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Monday 13 September 2021

Reviews: Aborted, Hawkwind, Vulvodynia, Argesh (Reviews By Charlie Rogers, Dr Claire Hanley & Paul Hutchings)

Aborted - ManiaCult (Century Media Records) [Charlie Rogers & Dr Claire Hanley]

The almighty Aborted return with their 11th full length gore-filled release ManiaCult. Instantly recognisable by their trademark bludgeoning brutality and insatiable energy, existing fans of the band know what’s in store and soon-to-be fans are in for a treat.

The record begins with an atmospheric opening, before the title track lets rip. A frantic, manic tune, it blends razor sharp riffing with a grandiose groove. Joe Bad (Fit For An Autopsy) graces us with the first of many guest vocals, meshing superbly with Sven’s signature bark for an exquisite soundscape. This is also the case for Ben Duerr (Shadow Of Intent) who features on I Prediletti: Folly Of The Gods, and Filip Danielsson’s (Humanity’s Last Breath) performance on Drag Me To Hell, which is an absolute banger of a song. It’s menacing as...well..hell; encapsulating the unmatched ferocity, and boundless energy that Aborted are known for, while introducing their evolved song writing approach including a sprinkling of new elements like the distinct blackened theme.

The final guest performance from Ryo Kinoshita (Crystal Lake) features on Ceremonial Ineptitude, however this track fails to have the same impact. Another track to depart from the classic Aborted sound, yet this one isn’t so captivating due to a lack of drive. Portal To Vacuity suffers the same fate, feeling lackluster in comparison to the other tracks. Impetus Odi on the other hand, is aggressive and visceral. Ian’s guitar work on this track is jaw dropping, particularly the solo section. Dementophobia also deserves high praise for this reason as the solo seamlessly integrates with the vocal chaos that ensues thereafter: a lesson in precision and control. It’s a thrashtastic bouncy offering, which brings even more dynamics to the album. The track also has tons of Stefano’s glorious finger thumping bass licks, as does A Vulgar Quagmire - where we both pulled some serious stinkface (apt for a song about poop).

As ever, the production is sublime. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to Ken’s consistently blistering blastbeats, which are showcased perfectly without overwhelming the record. It’s also apparent in the more subdued sections, designed to emphasize atmosphere, where crystal clarity is crucial. Yet even when a monsterous wall of sound is needed, you can still hear every element with ease. ManiaCult is a brutally sophisticated record that shouldn’t be missed. 8/10

Hawkwind – Somnia (Cherry Red Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Search this esteemed site and you’ll find my name attached to many reviews of the sonic spacelords. It’s no secret that I find Hawkwind utterly captivating. For a band that were formed before even I was born, the fact that Hawkwind are even still a functioning musical entity sometimes amazes me. The timelord Dave Brock, now in his 80th year remains at the wheel of the starship, supported by the rock steady Richard Chadwick on drums (33 years and counting), Magnus Martin on keyboards, guitar and vocals and new personnel in the legendary Thighpaulsandra (Timothy Lewis) of Julian Cope, Spiritual and Coil to name but three and bassist Doug Mackinnon bringing the line-up to full strength after the reduction in members for 2020’s Carnivorous, released under the name of the Hawkwind Light Orchestra.

Album 34 takes fans on a journey of sleep; unsurprising given the album title and it gets off to a dreamy start with the ten-minute meander of Unsomnia, full of swirling keys and the legendary Hawkwind guitar sound that has been a signature of all that is good with this band. The band can still rock out with the best and that’s demonstrated with Strange Encounters, an explorative six and a half minutes which sees the band flex their space rock muscles.

As the album continues its exploratory trajectory through the allusions of sleep, we hear lyrics which refer to sleepless paranoia, feverish dreams and nightmare, mediation and Roman mythology. The songs ebb and flow, all in the inimitable style that Hawkwind deliver with such consistency and ease. China Blues combines electronica with psychedelia, Chadwick’s high tempo drumming maintaining the beat. It’s Only A Dream is short and propelled along by a thumping bass line, and Brock’s heartfelt lyrics “It’s hard to know what to do, when everyone relies on you”; reflective words perhaps and ones that chill a little – no Brock would surely be no Hawkwind.

Meditation sees Eastern influences penetrate the sound, not for the first time in their fifty years. Sweet Dreams is a dramatic, sinister two minutes, and there is plenty of hypnotic semi-trance in the final few tracks just for good measure. Another album people might say, but Somnia once again has quality tamped right through it. Although the band’s autumn tour has been postponed, they remain on course for their London Palladium show in late October. I won’t be there this time round but if you get the chance, I recommend it. 9/10

Vulvodynia - Praenuntius Infiniti (Unique Leader) [Dr Claire Hanley]

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were about to enter a Disney theme park from the sparkling intro to Praenuntius Infiniti, the fourth album from South African slammers Vulvodynia. Yet, as soon as the ominous narrative starts up you know this is going to be one messed up fairytale. The Shadowy Descent Of Gaia is as bludgeoning as you’d expect, with the mix of vocal styles and angular riffs contributing to the intensity. The Meshuggah-style rhythmic sections make Eternal Wasteland Of Galaxies an unexpectedly catchy little number, and despite being noticeably slower than the preceding track the lightning quick vocals keep the pace and interest high. 

At this point, however, the initial euphoria starts to diminish, as the following trio of songs contain a lack of distinctive elements – not even the tasty sewer vocals in Praenuntius Ascends and breakneck death chopping of Oliver Rae Aleron (Archspire) can bring these tracks back from the brink of boredom. Despite the attempted swagger and imposing vibes offered up by these tracks, they simply lack a real sense of aggression, energy and purpose, which is essential for such a record. Thankfully, The Seven Judges and Ravenous Revolution are much more dynamic, atmospheric and gritty; injecting some life and much needed groove back into the album, with the slam element really coming through. 

Maintaining the energy, A Cosmic Betrayal and The War Within are vibrant and punchy offerings, with the latter featuring an attention-grabbing solo section laden with lashings of bass. However, just as things are looking up, the final three songs dramatically pale in comparison. Overall, a real rollercoaster of interest; with some dizzying highs but equally borderline coma-inducing lows. The appeal of slamming brutal death metal, and therein Vulvodynia, lies in its ability to make you want to move – and in a live setting, that infectious groove should whip a crowd into a frenzy. While this record is undeniably brutal and technically impressive, the majority of tracks fail to pull you in and leave a lasting impression, even with the host of noteworthy guest vocals on display (e.g., Elliot Desgagn├ęs of Beneath The Massacre). While I’m all for a band evolving their sound, if this is an attempt at maturing, I’d advise a return to adolescence. 6/10

Argesh – Excommunia (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

Apostate black metal anyone? Argesh deliver just that. Formed in 2010, the outfit from Lombardy have taken many years to plan and craft their debut record, Excommunia. Thematically, Argesh state: “Excommunica wants to point out how much can be spiritually self-sabotaging being born and grown in a religious context bare of awareness and consciousness. Its concept is based on disrupting these restrictions in order to find the human need to evolve and become something different from the herd, expressing the harsh hate against the hypocrisy which this moral society proves to be with its values. We're all suffocating in this oxygen ruled by corrupted divine idols."

Limited to 300 copies of CD digipack, this is something of a niche release but don’t let that deter you because it is a ferocious maelstrom of hatred, sucking in influences from the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Omega without using excessive orchestration that can often overpower such music. It’s a wall of shimmering tremolo riffs but with a sublime edge that ensures that a fraction of melody underpins their sound. 

At 32 minutes the album doesn’t outstay its welcome, concentrating on intensity and ferocity rather than over lengthy bloated songs. Source Of Miracles and closing track The Elohim’s Mark are the longest, at six and seven minutes respectively, and both cram masses into the tracks. Flowing organically, its uncompromising fare. Darkness has descended and a new force has landed in the black metal world. Welcome Argesh. 8/10

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