound just as edge crushing as they did since Killswitch’s End Of Heartache as well as ambient and moving when it comes to the more bluesy and more stripped down parts of the album. I also give them credit for their songwriting skills and choices this project has to offer they’ve definitely made a piece of art that stands on its own but still keeps the Killswitch fans happy, 8/10.

Friday 16 July 2021

Reviews: NWOCR, Vandor, Velvet Insane, Marta Gabriel (Review By Simon Black & Matt Bladen)

Various Artists – New Wave Of Classic Rock Volume 1 (RPM) [Simon Black]

NWOCR – don’t you just love these acronyms we come up with in the Rock and Metal world? As if ‘NWOBHM’ didn’t trip off the tongue easily enough and then fail to just be an unmemorable flash in the early 80’s pan, we have to go and do it again with another acronym like an explosion of consonants in search of a few more vowels. Behind it though sits a musical movement truly gathering strength.

This particular musical evolution (or perhaps revolution) is proof should any be needed that what goes around, comes around. This is music made by a new generation, who grew up listening to the output of that original 80’s acronym and the decade preceding it that their parents loved so much, plus everything that came after and wear that influence loud and proud for themselves. I would argue (and given that most of the acts on here haven’t just popped into existence in the last few months) that this movement has been here a while, but just lacking a catchy acronym to anchor it and give it a distinct voice – as it’s not like Planet Rock et al have not been plugging these newer acts all along, albeit sparingly squeezed into the playlist alongside their established influences.

Like all good compilations it tries to grab your attention with the presence of some established acts whilst introducing you to a whole bunch more and like those classic compilations of the early 80’s that broke many of the Metal acts still headlining arenas around the world, this is all about the music baby. It’s all the more impressive because across these two CD’s are no less than forty-two tracks from forty-two different artists and a run time of over two and a half hours. Unlike those door-kicker releases of decades gone by it contains not only the output of a whole bunch of fairly large labels, but a healthy number of tracks from self-produced underground acts.

The quality of music is so consistently good here, that I was rarely tempted to jump ahead when listening as well, which is always a challenge when something this large comes your way. There are way too many tracks to give detail on each and every one though, so here are my personal highlights:

· DNA by Mason Hill illustrates clearly and succinctly why these folks are going to be absolutely huge one day. I hadn’t heard their debut Against The Wall album previously, but I can guarantee you that I will be soon. So should you, as it’s Classic Rock grooves are so beautifully spliced with a Modern sentiment and crispness, that I keep coming back for more.

· Sons Of Liberty contribute Fire & Gasoline, which for my money are more Southern than Classic Rock, but I defy anyone to not get sucked in by that groovy opening riff and nod along chorus.

· Tomorrow Is Lost offer Hideaway and show us another reason why this broad church has the new shoots of the future. It’s heavier and more Modern Metal in tone, but delivered with panache and groove, so still fits the tone of the compilation despite being down-tuned to hell and back.
· Shape Of Water’s The World Is Calling Me lulls you into a false sense of security with its gentle opening, before slapping you round the head with a deep dose of Stoner groove and a guitar shred that is one of the highlights of this album, as well as far and above the heaviest.

· Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons probably are the only act on here who technically count as being a part of both NWOCR and NWOBHM, given Campbell’s place in Motörhead’s story, but opening the second disk with Son Of A Gun does have a sense of coming full circle to it. Add to this it’s a belter of a track and illustrates clearly why this act deserve their place on the headline slots of mid-size festivals everywhere.

· I had the pleasure of reviewing Leicester’s SKAM’s Intra EP earlier this year, and here we have Iron Cross from their 2017 debut. Although their sound has evolved a bit since when, it’s still more than enough to see why this three piece are a force to be reckoned with.

· Swedish four piece Thundermother are another act I had the pleasure of listening to in the recent past and their brand of catchy driving music (watch for the speed cams, girls) is full of energetic buzz that leaves you wanting more, but Driving In Style should warm you up for their fantastic Heatwave album.

· King Creature’s Captives is another tune that borders on the heavy, with a baseline and rhythm that set my desk a rumbling. It’s down, it’s dirty and it’s moodier than my teenage daughter in a bad mood, with some cracking instrumental interplay.

· I’m also really delighted that South Wales’ very own trio Häxan have made it onto here. Their White Noise debut is an absolutely consistent cracker of a record and Killing Time from that makes its way onto here. Another band who absolutely deliver and with catchy, infectious hard rock grooves, these three girls are absolutely top notch and know how to write an absolute belter of a song.

· Tucked in near the end are Ward XVI - a British unsigned act that will, if there is any justice in this world, shortly be way too big for this sort of thing in exactly the same way that Metallica outgrew the scope of the Metal Massacre compilation that broke them to a national audience in 1983. If you haven’t come across these Northern Shock Rockers with their Classic groove and a stage show that’s the unnatural dark illegitimate child of Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson, who has been locked away in a mental asylum since childhood (which is exactly what their music is about), then you are really missing out. The spooky but groovy Broken Toys from their recent Metamorphosis album captures this zeitgeist perfectly. Five minutes ago they were a New Blood band at Bloodstock; two cracking albums later and they’re back on the opening night of that festival this year. I give it less than five more before they are headlining the Sophie stage there. These folks are going to go far, trust me.

The only real negative point I have on this release and one that harks back forty years, is that with forty-two different sources that the recording level really does jump around a lot. Now I don’t expect someone to set about remastering all this for a compilation release, but in future an attempt to at least ensure a consistent volume gain level is in place would have been really helpful. That minor niggle notwithstanding, this is an incredibly sound snapshot of movement just getting into its stride. 9/10

Vandor - On A Moonlit Night (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

The sophomore album from this Swedish team seems them taking a more overtly Power Metal direction than first time out. That said, there’s plenty of Symphonic and Progressive key/guitar interplay, with both instruments shredding together quite nicely, thank you very much. Vide Bjerde somehow manages to find the time to sing as well as shred, which he does with a clean and distinct timbre and the occasional incredibly high scream. Guitar duties are shared with Jack L. Stroem and no distinction being made between lead or rhythm roles, so I’m assuming equal share of the duties, as there’s two distinct playing signatures in there. 

Even with more than one guitar in the mix, a lot of the widdly widdlies are being handled by an uncredited keyboard player, so again this feels like an ensemble studio project which has allowed the musicians to push their instrumental boundaries a bit (and pass the time in lockdown) and presumably an additional player will be added to the mix live – although with the musical skill on here it would not surprise me if they manage to pull it off live anyway as they are.

It’s also seen them handle the production work themselves, which is perhaps an area they need a bit more help on in future, as the overall mix is a little on the trebly side. That’s a shame because the drum and rhythm work sounds like it should be positively thundering, but comes across as a little too tinny instead. The musicianship on the other hand is quite formidable and these folks can definitely play. The song writing is on the epic side which might be off putting for the casual listener, but which I personally I am rather enjoying unpeeling layer by layer. …And they don’t get much more epic than The Sword To End All Wars, which at over eighteen minutes of run time is not for the fainthearted.

What stops this album from being a footnote in a crowded marketplace is the sheer depth of musicianship and subtlety of the layering here. Power Metal albums so often display skill aplenty, but lack originality and anything to differentiate themselves from their many peers, but this one works because it reveals itself subtly the more you listen to it. That subtle blending of the Progressive elements really works so well, making this an album that keeps on giving. Had the production matched the playing and writing then this would have been out of the park. 8/10

Velvet Insane - Rock N Roll Glitter Suit (Wild Kingdom Records) [Matt Bladen]

We often talk about album titles perfectly encapsulating the sound a band have. Rock N Roll Glitter Suit is one such record, the second full length release from Swedish band founded by guitarist Jesper Lindgren who paid his dues in much heavier bands before the tragic death of his manager at Nottingham Rock City put him on the path to creating a much more melodic, chorus driven project. Velvet Insane is that project and much like bands like The Poodles, it draws it's inspiration from the 70's glam rock scene so get your flares and stacked heels out ready for an album of shiny pop rock, call back choruses and a throwback to bands such as T-Rex, Slade, The Sweet and the most over-riding influence Ian Hunter's Mott The Hoople. Now this almost guarantees them a support slot with Def Leppard due to Joe Elliot being a Hunter superfan but even if you think Velvet Insane are mere impressionists trying to relive the golden age of rock n roll, they do a bloody good impression.

I would say there is more to them than the 70's glam sound, adding sounds from Hellacopters and the aforementioned The Poodles to bring this glam rock sound bang up to date, there's switches into some 90's UK revival due to Sound Of Sirens sounding like a Oasis b-side, Backstreet Liberace reminds me of The Wildhearts, it's punk energy and handclaps propelling it. Sailing On A Thunderstorm features some layered acoustics and big organ stabs, belying their status as a three piece due to the numerous instruments used on this record. The most effective though is the boogie woogie piano on Driving Down The Mountain and Velvet Tongue which is very Mott indeed, they also add some brass parps for the Hunter feel. Rock N Roll Glitter Suit has lots of glam rock posturing but the fun of that music style. It is a throwback but Swedish bands do the throwback stuff so well that you can't really find too many faults. If gold lame jumpsuits and bouncy pop rock riffs get your toes tapping then I suggest you try Rock N Roll Glitter Suit for size. 8/10    

Marta Gabriel - Metal Queens (Listenable Records) [Matt Bladen]

Known to readers of this blog as the singer/guitarist/frontwoman of Crystal Viper, Marta Gabriel releases her debut solo record. It's a covers album that pays tribute to the influential female singers in the metal genre. Marta plays bass and sings, she's joined by Eric Juris on guitar and Cederick Forsberg on drums both of whom are from Crystal Viper. The track selection is quite varied with known names such as Warlock, Lee Aaron, Rock Goddess, Wendy O Williams and even Chastain covered but there's also a lot of more underground bands that feature as well. Kicking off with Max Overload by Belgian speed metal act Acid, the pace is established quickly as Metal Queen is a slicker affair, Marta handling Lee Aaron's vocals well on the mid-paced rocker. 

On the raging Call Of The Wild (Blacklace) we get the first guest vocalist, Riot V's Todd Michael Hall again displaying his powerful pipes in duet with Marta. The other guests are Jag Panzer's Harry Conklin on Chastain's Light In The Dark and John Gallagher of Raven adding bass to Rock Goddess' thumping My Angel. Yes it's a covers record but done with a respect to the female singers that forged a career in the male-dominated world of rock and metal, Gabriel also stays true to the originals not trying to make everything sound like Crystal Viper, though the best songs here are Count Your Blessings Christian metal band Malteze and of course Mr Gold originally by Warlock, surprisingly this is as close as you'll get Crystal Viper on this album. Metal Queens is a metal covers album with a defined message to pay tribute to these innovators. It's not something that hasn't been done before but delivered with passion. 7/10