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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.

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