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Monday 22 November 2021

Reviews: Nightland, Eyes Wide Open, Hollywood Burns, Shrouded In Darkness (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Zak Skane, Matt Cook & Paul Scoble)

Nightland – The Great Nothing (Scarlet Records) [Matt Bladen]

The Great Nothing is the third full length from Italian symphonic death metal band, and in what seems to be a theme at the moment it’s yet another album that reminds me of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Septicflesh and Ne Obliviscaris, a band whom founder/singer/guitarist Ludovico Cioffi was live member of. He has brought the swathes of orchestrations and intense technicality of that band into this one as their two previous release have garnered them a large following in Europe. Their latest tour was with fellow Italians Fleshgod and on the back of this they have released what is probably their most impressive album yet. Firstly the orchestrations which are used to brilliant effect, giving the album a cinematic quality, just feel those ethereal vibes on 101 Megaparsecs. The band skillfully employ the use of choirs on Shade Of A Lowering Star, the orchestrations working in unison with the virtuoso playing of guitarists Cioffi and Brendan Paolini who shift regularly between outright tremolo picking riffs and shredding solos to more subdued progressive flourishes.

These bring some emotion to the songs with their playing while never relinquishing the technicality of it all. It’s all very dramatic especially when the engine room of the two Filippo’s, Scrima on bass and Cicoria on drums are at full pelt, making for Wintersun comparisons as well. This can be felt mostly on the final three songs which make up The Great Nothing Suite, like the rest of the album it deals lyrically with astrology and the mysticism surrounding it, but here it’s much more conceptual the three songs making coming together as one closing moment ending the record in cinematic style. The orchestrations, metal instrumentation and growled vocals all in a wonderful unison. There are a lot of bands doing symphonic death metal at the moment but Nightland have enough gravitas and song writing flair to pull off being one of the newest names on everyone’s lips. 8/10

Eyes Wide Open – Through Life And Death (Arising Empire) [Zak Skane]

Eyes Wide Open are a four piece modern metal band based in Karlstad Sweden. The band sound pays homage  to the forefathers of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene mixed with a modern twist. Moving on from their previous album The Upside Down, the band are exploring themes of depression, greed and betrayal with their new album Through Life And Death. As soon as the opening tracks World On Fire and Devastation came in featuring swinging drum grooves courtesy of Lucas Freise, harmonising guitars from from Kistofer Stranberg and futuristic soundscapes layers in between, it instantly threw me back to classic 2000’s era Melodeath taking influences from Come Clarity and Stabbing The Drama. The momentum carries on with Fallout, which shows the band wear their influences on their sleeve especially, singer Eric Engstrand who is channeling Bjorn Strid on the choruses.

Burn 'Em and End Of Days are two of the bands most anthemic songs utilizing catchy melodic guitar lines sprinkled with some crowd chants to that arena flavour to win over the big audiences. Eraser and Where Death Meets Paradise (great song title) is when the band step back from being in your face and start to show more emotional dynamics into their sound, Eric singing about subjects such as loss and death accompanied with the guitars, that back off the distortion and add more clean sections. Brother featuring a soaring guitar solo, which highlights Lucas Freises skills and Echos displays the bands musicianship with Lucas providing complex beats and Kistofer composing some Thin Lizzy worthy twin harmonies. 

Overall this is a great album that reminisces on glory days of the 2000s melodeath sound, with a more up dated production to it. The only moments that I could pick where the album falls short, is on the emotional songs. I feel that the vocal delivery is little too stayed and don’t do the accompanying instrumentals justice. When I listen to a metal band going down an emotional route it’s the vocal performance that sells it for me, a good example would be In Flames’s Come Clarity, the way Anders channels the emotion through his trembling vocals performance it convinces me as a listener that is a sad song. Overall though Through Life And Death is good melodeath record. 8/10

Hollywood Burns - The Age Of The Saucers (Blood Music) [Matt Cook]

Emeric Levardon, composer and mastermind behind the electronic project Hollywood Burns, allured fans with a hodge podge of diverse and … electrifying music with the latest release, The Age Of Saucers (Blood Music). Right out the gate, Once Upon A Time (In Hell) is a sinister, spooky and shrilly styled horror intro which picks up the pace and morphs into the lively titular track, utilizing a variety of seamless arrangements, a piano piece and an ominous organ accompanied by choir singing. All wins in my book.

Anyone in search of a fitting soundtrack for hacking a computer (who isn’t?) should look no further than Abomination From Planet X before being swooned into a softer and more aptly named A Moment Of Bliss. The aforementioned Planet X even features a retro melody that conjures images of old school Inspector Gadget episodes. Another win in my book.

It is but a brief respite because Saturday Night Screamer comes barreling in, erupting into a wake-me-upper featuring feel-good beats alongside extra-terrestrial-inspired sounds and “We are your friends” repeated over and over, to be believed at the listener’s risk. Levardon experiments with a distant siren wailing, slowing and distorting in Silent Fortress. And the audience isn’t given any real vocals until Skylords, which candidly, caused this writer to perk their head up in welcomed surprise.

Producing music under the Hollywood Burns banner allows Levardon to find support from many different artists: Volkor X, Olivier Marechal, Remi Meilley, Jerome Joffray, Antoine Baup and Robin Mory all converge on this foray of electronic ecstasy, bringing their own tastes, talents and arrangements. 7/10

Shrouded In Darkness - Abyssum Abyssus Invocat (Kvlt Und Kaos Productions) [Paul Scoble]

Shrouded In Darkness are a three piece based in Gothenburg, Sweden. The band is made up of Mike on guitar, bass and drums, Daniel T on vocals and keys and Reese on lead guitar. Abyssum Abyssus Invocat is the bands first album. Shrouded In Darkness claim to play death/doom, but other than the tempos and the vocal style this is unlike any death/doom I’ve ever heard. Apart from the lead guitar parts played by Reese, all the instruments on this album sound electronic, so if the bass and rhythm guitar are real instruments then there has been a huge amount of processing of the original sounds. There is a similarity in the sound presented here, and Blut Aus Nord’s 2003 masterpiece The Work Which Transforms God, another album where the guitars didn’t sound anything like guitars. 

Apart from the opening intro track We Salute You and the final title track Abyssum Abyssus Invocat which is a dissonant soundscape, all the tracks have a slow tempo, with fairly simple drumming, there is a keyboard line that sounds like a church organ, and those guitar and bass riffs that sound like metallic electronics. The vocals and lead guitars are the only parts of this that are consistent with a traditional death/doom sound. In many ways this sounds far closer to industrial than death/doom, maybe imagine early Godflesh playing slow death metal covers and you are close to how this sounds. I want to point out that none of this is a criticism, I was surprised at what this sounded like and wanted to emphasize the originality of Shrouded In Darkness’s style of extreme music.

Unfortunately the originality in overall sound doesn’t reach the songs themselves. Of the 5 tracks that aren’t intros or soundscapes, there is very little variation. The songs have one or two riffs, which are all very similar, and other than the occasional change in tempo the tracks themselves all sound interchangeable, as if this album was one huge forty minute track that is faded in and out a few times, I had to keep on checking that I didn’t have one track on repeat. Abyssum Abyssus Invocat is definitely an interesting listen, the sound of electronic/industrial death/doom is fascinating, however this feels like an early experiment, rather than a finished article. 

They certainly have something here, but it needs to be focused more, and they need to learn to write riffs that don’t all sound the same. This is an interesting starting point, but it will probably be a couple of albums time before they produce something that is really great. 6/10

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