Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Monday 29 November 2021

Reviews: Cynic, Black Label Society, Demonstealer, Converge & Chelsea Wolfe (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Cynic - Ascension Codes (Season Of Mist)

There are backstories to all bands. However there are probably fewer more turbulent than that of Florida Progressive Metal band Cynic. Having sporadically released albuns across what can be considered a start stop career, punctuated by break ups and reformations, the band have sealed their place as one that is almost a mythic name on prog circles influencing countless bands from many genres. After the release of their third album Kindly Bent To Free Us, the band split again (although with a little friction and confusion) founding drummer Sean Reinert leaving the band, replaced by Matt Lynch. The single Humanoid felt like a rebirth of sorts Cynic still channelling those ascendent space rock vibes of their latter years doing away with the extreme metal almost all together. 

However as always seems to the way with Cynic, they take one step forward and three steps back. During 2020 not only did they have the pandemic to contend with but also tragically bassist Sean Malone took his own life, as announced by Paul Masvidal, and despite no longer being in the band, tributes were paid as well to Sean Reinert who passed away in 2020 also. Born on the back of both of these tragedies Ascension Codes could either be the next evolution in the bands history or its final showcase. 

The record is nine 'full' songs split by nine smaller 'code' interludes to drive the ethereal flow of the record. Lynch once again is behind the sprawling percussive sound as Masvidal's otherworldly guitar prowess and vocoadered/angelic/growled vocals, reinforce this as a Cynic record. Taking the place of Malone is Dave MacKay who provides us with synth (and non synth bass) as well as keys. There is also a glut of guests on the record including Plini, DARK (Roopam Garg), Max Phelps of Exist along with other more mystical members such as two vocalists, a crystal bowl player and a spiritual healer who vocalises on the codes. It's all part of the rich tapestry of soundscapes this record has pitching the natural against the synthetic. 

Once again Masvidal produces with co-producer Warren Riker also mixing the record, making sure it all flows beautifully. Stirring instrumentals segue into one another like a transcendental voyage explained through the medium of jazz-influenced prog rock. Hopefully Masvidal continues to carve the path that so many others follow as Ascension Codes reboots the mainframe. 9/10

Black Label Society - Doom Crew Inc (Spinefarm Records)

Don't let the acoustic intro of Set You Free, the eleventh album from Black Label Society is full of fat, juicy riffs and those are flowing widdly solos from band leader Zakk Wylde. But as always there's a knack of producing heavy rock moments with anthemic choruses, drawn straight from the play book of his mentor Ozzy. Destroy & Conquer is a song that would fit easily on one of those latter day Ozzy albums that featured Zakk on guitar. Especially when it slows to a soulful heavy groove at the end. You Made Me Want To Live meanwhile features some reverb drenched guitar/vocals that a re heavily influenced by Sabbath and Monster Magnet as a matter of fact. 

With 10 albums behind them, there's never going to be anything that will wildly detour from their signature sound but Doom Crew Inc is Black Label Society doing what brought them to the dance, ok so there are three ballads, with Forever & A Day being very The Beatles, along with a re-recording of Love Reign Down, from Stronger Than Death but mostly we have some stoic groove driven rock where Zakky allows some of the kudos to be soaked Dario Lorina who expands his rhythm guitar role to some tasty co-leads. It's BLS being BLS and the Berserkers will lap it up. Everyone else will get a decent heavy rock record. 7/10

Demonstealer - The Holocene Termination (Demonstealer Records)

Featuring a plethora of guests such as Eugene Ryabchenko (Fleshgod Apocalypse), Simon Schilling (Marduk), Robin Stone (The Amenta), Krzysztof Klingbein (Deathspawn) on drums, with Anton Zhikharev (Gorgasm) and Jeff Hughell (Six Feet Under) on bass. The Demonstealer Sahil Makhija returns with his fifth release as a solo artist and it's four tracks of punishing technical death metal that sees Sahil playing all of the guitars (except where noted) with the remaining artists providing the rhythm sections. 

Opening with the punishing title track, screams and growls come from The Demonstealer himself, he provides some glorious clean guitars that cut through the extreme metal assault. Nick Padovani (Equipoise) giving the guest solo here. An Epoch Of Degradation adds more thrash and black metal to the EP, rampaging along at full gallop, without taking a breath. Recorded during pandemic Sahil is lucky that Demonstealer has always been a solo effort so everything has been recorded and played by him only the mixing going outside to Wojtek and Sławek Wiesławski. 

From Extinction Begins Evolution is the most technical offering on the record, shifting riffs numerous times, with a full bore riffage, it's probably also the heaviest offering here too feeling more like Demonic Resurrection than anything else. What She Creates comes last having more technically savage death metal as Veronica Bordacchini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) brings some soaring operatic clean vocals, that makes me feel a little like Epica or After Forever. Against adversity The Demonstealer has managed to create yet another meaty solo EP. 8/10

It's available now here: https://demonstealer.bandcamp.com/ 

Converge & Chelsea Wolfe - Bloodmoon I (Epitaph)

Produced by their own Kurt Ballou, the genre leading hardcore punk foursome, Converge have released their tenth album and it's a huge departure from what they have done before. It's a collaborative effort that features Gothic/Avant Garde chanteuse Chelsea Wolfe along with her longtime collaborator Ben Chisholm and Cave In's Stephen Brodsky (a former member of Converge). With the additional musicians joining, Jacob Bannon (vocals), Kurt Ballou (guitars), Nate Newton (bass) and Ben Koller (drums), they have almost become a supergroup who sculpt a record that is far more grandiose than anything the band have done before. 

The roaring hardcore punk comes on Tongues Playing God where Bannon roars viciously over some deafening, distortion. Lord Of Liars too is an off-kilter treat with brilliant syncopated guitar playing and powerful percussion as Bannon merges well with the gorgeous vocals of Wolfe. She shows another side to her singing on this record being able to adapt it as the tracks required. Songs such as Blood Moon and Flower Moon bring some long, winding down tuned doom, while Failure Forever adding Gothic tinges. 

If you're a long time Converge fan you may find this album to be a major detour from their visceral hardcore style but along with Wolfe, Chisholm and Brodsky they have stumbled upon a winning formula that will appeal to fans of Cult Of Luna (who love a collab), the guitar playing of Ballou especially potent on the dark, brooding Scorpion's Sting, the deftness of it showing why he's more than just a biting riff merchant. Emotionally powerful, wonderfully composed and displaying a side of Converge that may carry them past their 31st year and into a much broader future. 9/10 

No comments:

Post a Comment