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Tuesday 14 September 2021

Reviews: TRNA, Auri, Goatfather, Cult Of Scarecrow (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Matt Bladen, Paul Hutchings & Richard Oliver)

Trna - Istok (Candlelight Records) [Paul Scoble]

Based in St. Petersburg, Trna have been making music together since 2013. The three piece have made three albums before Istok; Patterns Of Infinity came first in 2015, then just one year later the band produced their second album, Lose Yourself To Find Peace, and two years later in 2018 Trna released Earthcult. The band is made up of Anton Gataullin on Bass, Andrey Novozhilov on Guitar and Timur Yusupov on Drums. The band play a mix of Post Black Metal and Blackgaze, which is sometimes termed as “Celestial Blackgaze” which after listening to the album fits the sound perfectly. Up until this album Trna have been a purely instrumental band, however they have made an exception for this album as the track Shining features the band Gaerea, who provide the song with vocals, other than that this is an instrumental album. The album also features an instrumental version of Shining, I’m not sure if including the instrumental version in addition to the original is needed, but some long term fans might be accustomed to Trna albums being music only, so this gives them the choice of what they want included on the album.

The album opens with the title track Istok. Istok is a mix of huge and expansive Post Black Metal, which is fairly keyboard heavy and very layered so that it has a wall of sound hugeness, quieter post rock parts and faster blast beats. There is a feeling of turmoil and resolution that is cathartic and this track is in some ways reminiscent of Italian Post Black Metal band Falaise. Echoes Of The Past features more blast beats than the track that preceded it, and in style is a little closer to Atmospheric Black Metal, there is a similarity with early Violet Cold. The track has a soft, quiet and lilting section in the middle before building back up to blasting Atmospheric Black Metal which bring the track to an end.

Next comes Shining, The track that features Gaerea and vocals. The track opens with mid-paced Post Black Metal and fervent harsh vocals, this then drops into a soft Post Rock section which slowly builds in heaviness and intensity with harsh vocals until we drop into blasting Atmospheric Black Metal. The track segues into quiet Post Rock again before building back up to a slow and very heavy end. Burning Bridges, Shattered Dreams is a mix of fast and savage Black Metal and slower and very heavy sections that have a very dark feel. After the complexity and progression of the tracks that came before Burning Bridges, Shattered Dreams, this track is refreshingly direct. This feel is continued with the first section of next track Hearts Turn To Stone, which is aggressive and very fast Black Metal. After the savagery of the songs opening it changes to a section that is soft and almost delicate Post Rock before slowly moving back towards a driving Post Black Metal style, and finally back to the aggressive Black Metal that track started with.

Final track Rebirth opens with fast and clean guitar riffs that are part fast Post Rock and part New Wave, in places this reminded me of The Cure, its taut, blissful and uplifting. This then goes into some Blasting wall of sound Post Black Metal that is a little reminiscent of Deafheaven, this then slows down, but loses none of it’s hugeness. The track then goes into a very quiet and delicate section before a slow, expansive and very beautiful ending. Istok is a great album. The individual tracks work very well on their own, but the way this album as a whole ebbs and flows is really something, as a complete piece of work this is an impressive achievement. The tracks all have some beauty and some blasting nastiness, earlier in the review I mentioned turmoil and resolution, and this is written through every track. This mixture feels cathartic, and as all the tracks always seem to end on resolution, the final track in particular emphasising this, this album feels uplifting and joyful. Beautiful album, highly recommended. 8/10

Auri - II: Those We Don't Speak Of (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

The dark folk trio comprised of Tuomas Holopainen, his wife Johanna Kurkela and Troy Donockley return with their second full length album, II - Those We Don't Speak Of, yet again they bring about the musical world of fairytales, myths and magick. Johanna's bewitching vocals wonderfully rich and harmonious, as she brings fragility on tracks such as magical The Duty Of  Dust, a song that should by rights feature on a soundtrack, such is the brilliant composition, Light And Flood is similar, almost an entire score in one song. Holopainen's mastery of keys, synths and orchestral sounds is what most of these songs are hinged on. Yes ladies and gents much like on the debut album, there is no metal, or even rock here, just wonderous soundscapes born from soundtracks, British folk bands like Lindisfarne and even the Celtic flavours of bands such as Clannad. 

The three of them are conjuring magic with this second album, the beautiful duo of Kiss The Mountain featuring emotive piano but of course Tuomas is not the only musician here as the multi-talented Troy Donockley not only plays those wonderful, Uilleann pipes, low whistles, I have heard numerous times on Mostly Autumn records but also the guitars and chanted male vocals too, he fleshes out what would be a sound close to Iamthemorning, into something more rounded and theatrical than just wistful. II - Those We Don't Speak Of  keeps Auri firmly in the sound they established on their debut, there are some additional accoutrements on this follow up but it maintains it's mystery and sense of wonderment. 8/10 

Goatfather – Monster Truck (Argonauta Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Any band that opens their sophomore release with an excerpt from Convoy, the 1978 trucker movie directed by Sam Peckinpah is always going to score well with me. French stoners Goatfather do just that on the song Convoy, and it sets the tone for 47 minutes of thundering heavy rock which is a crushing listen. Blending large slabs of riffage with well-constructed songs that are underpinned by plenty of groove and catchy hooks, this is music to enjoy. It’s been five years since the Frenchmen released their debut Hipster Fister, but the wait has been worth it as this is a solid follow-up in every respect.

The stoner vibe is fully alive on the bruising title track, the ferocious Punish The Punisher and Mile After Mile. Combining the fuzz you’d expect with some excellent bluesy guitar work, and beefy vocals that roar with attitude, Monster Truck is one of the best stoner releases I’ve heard this year. Having the audacity and confidence to conclude the record with the brooding 12 minute Shelter demonstrates the quality of the band, which is comprised Quentin Jusforgues on bass, RaphaĆ«l Jaudon on drums, guitarist Pierre "Menhir" Beluze and vocalist/guitarist Yann ‘Olaf’ Sambuis. If you like your riffage heavy and thick, then this is an album to check out. Thunderous stuff. 8/10

Cult Of Scarecrow - Tales Of The Sacrosanct Man (Wormholedeath Records) [Richard Oliver]

Tales Of The Sacrosanct Man is the debut full length album from Belgian doom metallers Cult Of Scarecrow. The band formed in 2017 made up of members of the band Die Sinner Die (formerly Dead Serious) and released a self-titled E.P. in 2018. Like every band 2020 plans were completely derailed and all shows, rehearsals and writing were put on hold. Also during this time keyboard player Eddy Scheire decided to leave the band but was quickly replaced by new member Robbie Eelbode. Once the covid situation started to calm down the band were able to resume and with their slightly tweaked line up entered the studio in late 2020 to record their debut album.

Cult Of Scarecrow have a sound that is essentially in an epic doom metal style such as Candlemass and Sorcerer but with touches of old school heavy metal, some riffing inspired by thrash metal and the dirgy feel of grunge bands such as Alice In Chains. The songs mix these elements together in fantastic style with songs such as Sacrosanct Man and Doorkicker03 having those epic doomy riffs mixed with traditional metal melodies whilst you also get songs such as Lazarus and Robotized which are more based in traditional metal with nods to thrash. This album is chock full of killer riffs throughout and the keyboards also play a prominent role creating moments of atmosphere or carrying the melody. The vocals by Filip De Wilde aren’t particularly flashy or showy but very much get the job done and sit well with the music.

This is a great debut album from Cult Of Scarecrow. It sits in a comfortable spot between epic doom and traditional heavy metal and is full of fantastic performances, great songwriting and of course lots of killer riffs. 8/10

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