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Thursday, 8 December 2022

Reviews: Barabbas, Induction, Wise Blood Records Split, Robot Death Monkey (Reviews By Paul Scoble, James Jackson, Mark Young & Matt Bladen)

Barabbas - La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants (Sleeping Church Records) [Paul Scoble]

Biblically named band Barabbas have been making France a far more noisy country since 2007. The Gallic doomsters have produced one EP in 2011’s Libérez Barabbas, and one album, 2014’s Messe Pour Un Chien, before La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants. The band is made up of five Saints (what a happy coincidence that five Venerated Saints all had the same interest in heavy doom metal), they are: Saint Jean-Christophe on drums, Saint Stéphane on guitars, Saint Rudolphe on vocals, Saint Thomas on guitars, and Saint Alexandre on bass.

As you may have worked out already, Barabbas play a very heavy and exuberant style of doom. According to the press release that accompanied this album Barabbas say of their sound that they are influenced by, “The Holy Trinity of Doom Metal : Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Cathedral”, which is a pretty good description of the kind of sound to expect from Barabbas, you can add a little bit of the best Orange Goblin as well. However, don’t think Barabbas are reductive or generic, they have taken these bands as their starting point and have developed a huge, bouncy style all of their own.

The album opens with an intro called La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants, which features spoken word samples, before going into the first full song Je Suis Mort Depuis Bien Longtemps. Je Suis Mort Depuis Bien Longtemps, is a song of huge, driving and very powerful doom at a brisk walking pace. The Vocals are immense, Saint Rudolphe has a bellow that would shame a charging bull, he sings in French and makes no attempt to tone down his French accent, or do a naff Mid-Atlantic voice. There is an organ (possibly a Hammond) on some of the track and a softer melodic section that leads into a very good solo, before a perfectly paced stomp to the end.

Next is Le Saint Riff Rédempteur, which feels like a mix of Cathedral and Black Sabbath, it has the same 6:8 bounce that Sabbath’s Children Of The Grave has, it’s an infectious rhythm that could force a planet to dance. The song does have a slower and heavier section that feels quite dark, but this track is all about exuberant bouncing, the song ends with a colossal laugh from Saint Rudolphe before the track bounces to an end. De La Viande has a slower tempo than the song that preceded it, it has a relentless pace that feels unstoppable and kind of slithers and slips along with the tempo unchanged, but the intensity increasing constantly throughout the song. As with all the tracks on La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants it has a great solo and the intensity builds to a huge ending.
The next track Le Cimetière Des Rêves Brisés is also slow, but it is more restrained than the previous song. This slow one is all about melody, and it has lots of melody, from the Vocal performance which is more restrained than the other material, and is also very tuneful, and from the great melodies from the riffs and a very memorable melody lead.

The next track is Sous Le Signe Du Néant, a return of the Bouncy 6:8. This track is Barabbas with everything turned up to 11. The song features a huge bouncy tempo that drives the song forward and keeps everything fun and effervescent, Saint Rudolphe is back to his towering, bellowing best, this is up there with some of Cathedral’s best disco doom material, its got so much energy it could re-animate a corpse. The song does have a slow and sinister section in the middle, but that just highlights how much fun the faster parts were when they return. Mon Crâne Est Une Crypte (Et J'y Suis Emmuré) brings a return for the slow and relentless feel we saw earlier on De La Viande, the song has a really great melodic chorus, before we return to those riffs that feel as unstoppable as continental drift. The song has a soft and very melodic ending featuring some very pleasing guitar harmonies.
The final full song is La Valse Funèbre which is big and powerful, with very effective backing vocals, the tempo has a swing to it that works very well. The track has a very good solo before a section that is bass heavy, has some great vocals and feels expansive and takes the song to its end. The album comes to an end with a outro to match the intro with spoken word and field recordings. 2022 has been a great year for doom, loads of really great albums have been released this year, however, we have had to wait till the end of the year for the best. 

In my opinion this is the best doom album released this year, I’m going to have to reorganise my top 20 for the year to squeeze it in. La Mort Appelle Tous Les Vivants is such a blast of bouncy doom with great energy and verve. All the material is very memorable, I’ve been humming riffs off this album for the last 2 weeks, once it gets into your head this album is addictive. This is just so much fun (something that has been a little bit absent from the doom scene over the last few years), it feels like amazing nights out with your best mates, its life affirming, it invites you to stop taking everything so seriously and join in with the merrymaking. What this album has in spades is great riffs, amazing solos, brilliant Vocals and some of the best bouncy doom to be made this century! 9/10

Induction - Born From Fire (Atomic Fire Records) [James Jackson]

Originally founded in 2014 and having undergone a slight lineup change, Induction, a Power Metal band with, according to their bio a “symphonic influence” release their second album Born From Fire.

And sure enough within the first few songs that symphonic influence can be heard with a strong nod and more than frequent familiar comparison to one of my favourite bands, Nightwish but those sweet spots are few and far between as there are other moments within the opening few songs that raise a quizzical eyebrow. For within album opener Born From Fire, there’s a rather 80’s inspired bridge complete with synth hand claps and the seemingly odd and out of place piano bridge towards the end of third track Go To Hell that really doesn’t go anywhere, let alone somewhere that the current gas prices aren’t an issue.

Embers, Order And Chaos carry the torch for symphonic power metal before The Beauty Of Monstrance shatters that trend an almost, rather short lived, black metal intro, it’s an interesting start to an otherwise lacklustre track which only gets worse with what to me seems like a really ill conceived slap bass segment. There are many influences played out through the course of this album but not all of them work well alongside the power metal aspects of their writing, it’s not that it’s particularly bad (that slap bass aside) it’s just that some of it feels so out of place here, like the almost Southern rock/metal style opening to Ghost Of Silence.

Penultimate track Eternal Silence was my first and only skip of the album, it’s ballad like in its composition but I wouldn’t be reaching for my lighter (yes, I’m that old) if I were to be listening to it live. The album closes with Sacrifice, a track the band released as a single earlier this year and it’s a well enough rounded piece of power metal, missing are the odd intros, bridges or slap bass verses, it’s just straightforward and better off for it.

Born From Fire does what it does, which is to bring that power metal vibe, vocals that remind me of the long gone days of 80’s hair/glam and the rather typically cheesy lyrics which go hand in hand with it all. Musically at times there are some great moments, some which remind me too much of other bands and then those odd drifts into inspirations which probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor. 4/10

Dungeon Crawl & Throne Of Iron: The Side Quest Split (Wise Blood Records) [Mark Young]

The opportunity to review this split EP came due to some form of cosmic alignment, where a hitherto unknown label, Wise Blood asked if I would like to review music they released. At the same time, Musipedia Of Metal asked for contributions for their site and bang, here we are. 

A little background on Wise Blood Records: Hailing from Indianapolis, they look to bring the best in heavy metal and punk and this EP is a fantastic introduction to this label. An artist first DIY label, they have core beliefs in integrity, empathy, and kindness. They see it as their goal in life to share the music they love, from their home base to a wider audience in the US and beyond. I am looking forward to being exposed to more new music and this EP is certainly the perfect place to start. 

Dungeon Crawl kick off with their thrash influence taken from the west coast’s golden age, which to those of us of a certain vintage really hits home. The four songs presented here hit remind me of Slayer, in terms of attitude, which is no bad thing at all. Instrumental Minions Of A Dark Master leads into Where The Coin Falls, which is just down pick heaven. If songs get you nodding your head whilst at your desk, you know it is doing the right thing. It’s well produced and more importantly well executed. It also sounds fresh in that they have taken their cues from Exodus, Slayer and company and they can comfortably sit in their company. The songs whip along and there is plenty of thrash on display. I won’t sit here and tell you it’s brand new, but what Dungeon Crawl do, they do it exceedingly well and I would recommend seeking them out for the full album when it drops later this year via Bandcamp. 

Indiana natives Throne Of Iron take over with their half, and immediately take you to the land of Iron Maiden’s classic 80’s material. It’s a massive sound, considering it is a three piece. Just like Dungeon Crawl, It’s heavy and watching this live you would have no option over than to bang your head. Or shake your fist depending on your age. Of the three songs, The Curse Of The Lighningmancer is the shortest, but none of their songs are boring or overly long. One of the things about Maiden and similar bands was the need for showing their musical ability which is the same here. This is going to sound like a negative, but it’s music to get absolutely slaughtered to. 7/10

Robot Death Monkey - Intergalactic Party Powder (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

5th EP from Scottish stoner groove machine Robot Death Monkey is bursting at the seams with fat stoner riffs, gnarly vocals, innuendo-laden titles and lyrics. This Edinburgh foursome have been carving up the roads with their riffs and they bring 4 new cuts to appeal to the fans of Fu Manchu, Orange Goblin and Monster Magnet. 

Blasting forth from their mother-ship Bantha Rider is a chugging start where they lay out their musical identity in the deserts of Tattooine with a grooving instrumental, the first track with vocals being Asguardian Micro Whitey which rages with Shaun Forshaw's snarl as rough as his basslines, locking down with brother Sam on drums and Fraser Lough on rhythm guitar they are the riff machine ready for Alan Travers' leads to bring fretboard fireworks. 

Another psych led instrumental Dragon Clit continues their swaggering riffs as the EP closes with the Kittens & Coke, which most people would consider essential. Big Scottish worship to riffs, weed, booze, get the party powder and get wild. 7/10

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Pantheïst, Edenfall & Pyrogaric (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Pantheïst, Edenfall & Pyrogaric, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff, 04.12.22

A Sunday night gig always has a mishmash of audiences, so it was good to see a reasonably healthy crowd as we hit Fuel Rock Club ready for a Sunday sermon of heavy music. Kicking off  the night were Pyrogaric (7) a proto metal duo from Newport. They feature just drums, vocals and heavy stringed guitar, which fills both the guitar/bass duties as they stomped through occult-tinged psych rock that had a strong late 60's vibe taken from Coven, Black Widow etc. They perhaps lost a little due to lack of bass but made up for it with groove they brought to the evening, preparing for what was ahead as one of the three eclectic acts this evening.  

Next in Fuel are Elven horror folk metal band Edenfall (7) who have a trio of vocalists and a cinematic sound, the growls meeting soprano and clean vocals for a sound that was perhaps a bit too big for Fuel. Highlighted by a couple of issues with feedback and the backing track meant that is didn't flow as well as could be expected but with a doomy style of folk/viking metal they entranced the audience into their gothic symphonic metal style. The overall approach being a bit bigger than the previous band, delving into thrash/black metal on The Wild Hunt. Edenfall's symphonic style was perhaps a bit too encompassing for Fuel, but on a bigger stage I can imagine they will show their full potential, ones to watch again for sure 

After three years without any activity, the South Wales based, atmospheric doom underground heroes Pantheïst (9), conduct their first sermon in Cardiff's Fuel. Having been a staple of the doom scene for twenty years, they have always been more popular in Europe than in their native country, this was their first outing with their new live line up and comes in support of their previous album 2021's Closer To God. With frontman/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou taking centre stage, literally, it's his ecclesiastical stage outfit and hymnal keyboards/organs take the lead position in the band. 

The riffs of guitarist Atanas Kyurkchiev and bassist Matthew Strangis rang out with some long, slow, heavy, echoing doom, the drumming of Fanel Lefterache deftly shifting the pace in conjunction with the keys. Pantheïst's songs are long, like distance from Marathon to Athens long, they swell and break, the waves of distortion and synths/organs in a beautiful but eerie unison, this liturgy brought from the other side of heaven. 

Starting out with Control & Fire from Seeking Infinity this mammoth track led into The Loss Of Innocence as Wilderness and Be Here kept the audience in their grasp as they concluded with the 23 minute Strange Times, the first track from their most recent album Closer To God. It closed the evening well, those in attendance on a high from the first show in three years. Now they are back we'll hopefully be seeing a lot more from Pantheïst in the future, I for one will be down the front for more atmospheric doom metal wonderment. 

Reviews: Soen, Oceans, MCC, Mick's Jaguar (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Soen - Atlantis (Silver Lining Music)

If you pair a band like Soen with an orchestra you are guaranteeing magic. Atlantis is a live concert film/album that captures the band in the Atlantis Grammofon Studio in Sweden, formerly Metronome Studio where ABBA recorded. It was recorded in December 2021, with Martin Lopez (drums & percussion), Joel Ekelöf (lead vocals), Lars Enok Åhlund (guitars & piano), Cody Lee Ford (lead guitar) and Oleksii “Zlatoyar” Kobel (bass) collaborating with an eight piece orchestra to reinterpret some of their most well known songs in a different way, using the strings, clean guitars, piano and those longing vocals, there's a magical atmosphere, that weaves it's way over the listener from the opening strains of Antagonist right to the closing number Lotus

Obviously as this is only the audio portion you do only get the one side of the performance however hearing tracks such as Monarch, Trials, Jinn, the grooving Savia and the emotional Illusion done in this style really highlight the songwriting outside of the metal sphere. It's not just their songs featured here though as Soen cover Slipknot's Snuff to great effect. With a lot of well known song on this recording, it's the lesser known anthems that work the best as they are sometimes reconstructed and rejigged to be most effective in this format. Having seen Soen this year I'll be seeking out the visual portion of this release as the music is sublime. 8/10

Oceans - Hell Is Where The Heart Is (Nuclear Blast)

Hell Is Where The Heart Is, is the the latest album by Austrian/German metalcore band Oceans (not to be confused with German progressive band The Ocean) however it only actually features four songs that haven't been released. As this is the bands trio of EP's released this year collected together, released simultaneously with the final EP Part III, the full force of the music can be felt with everything in one place, though it's only about 40 minutes of music but it leaves its mark with some emotional post-metal/metalcore ringing with fear and catharsis as Timo Schwämmlein's angsty cleans and raw growls, sing of depression, mental health issues and inner struggles, tracks such as Living=Dying giving those clean choruses and growled verses that the metalcore genres builds it's foundation on. 

Having been active since 2017 this is actually only the bands second full length Oceans instead preferring to use EP's and singles to produce new material, this being especially effective in the post pandemic era (their debut album was released in 2020). If you've followed the and then you'll already know what most of this record sounds like so really the last four tracks with pique your interest, Clarity (Interlude) leading into the piano driven If There's A God She Has Abandoned Us, the most emotive moment on the album, starting out what for me is the best part of the record as I Sing Alone brings djent beatdowns as this last third has the woozy, darkness of Deftones, the final act being the crushing title track, J.F Grill's blastbeats punishing as Timo and co guitarist Patrick Zarske shred like beasts on top of bassist Thomas Winkleman's grooves. 

This record to me sounds like an evolution, with a concept hung over it keeping things together, they emerge from metalcore tropes into something more as the album continues. Ultra modern, ultra violent and smart, Oceans are an aural tsunami of emotion and passion. 8/10

MCC [Magna Carta Cartel] - The Dying Option (Vernal Vow Records)

Magna Carta Cartel is Martin Persner's precursor and successor to his time in Ghost. Having been in the Swedish megastars until 2016, he reactivated MCC after he let go of the mask and the mantra of a nameless ghoul he set about following up the debut with the new slimmed down version of MCC (MCC member Tobias Forge now doing other things). 

There has been a previous EP since MCC reformed but The Dying Option is the second full length, with Persner on guitar/vocals, drummer Arvid Persner and Pär Gledor on bass/keyboards, the style is eclectic with U2 meeting Vangelis as the spectral sound that became Ghost is obvious on Silence and Darling. Persner says that one of the influences is the opening of Kubrick masterpiece The Shining, that Nordic feel does permeate over the record as Sleepy Eye June and Don't Look Now go into more Western themes.

The synths and guitar in harmonious union on Savantgarde which was written in the pre Ghost days and is very similar to that first Ghost record, but it feels very different to Tamsa which has that synthwave repeating beats. What we have here are pop songs, catchy pop songs dressed up in goth, electronic, post-punk trappings, with an EP and a new full length on the way MCC are definitely back in business, exorcise the spirits and join the cartel. 7/10

Mick's Jaguar - Salvation (Tee Pee/Totem Cat Records)

A potted history of Mick's Jaguar is that this Brooklyn mob formed as a Rolling Stones cover band for a NYE party, but since then they have established their own sound which is an amalgamation of the sounds from 1977 so we have some garage rock fuzzing, punk rock snarling and blues rock swaggering, these styles culminating in their 2018 debut Fame And Fortune which saw them take to stages across the USA, then after losing a bassist they reconvened with some additional members and set about laying down 10 new attitude driven rock n roll tracks. 

That's what this record is just 10 tracks of vintage rock n roll, the ideal fit for labels such as Tee Pee and Totem Cat. Salvation has the bar brawling sound of AC/DC on Molotov Children, the chugging Skin Contact and the dark Hell's Gate, Handshake Deals and 5am have some unleashed punk fury with attacking guitar similar to Wilko Johnson (R.I.P). Bar room rock n roll from a band caught out of time. It's only rock n roll, but hell I like it. 7/10

Reviews: Tarja, AAWKS, Sword, Messora (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Tarja - Living The Dream (earMusic) [Matt Bladen]

We don't really review compilations or "Best Of's" but Tarja is the quintessential metal Diva, her operatic training first heard in Nightwish, Tarja has been a solo artist for 15 years so with a glut of material from six studio albums, Tarja has hand picked the track listing to this "best of"which features a rarities and a live disc too but here I'm focusing on the one "best of" disc, all 16 tracks have been remastered at Sterling Sound so there's continuity between how each track sounds, there has also been an effort to put as many songs as possible by choosing single, alternative or remix edits rather than original versions of tracks that usually run longer. 

Big ballads such as I Feel Immortal are mixed with symphonic rockers such as Die Alive and the riffy Falling Awake which features Jason Hook of FFDP. There's an ideal mix of rock and ballads all showcasing those soaring vocals that spawned a million copycats, as Demons In You (featuring Alissa White-Gluz) and Dead Promises (featuring Björn “Speed” Strid) book ending the luscious Diva, it's great to hear these tracks all in one place and for long time fans the addition of new song Eye Of The Storm which uses Habanera from Carmen as motif for an emotional track. If you're new to Tarja's solo work then this will do its job and give you a starting point to work from. 7/10

AAWKS - (((Heavy On The Cosmic))) (Black Throne Productions) [Rich Piva]

I have had the crazy, psych trip from AAWKS for a while now, and let me tell you, if you like the outer space fuzz this one is going to melt your face.  With the release of their killer debut (((Heavy On The Cosmic))) now on vinyl, hopefully the Canadian boys will get even more exposure for this record because it is absolutely killer. 

Drugs were consumed during the creation of ((Heavy On The Cosmic))). I was not there but I didn’t have to be. The clip at the beginning spells out nicely where this rocket ship is heading; the trip to planet fuzz has commenced with the opener Beyond The Sun. This is exactly what want with my heavy, fuzzy psych. This record is produced perfectly and is a serious headphone head trip. I cannot wait to hear all the sounds that are expelled into the atmosphere when I spin the vinyl for the first time. The trippy guitar work on Sunshine Apparitions is amazing and you get riffs all day with this one. Space City is another trippy ripper with some amazing guitar work and is one of my songs of the year. 

The Woods has some stoner rock vibes and reminds me a bit of Psychlona until the acid laced breakdown which has our tripping traveller talking to the trees. So great. All Is Fine has some doomy riffing to open and is the soundtrack to someone trying convince themselves that the title is so while seeing their own face melt in the mirror. These are just a few of the highlights on a heavy psych rock record that needs to be consumed in large doses immediately because the whole damn thing is must listen from end to trippy end.

This is candy for me, and I can’t get enough. Give me fuzzy space psych heavy rock all day. AAWKS with ((Heavy On The Cosmic))) may have concocted one of the more perfect doses of this medicine that we all need to consume and have alter our way of thinking. Heavy on the cosmic indeed.  9/10

Sword - III (Massacre Records) [Rich Piva]

If we were betting on bands to come back in 2022 the Canadian metal band Sword would not have been on the top of my list. After releasing two rippers in the mid to late 80s and getting some mainstream exposure opening for Metallica and some other big names, the band drifted away into obscurity for various 80s metal reasons, but those two records were always considered classics by people who know what’s good.  Now they are back, 34 years after there last record, with III, and the boys from Quebec sound just as killer as they did in the 80s, which is an amazing feat. I am not sure Sword fans could have asked for much more with a return than what III brings. Is it perfect? No. Is it fun and exactly what I was expecting when I heard this was coming out? Absolutely.  

Like their two classics, III combines some of the best stuff of the 80s, leaning on the traditional, NWOBHM, a bit of hair cheese, and elements of thrash over the eight tracks. Tracks like the opener, Bad Blood, and Spread The Pain are right out of the Sword playbook and combine the best of what they do.  Sword has always been catchy as hell too, which comes across in the track Dirty Pig, which while is a bit cringey lyrically is a total earworm with its chorus and is probably my favourite track on III. Unleashing Hell is a fun (yet also at times cringey) look back track that chronicles the Montreal scene they came up in during that amazing time and probably part of the demise of the band. Spread The Pain reminds me of some Dio (in sound only, not necessarily in quality) while the closer Not Me, No Way is a nice way to end the record with some more of what makes Sword who they were/are. 

This was fun and it is great to have Sword back with some new material. There is nothing groundbreaking here but III is an enjoyable 80s metal inspired return to form for a band we all probably thought was done for good. The record is a bit short (35 minutes with really seven tracks and one instrumental interlude) but for that time Sword brings you back to their heyday in the only way they know how to. 7/10

Messora - Burn (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

On our last review of Messora, their 2019 debut The Door, the word Opeth was mentioned a lot, so as to not do the same here, I’ll say this in opening; Messor sound like Opeth, that is the Opeth up to Watershed, progressive death metal that has folksy, acoustic and gothic inclinations but at its heart relies on down tuned guitars and growled vocals played in odd time signatures. 

So as not to mention the Swedes again, I’ll say that Messora is a studio project by Zach Dean, who continues to be the main musical force behind it today giving guitars/bass and vocals while on this record he has recruited Sam Neumann for drums and keys as special guest Llin Owen provides the cello on Leeches. 

The first song on the album that really reminds me of the Swedes, as does Respite where the acoustics, classical guitars, clean vocals and guitars are brought out to quell the aggression and give you time to breathe before the chugging Ashes builds the dissonance again, the closing blast of Winter, bringing orchestrations and choirs. Following on from their debut and a standalone single in 2021, Messora don’t try to change their output with this second album, progressive death metal, which feels Swedish. 7/10

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Electric Callboy & Annisokay (Live Review By James Jackson)

Electric Callboy & Annisokay, Manchester Academy, 23.11.22

There’s something about a condom being passed around that makes you feel alive, no it’s not an orgy which is probably a relief for the inflatable sheep. It’s the seemingly forgotten tradition of batting an inflated condom around an eager audience, the boos and cheers when one “balloon” pops and a few more take its place.The crowd at The Manchester Academy are in a playful mood tonight as we eagerly await the arrival on stage of support act Annisokay and of course the main attraction Electric Callboy. This is the rescheduled gig from October, postponed due to vocalist Nico Sallach suffering from an ear and throat infection.

Around me as I stand left of the sound booth are a throng of fans all dressed as various characters from Electric Callboy’s more recent videos, the mullets and bowl haircuts from Pump It and We Got The Moves, matched with the rather garish outfits seen in the videos just add more delight to the already buoyant atmosphere. Support comes from Annisokay and they do a great job of warming up the crowd; whilst I’m not a fan of the more scream style of vocals there are a few occasions where it blends with the cleaner edge of the second vocalist/guitarist. Amidst a set of tracks taken from their 15 year career is their cover of Duality, the crowd eagerly singing along to the Nu Metal anthem.

It’s a great start to the night and the vibe continues in earnest with the arrival of Electric Callboy, as they open their set with Pump It, the band adorned with outfits from the music video. Arrow Of Love, Hate/Love and The Scene follow alongside a track I didn’t recognise, sang purely in German, however the change in language does little to dampen the level of enthusiasm from the fans here tonight. Keeping up the frenetic pace are Super Nova, MC Thunder 2, Tekkno Train and Hypa Hypa.

The hits just keep coming with tracks from the recent album blended in with older material and there’s a great sense of camaraderie here as the band play up to the audience before introducing one of my favourite tracks and WTF moment videos in the form of Hurrikan. We are treated to a few more tracks before the final blast of Metal/Electronicore brings us We Got The Moves. This is my first time seeing Electric Callboy and I am far from disappointed, admittedly they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but as a band to catch live, I can’t recommend them enough and will definitely catch them again in the future.

The drive to Manchester from my hometown 80 miles away wasn’t without its numerous and often self inflicted problems, but ultimately it was worth the journey. 10/10

Reviews: Euphrosyne, Mother Turtle, Valiant Sentinel, Vile Species (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Euphrosyne - Keres (Dry Clean Records)

A 29 minute, 7 song journey into the darkest reaches of the psyche, Keres is the new EP from Greek post black metal act Euphrosyne, setting the tone for the record with the dramatic, sax filled misanthropic aura that leads itself into Pale Days, the first song proper where you can get more of an idea what Euphrosyne do as a band. 

Mixed and mastered by Septicflesh guitarist Psychon, the Greek extreme metal legends an influence to this music as much as Solstafir, Deafhaven and Møl. They don't rely on their influences too much though as they though as Euphrosyne have the same experimental sound favoured by Harakari From The Sky, each track using multiple genre styles to keep the listener entertained and never too sure what will come next. When My Fears Conquered All for example is black metal blastbeats from Kostas Mamalis and tremolo picking from Alex Despotidis one moment and then grooving modern metal from bassist George Gazis the next, vocalist Efi Eva switching seamlessly between spectral cleans, powerful choruses and blood curdling roars. 

She is conducting her metal ritual of bleakness and despondency as the crushing riffs of tracks such as Sister Of Violence bring death metal propulsion, guitar solos (there's a fair few of these) and also orchestral/choral arrangements to swell that sound, the melodious ambiance of Sunbringer washing away the gloom for one moment before Within The Ages brings back the intensity for a moment until it shifts into the spectral part towards the middle of the song. 

With this kind of progressive leaning, there's a sax solo here, the fires of Euphrosyne's Devilry burn with lustre on Keres. Exhilarating and masterful, I want more asap. 9/10

Mother Turtle - MT V (Self Released)

Prog like this is often the reserve of British/Canadian/North American bands, but this band from Thessaloniki have taken a revolving door of vocalists to step behind the mic of their fifth studio album. Initially formed as jam band called Hogweed their sound has changed throughout the years as they settle mainly on the style of prog rock that has been a staple of Tiles, Presto Ballet and even some Rush. 

The main members of the band are Kostas Konstantinidis on guitars, guitar-synth, George Baltas on drums, George Filopelou on bass, keyboardist George Theodoropoulos and Babis Prodromidis on saxophone and as I said they have a different singer in each of the songs, from the rocky vocals of Tryfon Baitsis on The Great Unknown, to the QOTSA drawl of Mars Blackbird on Suicidal Hornets, each singer brings their defined style to the song they appear on, menacing that the talented instrumentalists have to compose to match them (or perhaps the other way around). 

Still with some oddness on Always A Waterfall (vocals by Moss Doe) while Jon Voyager is the Bowie-like singer on the 7 minute Reasons. Meliana Karta gives a breathy performance on the atmospheric Aura. Due to the collaborative nature, Mother Turtle are difficult to categorise as a band and other than use the word progressive there's too many other genres on offer. Bystander Effect highlighting the use of sax and Chrysa Tsaltabasi's vocals. 

As Alex Kiourntziadis' violins brings additional virtuosity, the striking Open Veins steals a little from Kashmir and has Cons Marg on the mic, after the long instrumental opening as the post-grunge sound of a band like Creed makes Last Reverie a muscular last song Panos Doucas doing the crooning here. MT V is an ambitious heavy prog rock record which uses the idea of multiple vocalists well. A name I'd not heard of but will be checking out more from. 7/10

Valiant Sentinel - Valiant Sentinel (No Remorse Records)

Formed as a project for guitarist/composer Dimitris Skodras, Valiant Sentinel is a power metal project where Skodras plays all of the bands music, drums are programmed I believe. Teaming up with Swedish vocalist Rob Lundgren for the majority of songs, this self titled debut album is driven by Skodras' love and respect for classic power metal and symphony metal. 

The styles of the more epic bands such as Rhapsody Of Fire and Blind Guardian are what are used here with the galloping Victorious getting things going while Destiny Awaits brings the more speed metal style of Primal Fear and Beyond Fear. With such comparisons in the music it's probably not a surprise that Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire) features on the folksy Forelorn while Tim 'Ripper' Owens (Priest/Beyond Fear) gives his scream to King In The North which is based on Songs Of Ice And Fire by George RR Martin. 

These big time special guests give Valiant Sentinel added kudos but I'm very impressed with Rob Lundgren's vocals set perfectly to Skodras' music. With a second album on the way, it'll be interesting to hear if there's more progression, than just solid power metal. 7/10

Vile Species - Against The Values Of Civilisation (Chaos & Hell Productions)

15 songs, 22 minutes, yeah it's grindcore folks this four piece play violent, flesh ripping grindcore that has no nuance, no melody just razor sharp guitar riffs, screamed vocals and lots of noise. The debut full length from this Athens band is a rager with a faster antagonistic, nihilistic and unstoppable style of music that if you're not a grindcore fan you won't see anything in. However if Languish, Napalm Death and Terrorizer get your blood pumping then Against The Values Of Civilisation will have you circle pitting in your front room and punching the nearest authority figure. 6/10

Monday, 5 December 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Perturbator & Health (Live Review By Dean Palmer)

Perturbator And Health – SWX, Bristol – 13.11.22

Sundays, a day of rest, a day of reflection, a day of realising that synth bands can easily be as heavy as those with big, beefy guitars, and even heavier when they also bring big-beefy guitars around as well.

Gigs and tours are always an interesting thing. Sometimes touring acts have to overcome the issues a venue throws at them. Be this something like a lack of space for a full lighting setup, a small stage that just doesn’t have space for all members, a poor sound system which just doesn’t have the grunt needed or simply from just being such a terribly organised venue that gigs are uncomfortable, unpleasant affairs for those who have paid to see those onstage and no matter how good the band is, the gig is never going to be a classic (shoutout to a certain O2 venue right here).

SWX in Bristol has none of these issues. It’s a great sized venue which has oodles of stage space, an incredible sound system (we will get to this later) and where the layout is generally perfect for any band peddling their wares on its stage. As such when you take two of the most aurally deep electronic-and-synth-led industrial acts on the touring circuit and put them within you’re going to get some pretty special results – and indeed on this Sunday we got just that.

There were a few glum faces to begin the night (mine included) as it had become common knowledge that the third act on the line-up – Author & Punisher – was no longer doing the UK leg of the tour, which is a tremendous shame as A&P’s enormous pounding industrial sounds would likely have been immaculately received and transmitted, so HEALTH (9) were given the task of turning those frowns upside down, however when a band has a T-Shirt on sale with the tagline “SAD MUSIC FOR HORNY PEOPLE” you wonder if the purpose is to turn the frown upside down, or turn bodies horizontal as the HEALTH sound is indeed designed for a very, very sexy soundscape, and within the opening bars of Identity the crowd are very quickly writhing in time, transfixed to the stage as a tremendously backlit lightshow allows the band to effectively descend into silhouette whilst tearing through the set. Minimal interaction with the crowd is needed as the band work through God Botherer, Zoothorns, Psychonaut, The Message amongst many others and it becomes apparent that HEALTH are perfectly suited to this environment, and the environment loves them.

No doubt many discovered the band through their duets with Nine Inch Nails (Isn’t Everyone?), Lamb Of God (Cold Blood) and Poppy (Dead Flowers) and whilst all three of these are missing from the set due to the lack of artists to duet with, the set still has some utterly mammoth bangers to fill the place, with special mention to Feel Nothing and EXCESS – both of whom are reasons to thank your ears for existing as the sound across the whole set (but in particular this pair of tunes) was so utterly, utterly immaculately mixed and projected that I may well rate it as some of the best I have ever heard in any gig, and I have seen a hell of a lot of live shows in my time on this earth.

HEALTH smash it, the lights go up, all horny people are no longer sad, the show is over.

Except it’s not, because that was just the support band and we still have the audio onslaught that is Perturbator (8) to follow.

And follow they do, with an absolute wall of synth-led heaviness which simply should not work on paper but in practice the room shakes with just the correct balance of bass, middle and treble to wake the musical soul of absolutely anybody within the room. The set is very, very balanced – with a good smattering from Lustful Sacraments (their most recent long player) including the title track itself, Excess and Death Of The Soul (which again, the SWX sound system makes sound like heaven in synth-form) and also a few older cuts such as Neo Tokyo, Tainted Empire and “Humans are such easy prey” – each going down phenomenally well with the crowd in attendance.

The set ends with both bands on stage together performing an absolutely enormous sounding Body/Prison – a both recorded together for the HEALTH album Disco4 a few years ago. And now the lights go up, the crowd actually looking a little bit confused by how their brains have somehow shifted three feet to the right after a sonic onslaught of such incredible proportions. Both bands absolutely tore Bristol to pieces at this truly, truly special night, it was truly an honour to be there.

Friday, 2 December 2022

Reviews: Star Circus, Burnt Out Wreck, Doubtsower, Sonus Mortis (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Star Circus - Separate Sides (Diamond Formation Music)

David Winkler is a very experienced musician, playing with rock and pop bands for a long time as a hired gun he's brought all of this experience and his passion for poppier rock bands such as Cheap Trick, Badfinger and Def Leppard in to his band Star Circus. His songwriting has caught the attention of many but most notably Radio One Rock Show producer Tony Wilson, who sat behind the desk for Separate Sides, Ade Emsley (Iron Maiden/Alison Moyet/The Treatment) handles the mastering, but for me the mix of this record does let it down a bit. I know that it's probably supposed to sound vintage, like vinyl but I found it all a little muffled, as it's Winkler's vocals that are the most prominent thing. 

Still much like Cats In Space the mix of theatrical rock from the likes of Queen and Def Leppard with the pop touches of bands like ELO and Cheap Trick make for a joyous listen for the most part. Winkler provides the vocals, guitars, keys and bass but has a cavalcade of musicians on this record playing additional guitars, bass, keys, percussion and a big backing choir too. Sticking mainly to the 70's Just Like In A Movie brings Lizzy to Bowie, Circles gets a bit of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, A Couple More Years brings a big whack of Cheap Trick but we do stray into the 80's with Times Get Tough plus the power ballads On Your Side and Before The Song Is Over

Definitely moving more toward pop than rock sometimes, I feel there needs to be a bit more polish in the production to really make more of an impact, still it's a fun listen. 7/10

Burnt Out Wreck - Stand And Fight (Burnt Out Wreckords)

AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Nazareth, three bands that are the cornerstone of dirty pub rock n roll. Well over their last two albums Scots Burnt Out Wreck have been have been flying the flag for this no frills rock for a while now. Frontman Gary Moat made his bones in NWOBHM act Heavy Pettin' but with Burnt Out Wreck he has taken influence from the bands mentioned at the beginning of this review. Having taken a darker route on their previous record, they change again on Stand And Fight, with a defiant, retrospective, upbeat set of lyrics. 

The grit of Moat's voice still carrying that cheeky, wry delivery of Bon Scott, especially on the title track which tells you to "kick 'em in the balls". The band is rounded out by Alex Carmichael (bass), Paul Gray (drums) and new guitarist Richard Upson (Andy McLaughlin also joins them live), all of them retaining the sound of High Voltage or Dirty Deeds, raw and ready, filthy and flirty. 

With a 12 bar sway on I'm A Loser to the close a record that leans heavily on the blues and the strutting guitar sound of Acca Dacca, while Lion has the fast vocal delivery of Angry Anderson, More Than Anything though has the driving sound of Nazareth. Stand And Fight is a record that leans heavily on its influences but with a solid set of pub rockers it'll get you duck walking in no time. 7/10

Doubtsower - The Endless Shadow Of Despicable Power (UBAii)

Doubtsower is the project of Matt Stangis the bass player for Cardiff based atmospheric doomsters Pantheist and also released electronic/darkwave under the name Kyam. Doubtsower though has more in common with Pantheist as it is Stangis' solo doom project, The Endless Shadow Of Despicable Power being the second album. It builds on what he created on the debut LP retaining the DIY ethic he had on the first record. Completely self recorded/produced/performed this is the definition of a solo record. What Matt has also done with this album is record it so it feels like the album format of old, you can hear how it sequenced that it has a Side A and Side B. 

Clocking in at over 13 minutes Plastic Trail To The Gaping End, is a kick off that an album like this needs, built around the core of doom metal but with some post metal shimmers and experimental parts that keep it form being hits one note. As well as doom there's a lot more on show here Inhumed Legacy maintaining the post metal influence with repeating main groove and layered clean guitars. Doubtsower tries to fuse electronic ambiance with metal aesthetic and does it well, keeping the recordings organic without using many of the modern tricks other bands use. 

As Inhumed Legacy fades off into static, the gloom descends on Trajectory, an instrumental opening built on scintillating guitars, before the industrial throb and death metal vocals close it out. Monument To Hypocrisy really highlights the experimentalism too as it starts off as stoner/doom before shifting into dark industrial electronica at the end. Closing out with the slow sludgy title track The Endless Shadow Of Despicable Power is a one man project that feels like a fully formed band, two albums in and this is doom for those that enjoy a multitude of influences. No doubts to sow here just fertile fields of heavy music. 8/10

Sonus Mortis – Collapse The Mountain (Self Released)

Collapse The Mountain is the sixth album from one man band Sonus Mortis. It’s another showcase of Kevin Byrne’s ability as a multi-instrumentalist, having been the bassist of Valediction, he has really displayed an aptitude in all facets of the extreme metal sphere with Sonus Mortis, this sixth album being no exception. Sonus Mortis sits in the same kind of symphonic approach as bands like Septicflesh, Hypocrisy and even Dimmu Borgir on the black metal styled Faoi Thalamh. 

The strong orchestrations swelling the death/doom metal riffs as Byrne lays down plenty of ear splitting riffs and technically gifted solos. It’s a very impressive that everything on this record is done by just one man as it is much broader in sound than many D.I.Y projects. Now Byrne is quite prolific, but he has got quality over quantity, each of his albums are usually a tight 40 minutes of impressive extreme metal and Collapse The Mountain is no different, with brutally short death blasts such as Traumatic Amputation and Rat Race Ritual, expansive aggression on the blackened death of Reveal The Arteries And Attach The Leeches and the excellently progressive title track. Collapse The Mountain is another strong record from Kevin Byrne symphonic, blackened, death, doom, call it what you will, it’s a grand listen. 8/10

Reviews: Obvurt, Isafjørd, Amberian Dawn, Veilburner (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Obvurt – Triumph Beyond Adversity (Unique Leader Records)

Canadians Obvurt have faced more adversity in their inception than many bands do in their career. Only forming in 2020, they released an EP, The Beginning in 2021 which showed the direction they were heading, fiercely technical death metal that is inspired by Immolation, Morbid Angel and Cattle Decapitation. 

The guitar playing of Philippe Drouin shows he’s a true virtuoso, it’s also one part of an inspiring story. Having served time in Unbreakable Hatred, Obvurt is essentially his solo project and chance for him to prove himself as a guitar player. In 2016 a car accident left him unable to play the instrument he had been practicing for 15 years, however Phillippe re-learned to play left handed under the tutelage of Michael Angelo Batio (now in Manowar). To me that is astounding and a testament to the fortitude of Drouin and his love of music. With the EP establishing them, this full length is Obvurt, which includes bassist Alexandre Chouinard and drummer Charleli Arsenault-Tremblay is them building on the EP and stretching out the technical death metal assault for 8 tracks of bludgeoning, mind melting, fretboard breaking intensity. 

With occasional dips into melody such as the jazz break in Invisible Enemy where the blastbeats just keep coming even when it's just a solitary clean guitar before the death growls and distortion is ramped up again, or of course the frequent neo-classical guitar lines on Renverser L'adversité that quicken the pace again. With lyrics surrounding the pandemic and the state of the world Triumph Beyond Adversity is a blazing tech death record that carves through the 8 tracks with ease, rarely letting you gain breath. 8/10

Isafjørd – Hjartastjak (Svart Records)

The Icelandic music scene is incredibly incestuous, countless bands and few people means that there is lots of crossover. The Reykjavik scene being especially dense, it meant that Isafjørd founders Aðalbjörn Addi Tryggvason and Ragnar Zolberg met each other when Ragnar was playing live session bass with Addi's main project Sólstafir. The two struck a friendship and this has resulted in this collaboration, Isafjørd translates to fjord of ice and was named after the two where both of their father's came from, this link between the two men bringing the nostalgic, ethereal, soundscapes if this record alive. 

Unlike their dayjobs this record is arty, haunting, Icelandic pop with post rock shimmers and the infectious/yet maudlin hooks of Björk or Sigur Rós, they call it landscape music but this record is the sort of soundtrack to sweeping pan shots of large glacial vistas and frozen tundra. There's an aching and a longing eeked out in the vocals and the dynamic shifts between quiet introspection and loud catharsis, both men providing all the instrumentation and vocals, though it's the natural chemistry between the two that brings this album together. Two musically akin souls expressing themselves through a medium that both of them understand intimately. 

Heavily orchestrated with strings and synths across the entire album, for that wide-screen scope. The guitars are reverbed to feel like U2 on Falin Skemmd as a propulsive/repeating drum beat keeps the energy. This pulsing, percussive heartbeat continues, leveling off into the dreamy Mín Svarta Hlið and the moody title track. Both men lived in Norway and speak Norwegian, with the Nordic influence of a band such as Madrugada on the title track and the introspective beauty of Heiðin, there's also the lustful darkness of a band such as Crippled Black Phoenix on Fjord Of Hope

Everything about this record appeals to me, the connectivity and wonderment that sits at the heart of each of these songs, touches your soul, the heaviness not always coming from distorted riffs or blast beats but from the wistful milieu they conjure on the 8 tracks. As the nights get longer and colder, light a fire, wrap yourself in your favourite blanket and indulge in Hjartastjak. A charming, heartfelt album that bewitched me from the opening moments until the fading final ones. 9/10

Amberian Dawn – Take A Chance: A Metal Tribute To ABBA (Napalm Records)

Having recently married a Greek woman, the amount of ABBA talk that has surrounded me has been mind-numbing. Because of Mamma Mia and its sequel, ABBA are now fully linked to any sort of Greek nuptials, so when this album dropped in my inbox I did have to check to see if it wasn’t one of my colleagues making a joke. 

However this is no joke, Finnish symphonic power metal band, performed a cover of Lay All Your Love On Me on their previous album Looking For You, and in that review I said it was one of the best parts of that album. Obviously the band agree as they have now become a fully fledged ABBA-metal band performing songs from the Swedish powerhouse in their own symphonic style. Now this isn’t new as plenty of bands have covered ABBA; Ghost, Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen and even Fozzy but none have gone so far as to perform an entire album of ABBA covers! What I will say about this record is that it’s not ABBA Gold, as there is Super Trouper, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, Mamma Mia, SOS, The Day Before You Came and Lay All Your Love On Me (again) but the rest of the album are perhaps lesser known ABBA songs that means the band can play around a little more with them. That’s Me which is the only song featured here from their seminal Arrival is a spiraling rocker for example, as Under Attack gets a strutting rock sound. 

With the classic triumvirate of Super Trouper, Gimme… and SOS you can hear that Amberian Dawn have tried to keep things authentic with the analogue keyboards/synths that ABBA would have used all over the songs but there’s also some distorted riffs and double kick drums. For me there’s a similarity to projects such as The Northern Kings or Exit Eden where the covers are metalized but retain the pomp and with ABBA danceability of the originals, a track such as The Day Before You Came given a 80’s synthy power ballad overhaul. Capri’s vocals are layered so she can capture both Agnetha and Anni-Frid, on Angeleyes and Mamma Mia especially. 

It’s ABBA, its symphonic metal, if you don’t like either of these things then I’d suggest you stay away, however if you’re a metalhead and want an album you can play for your Mum and your Gran at Xmas, instead of your preferred choice of Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, then Take A Chance on Amberian Dawn. 7/10

Veilburner - VLBRNR (Transcending Obscurity Records)

The duo of Mephisto Deleterio (music/production) and Chrisom Infernium (vocals/lyrics/visual art) have navigated the avant garde nature of Veilburner for five previous albums now. All released within the space of 8 years, the duo’s nightmarish, conceptual, universe allows them to explore the furthest reaches of extreme music pushing boundaries that take them from death, to black, to industrial metal with classical instrumentation and plenty of effects and general weirdness. 

On this sixth iteration, I will warn you that the listening doesn’t get any easier, imagine Strapping Young Lad with the attitude of Mr Bungle and you’ll be nearer to what Veilburner as band sound like. The intense technicality of the playing, set in song forms that are often disconcerting and menacing. On the first two tracks alone VI (Vulgar Incantations) brings some punishing tech metal grooves as Envexomous Hex is intergalactic black metal, both different but somehow in keeping with the Veilburner aesthetic, even Unorthodoxagon which sounds like Primus, fits for some weird reason. 

With concept that has been influence by theological, science fiction and occult sources, they almost have free reign to experiment as much or as little as they like, preferring the former to the latter, packing multiple genre shifts and soundscapes into the 10 song album, a track like Lo! Heirs To The Serpent a serious mind fuck as thrash shifts to atmospheric black metal, the frantic changes unsettling but fascinating. There is a feeling that the previous five albums have culminated together on this one, every genre leap, every progressive flourish, coming together in one place, to delight, confuse and batter you. 

VLBRNR is not your average record from not your average band, it may throw some when it closes with a long slow industrial thump from the back of death metal battery but approach with an open mind and you’ll get a lot out of it. 7/10

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Reviews: Okkultist, Norrsköld, Black Anvil, Lockhart (Reviews By Paul Scoble, David G, Erick Willand & Matt Bladen)

Okkultist - O.M.E.N. (Alma Mater Records) [Paul Scoble]

Okkultist have been making music together since 2016, the five piece are based in Lisbon, Portugal. O.M.E.N. is the bands second album; it is preceded by and EP called Eye Of The Beholder in 2017, and the bands debut album, Reinventing Evil in 2019. The band is made up of Beatriz Mariano on vocals, Leander Sandmeier on guitar, David J. Rodrigues on bass, João Corceiro on guitar and Eduardo Sinatra on drums.

Okkultist play a fairly modern style of melodic death metal, the sound has a definite technical edge to it, but is also packed with tunefulness and drive. A lot of the material on O.M.E.N. is mid-paced rather than blasting fast, the track Death To Your Breed is a good example of this. The track is mid-paced, but is very taut and has a lot of energy and is purposeful. The song does have a couple of slower, heavier sections and a cracking solo but it is mainly about mid-paced stomp. Another mid-paced track is the Hammer Horror titled Blood On Satans Claw, which has a relentless and unstoppable feel to it, the song boasts a slower, but very memorable chorus, really good vocals, a great solo and a nastily dissonant ending.

9th Layer Of The Abyss takes the tempo down too slow and heavy for most of the the song. The track is mainly heavy and dissonant, it's very rhythmic and staccato, so the audience will feel battered by the song. There is a great guitar melody added near the end and, the track comes to a close with break of much faster death metal that drives the song to its end. 

The balance of pacing on this album does come down on the side of mid-paced melodic death metal, there a couple of tracks on O.M.E.N. that are high speed blasts. Demonic Warfare is fast and flowing death metal which is tight and driving. While Thy Blood, Thy Flesh, Thy Sacrifice is also fast, but in a more aggressive and combative way. The song features some great blast beats and (another) really good solo.

The album also contains a tribute to Children Of Bodom, with a cover version of the song Sixpounder, originally from the COB album Hate Crew Deathroll. The cover is done well, it’s slightly faster and the lack of keyboards make it feel a little bit harder than the original, but it has the same spirit and energy to the Bodom version and I feel that Alexi Laiho would have liked it.

O.M.E.N. is a great album full of enough ferocity to push the right death metal buttons, but still drips with melody and tunefulness. Technically this is a very accomplished album, everyone involved have put down very good performances, and the album sounds really great, the mix and production is spot on. It’s on the more extreme end of the melodic death metal spectrum, so the album is aggressive and blasting, as well as being full of melodiousness, it’s a difficult balance to achieve, and Okkultist pull it off with ease. 8/10

Norrsköld – Prisma Aeturnus (Self Released) [David G]

The unsurprisingly Swedish four-piece Norrsköld bring us their third album in Prisma Aeternus, and it is interesting to hear something that calls back to elements of late 90’s/early 00’s style of melodic death that the creators have largely moved away from, but isn’t afraid to put this in the context of a more modern sound.

Witness The Illusion shows some of the same angsty energy that was present in the origins of the scene, bounding out frantically with twin guitars ablaze. It’s enough to put a smile on a middle-aged man’s face and think back to the vibrancy of acts like The Everdawn and Gates of Ishtar, though delivered with a polish which wasn’t available to bands of the early era. There’s even an In Flames-ian acoustic folk outro that adds a nice flavour.

This End follows up with a more considered style, pushing the raspy vocals to the fore and slowly chugging along. With natty melodic harmonies and a short, blooming solo it leans into a more modern style, while maintaining the roots it has set. It’s interesting to hear these distinctly updated tones across the album as they provide an uplifting and positive counterbalance to the more nervy and tense outbursts. For a good example see the rough gallop of Dissolved that gives way to a triumphal melody in the chorus.

Indifference stands a little in contrast thanks to the rough intro that really does go back to the 90’s in tremolo picked fury, before pulling a section that wouldn’t sound out of place in the atmospheric-era of mid-to-late-90's Hypocrisy. It sits weirdly in an album that likes to throw cheeky guitar breaks and jagged but fun riffs, but it also provides a surprising highlight.

There are a few moments that don’t quite satisfy, mostly when breaking down and the bottom end just doesn’t have the requisite presence to really punch home the moment, such as in the otherwise smile-inducing Beyond The Night. Perfection Into Solitude pulls the gently croaked vocal over quiet section that sounds as uncomfortable as it did when people first started doing it, detracting from some rather poignant guitar work throughout.

Standing at 33 minutes, this is short shot in the arm for those that want the more traditionally leaning approach. This year we’ve seen a prominent group of scene luminaries release an album that did something similar in modernising an older sound quite successfully, but that had a level of polish which made it feel too controlled. Norrsköld bring back the chaotic energy that defined melodic death at its height so that even the missteps on Prisma Aeturnus seem to be born of their love of the style, and I find that rather endearing. 8/10

Black Anvil - Regenesis (Season of Mist) [Erick Willand]

New York is a steaming pile of humanity and as such has produced an unprecedented amount of innovative genre bending music. From early punk and glam rock to hardcore, thrash and death metal and most recently a growing rogues gallery of black metal, specifically the avantgarde variety. Enter Black Anvil into that fray with a blast of horns and bombast as Regenesis lays down a varied, if somewhat lengthy entry to that legendary list.

Opening with the standard, an ambient piece titled The Gates Of Brass that I have to admit could have been left off and no one would have ever known, it’s not bad just, well…standard. In Two opens the affair properly with some serious blasts and P’s distinct vocals and a flare of epicness that heralds what's to come. At 5:39 in length and packed with subtle and not-so-subtle style nods, it's a heady song not without memorable riffs however. The Bet is a rougher approach yet still carries plenty of melody and gravel rolls nicely into 8Bit Terror with it’s black’n’roll via Satyricon vibe and catchy chorus. 

Track 5, 29 is a different beast altogether, fast and deeply aggressive; it's the first straight visceral black metal track here with a great vocal delivery and my pick for best track on the album. Track 6 is Silver & Steel and is a clear style shift. I swear my first thought was KISS, not in a bad way either. This is a slower paced song but don’t think doom, the structure is more prog rock, complete with harmonized vocals and although I wasn’t expecting this I’m here for it. That pace was not to last however and Castrum Doloris is another fun ripper of a ride, despite the evangelical preacher sound bit in the middle which I feel could…should have been cut for the sheer fact of overdoneness. And yes, I made that word up.

This is a long album, but I’m not bored and sticking with it bears rewards such as track 8, Echoes & Tapestry. This is a fantastic example of mature black metal song writing, built with a clear ear for melody and studied knowledge of the ‘hook’. I listened to this track 3 times in a row despite the 5:30 run time. Echoes & Tapestry is so good that the rest of Regenesis feels like extra/bonus songs. 

Starting with track 9 is VV, another ambient piece that leads into NY Nightmares with guest vocals by Danny “Ezec” Diablo, a long time veteran of the New York hardcore and hip-hop scene. This is very much a North Eastern song with a cold tone yet plenty of gang lyrics and harmonized vocals that give it a distinct hardcore sound, this song feels like autumn. Grant Us His Love is the second to last track but you’d never know it by the intense black metal buzzsaw attack pockmarked with crunchy guitar bits and a sudden singing chorus and horn blast ending complete with the sound of something burning. 

And finally, the title track, Regenesis and it follows the rules set by this album in mixing elements style yet still maintaining a cohesive song structure that just works. Grandiose, epic yet still sharp and dirty, melodic yet hammering, a top shelf ending song. Which leads, of course, to my thoughts on the cover art which sports a dark structure in the shape of a maze covered infinity symbol on massive pillars that descend into blackness, I dig it. With only a few minor things I’d change or that just didn’t fit, this is a very solid album and absolutely worth the time. 8/10

Lockhart - No Chance (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Fluffy AOR featuring Goat Horn/Cauldron man Jason Decay and members of the NWOTHM/Thrash scene? Yeah ok then! No Chance is the debut 3 track EP from their Toronto band who are a much lighter, more cuddly option than anything the members have played in. Jason is joined by veterans of the metal scene; drummer Fabio Alessandrini (Bonfire/Annihilator/Enemy Eyes), vocalist/guitarist/synth player Devon Kerr (Axxiom) to make the slickest 80's influenced AOR this side of Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Kansas, from the synthy goodness of Just Can't Wait, through the bouncy Under Fire and the opener No Chance In Hell, this EP is currently only available digitally and on on cassette, to really make it authentic to the music. 7/10    

Reviews: Knim, Jade, Katapult, OmegaThrone (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Knim - When A Star Falls (Self Released)

When A Star Falls is the full length debut album from West Yorkshire band Knim. An album as introspective as it is sprawling, heavy as it is melodic, there's a big whack of bands like Mastodon and Baroness who have that emotionally heavy style of prog metal. The album deals with loss of love, magic, dream, isolation and betrayal, the brooding Tool-like groove of Elysium draws you into the dark world of Knim, the creeping drum patterns of Peter Nicholson locking down with the slithering bass of Andrew Mawer, who takes the Geddy Lee position, playing bass, synths/keys and singing. 

His vocals coming from the Maynard James Keenan style of emotion meets rage. This rhythm section shows their skill across the epic 5 tracks, Dennis Berry's urgent, distorted, reverb drenched guitar playing exploding out of your speakers. At times working with and others in opposition to the rhythmic grooves. Berry also adds synths, a song like Pathways, an unnerving, industrial, interlude with some spoken words that build atmosphere for the echoing doom of The Incongruity Of I, a chugging, undulating, psychedelic number with some grunge fuzz. 

In opposition When A Star Falls, is a lilting, fluid, melodic track the synths dancing over the acoustic guitars, but with a sense of melancholy that takes us into the familiarity of their debut single A Prisoner On The Seas, the progressive force of this track, closing things here but you can definitely understand how it would have built expectation for this album. 

Produced skilfully and organically by Ari Rannus, When A Star Falls is a seriously impressive debut that peels away it's layers with repeated listens. If downcast, prog metal is high on your list then I suggest you check out Knim. 9/10

Jade - The Pacification Of Death (Pulverised Records)

A debut full length that has builds upon their 2019 EP, The Pacification Of Death is a complex, heavy record that brings together several extreme metal genres, this German/Catalonian trio playing an all consuming style of atmospheric death/doom which pays homage to bands such as Celtic Frost, Bölzer and even Primordial. 

A dense record of excellent extreme metal, the sulphurous growls and echoed chants from J intertwine as his crunching bass creates a cavern of misery for the guitars of A. to linger in when they slow but then burst out of when they kick into higher gear on tracks such as Dragged Fears & Drowned Bones, the drumming of M. bringing blast beats as well on the black metal assault of Emanation Of Decay but also has an adroit style when they go in to the downcast moments. 

A forceful record that clocks in over 40 minutes, it has some vital moments such as the ominous synths that puncture Silk Ransoms, or the blast beating mayhem of Ghastly Eyes, anyone that has ever delved into the more atmospheric style of death/doom will be enthralled by every minute of this debut album, ferocious and forthright with a broad soundscape, The Pacification Of Death is a great introduction to the next chapter of extreme metal sounds from Jade. 8/10

Katapult - Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes' (Discouraged Records)

Swiss/Swedish thrash now as Katapult, Florian Moritz and Johan Norström the founders of this viseral, riff hungry thrash band, joined by Joel Purificacion, Felix Bacher and David Stutzer they have now released their debut album which is a modern thrash metal record that gets as much from Machine Head as it does Slayer. 

Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes blends the aggression with a take no prisoners attitude in the lyrics and the styles too as Sweetheart Come has the darkness of Rammstein, but Comfortably Dumb is nasty, hardcore, vegan thrashing. There's speed metal hooks on Nihilism For The Gods, as Invite The Sin comes from doom. Musically very broad, it's a a little like some of the most recent Machine Head records where no styles are left in turned as they bring in additional vocals, percussion, pedal steel, Hammond, violin, cello, and orchestral arrangements to add layers to these songs, taking many of them away from being just straight up thrash. 

Singing two songs in German too helps with this as well. Katapult try to be similar to bands such as Voivod with some progressive thrash and as time goes on they will hopefully become as revered, however for me Play Stupid Games, Win Stupid Prizes is just thrash with some not always noticeable additional trappings. 6/10

OmegaThrone - There's No Hatred As Great As Dictator's Love: Prelude To Empire (Self Released)

Influenced by 80's/90's extreme metal OmegaThrone sound Swedish but are actually Scousers. The new EP from Liverpool band, who got to final of the North Wales M2TM and have supported Malevolent Creation and Wode, strays with some static radio broadcasts of famous dictators and I'll admit my heart sank a little as I wondered if they were going to keep the production raw like so many bedroom black metal bands however as soon as Cancellation kicks off properly, the production is actually one of the best parts of this EP. 

Clear and loud, you do lose the drums of co founding member OmegaP in the low end when co-founder OmegaM carves up the down tuned riffs along with Charlotte Rogers' bass. She is a new addition to the band since their 2020 debut album as is vocalist Jeff Moffat who clearly comes from the Karl Willerts, Martin van Drunen and Dave Ingram school of guttural shouting. Continuing three new brutal songs There's No Hatred As Great As Dictator's Love: Prelude To Empire brings together Swedish and British death metal with ferocious aggression and blastbeats aplenty. 7/10

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Reviews: Docker's Guild, Grimner, Steve Hill, Asa's Mezzanine (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Docker’s Guild - The Mystic Technocracy - Season 2: The Age of Entropy (Elevate Records)

Douglas R Docker returns to his main storyline with this third album The Mystic Technocracy - Season 2: The Age of Entropy. Originally forming Docker’s Guild in 2012 with The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1: The Age of Ignorance, Docker began what will hopefully be a fully-fledged ‘space opera’ consisting of 5 "seasons" and 4 "books" for a total of 9 albums. Much like Ayreon or Avantasia, Docker has many performers on these records, the debut being compared to both of these other projects for its cinematic scale and concept driven approach (it also helps that they’re proggy as hell), that has been almost entirely crowdfunded. 

The second album The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past is the first part of 4 transitional albums placed between the 5 main “seasons” exploring the history of one of the main characters from “The Mystic Technocracy”, it was an all-female affair and continued sci-fi themes reworked by Docker to explain the characters love of vintage sci-fi and his marriage. With this expansive background we now head back to the main story with The Mystic Technocracy - Season 2: The Age of Entropy, the continuing storyline of a “silicon-based techno-organic alien race attempting to wipe out all life on Earth through organized religion, while a tormented scientist makes his life's mission to save humanity”. 

Every single minute detail has been worked out by Docker and as such each record has its own sound, its own feel, and the guest contributors all bringing their styles to the album to propel the intensely complex narrative. Season 2 features guests such as: Helly, Anna Portalupi, Joel Hoekstra, Nita Strauss, Sascha Paeth, Amanda Somerville and Anneke Van Giersbergen (those last three having been part of many Metal Operas). It is also the inaugural step in the “Black Swan Universe” where Dockers Guild will link to The Chronomaster Project (which Docker is also part of) and The Vivaldi Metal Project to make a metal opera equivalent of the MCU. A lofty ambition but really it’s about the music and Dockers Guild are a treat for any metal opera fan also any Ghost fan as Docker’s vocals sound very similar to Mr Forge on tracks such as Lucy, though he has an adaptable style on the reggae sway of Le Chemin amongst others. 

Unlike Ayreon or Avantasia, this record/project has much more eclectic musical output, bringing in artists such as Mike Oldfield, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and classic prog bands like Yes and Genesis as influences. At 17 tracks long it could be difficult to listen to it all in one go, but much like with an opera or a musical, each track defines another part of the storyline, so you need to experience it as a whole. While Lucassen and Sammet are considered the two pillars of the metal opera genre, Douglas R Docker is creating not just a musical world but an entire universe, not following any musical limits or rules. 9/10

Grimner - Urfader (Despotz Records)

Ah folk/Viking metal one of the last true hybrid genres, the Scandinavian extreme metal style meeting folk instrumentation, it’s also one of the few popular styles of metal where singing in anything but English is encouraged. Swedes Grimner have been actively laying siege to stages with their Nordic inspired metal since 2008 and with their fourth album Urfader (The Ancient Father) they emerge from the mists of the pandemic era with more battle hymns that pay tribute to their heritage and the Norse myths and legends. 

Since their previous album Grimner have gotten heavier, the use of Johan Rydberg flutes and mandolin still a key factor in their sound as are the keys of Kristoffer Kullberg but Grimner have gotten heavier with this album. Moving towards the heavier sound of melodic death metal and muscular power metal favoured by genre leaders Amon Amarth as well as the folkier realms of bands such as Falconer and Blind Guardian. Där Fröet Skall Spira (Where The Seed Shall Sprout) gives a focal point for this new heaviness as the blast beats of Henry Persson are joined by the flutes and the death metal riffs of bassist David Fransson with guitarists Ted Sjulmark and Martin Boe trading both riffs and vocals, crooning cleans and death roars the main delivery. 

Sung in Swedish, you don’t have to understand the lyrics to feel the narrative of the songs, from the crusading Västerled (Westbound), the thrashy Ulvhednars Natt (Night Of The Ulfheðinn), the outright blasting twin harmony attack of Elftevisan (Eleventh Tune) and the dramatic Tiundaland (Tiundaland), Urfader is a great Viking/folk metal album from a band you may not have been too familiar with. Certainly their best album so far, the balance between metal and folk is just right here, raise the shield wall, launch the longships and get ready for battle. 8/10

Steve Hill - Dear Illusion (No Label Records)

A mainstay of the Canadian blue scene Steve Hill celebrates his 25th year with his new record Dear Illusion. It’s an album that boosts what Hill does on an audio level, this multi-instrumentalist collaborating with drummer Wayne Proctor (Oli Brown, King King), who not only gives the rhythms but also the rich, warm production job that enhances this record. 

Hill has also made a concise effort to highlight the horn section on this record. The Devil Horns are an integral part to this album, on tracks such as rocking Don’t Let The Truth Get In The Way and the bouncy opener All About The Love. There’s been a three year wait fro this record, Hill having finished it before the pandemic hit but due to the delay, he was able to go back and make this a much bigger, bolder listening experience an album worthy of his 25th year as a recording artist. 

I have to agree as this record marries a positive attitude with lots of brilliant brass, swanky guitar solos and soulful vocals, varying the style from Texas, to New Orleans to good ol’ Mississippi swamp playing, it’s got a few similarities to Joe Bonamassa especially on She Give Lessons In Blues but Hill manages to maintain his own identity throughout Dear Illusion. 7/10

Asa's Mezzanine - When She Met Herself (AsasRecords)

Italian prog metal band Asa’s Mezzanine, release their debut album When She Met Herself. They say prog, I would also say post rock as this instrumental four piece delve into ambiance and mood, the instruments all having their own voice in substitution for the lack of a human one. This record is a concept album, dealing with the birth of contradiction and the bridge between what hear and what we imagine, the middle area between what is below and above, thus mezzanine, it’s a meditative journey thorough several planes of existence and will be joined by a novel written by Paolo Sirio as a companion piece to further the story established by the music. 

To the music and there’s plenty of it, from the jazzy moments of Lady Lilith driven by Virginia Lisi’s keys and Filippo Nassi’s drums, to the darker aspects explored on the tribal And She Met Herself, the choppy chug of guitarist Antonio Mugnaioli and bassist Lorenzo Morellini counterpointing the keys, while they add a Tool-like groove to Onibaba (Kijo). The musicianship is of a very high level, as is the scope of the ideas presented here. 

My favourite track is Amalie’s Principle which has all of the presence of a Pink Floyd instrumental such as Echoes, clocking in at 8 minutes, it ebbs and flows with a repeating guitar line that moves it between the different movements. An interesting record that perhaps needs to be digested with the accompanying book, however it’s an involving enough listen by itself. 7/10

Reviews: SpiritWorld, Leather, Black Rain, Sirrush (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

SpiritWorld - Deathwestern (Century Media)

The musical journey of Las Vegas native Stu Folsom has been a very short, shifting one, initially starting out with country/punk bands, in 2020 he formed SpiritWorld a band that takes from the country/western influence but fuses it with the metallic hardcore sound of bands such as Converge, Kvelertak and that crossover punch of Power Trip or High Command.

Their debut Pagan Rhythms grabbed the public by the throat and led to them supporting 200 Stab Wounds/Creeping Death. So now they're back, swaggering into town on their horses, clad in Black Stetsons weapons cocked to take over one again. Having signed to Century Media who re-released their debut, but the focus here is on those sophomore release Deathwestern. After the Western tone is set on Mojave Bloodlust a Morricone homage, the riffs come at you like a razor sharp Tomahawk on the grunting The Heretic Butcher, the bouncing thrash of Relic Of Damnation/ULCER or the Slayer influenced Purified In Violence/Crucified Heathen Scum

There's a riotous sound to this record which again takes no prisoners with the wild riffing and shouted vocals. This record feels more in the crossover thrash style with Moonlit Torture featuring Integrity man Dwid Hellion. For me though the best tracks are the the title track which has a brilliantly gory, video inspired by Argento and George A Romero and the closer 1000 Deaths which successfully blends the hardcore thrashing and the country picking. I'd not heard a lot by SpiritWorld before this but it looks as if we could have a "next big thing" here. 8/10

Leather – We Are The Chosen (SPV/Steamhammer)

Perhaps not as well-known as Doro or Lita Ford, Leather Leone is one of the original Queens of heavy metal inspiring band such as Benedictum, Battle Beast and Crystal Viper. Starting out her career as the vocalist of Chastain, the heavy metal group created by guitarist David T Chastain, the man who discovered Firewind’s Gus G, Leone has been on a quest to spread the gospel of metal since then. Having never strayed far from the classic/power/heavy metal sound, staying true to herself and putting message in her songwriting. 

She is probably one of the most consistent artists in the metalsphere and deserves every bit of respect owed. We Are The Chosen is her third solo album and is full of positive lyrics and epic metal arrangements such as the orchestral Hallowed Ground a song dedicated to Ronnie James Dio, a vocal influence of Leone’s grittier, powerful style. She wrote this album with guitarist Vinnie Tex and like with any previous Leather record, the spirit of heavy metal runs deep, from the thrashy Dark Days, to the darker Who Rules The World and the chugging Shadows

We Are The Chosen is more traditional metal done in the Leather Leone way, the most brazen being the modern assault of Off With Your Head or the galloping title where she accepts her place as a metal queen and takes no prisoners. More anthemic music from an underground heavy metal icon. 7/10

BlackRain – Untamed (SPV/Steamhammer)

BlackRain already have six albums under their belt and many successful tours but now French sleaze rockers BlackRain look set to take things to wider audience on their seventh full length Untamed. Teaming up with Kissin’ Dynamite man and sound engineer par excellence, Hannes Braun as the producer, the relationship forged between BlackRain and Kissin’ Dynamite over the last 10 years has borne very juicy fruit indeed. 

That is of course if you’re a sleaze rock fan, bands like Pretty Maids, The Poodles, Hardcore Superstar and Kissin’ Dynamite are all present in BlackRain’s style but for 10 years they have been searching for the right style of production to make their song writing sparkle and here they have found it. Shifting toward the glam/AOR sound at times, there’s a big whack of Bon Jovi to some of these numbers, polished and preening like those preeminent hair bands of the 80’s. There’s nothing new on offer, BlackRain have maintained the same line up since their formation, so what they do is write songs that sit comfortably in their sound, not that there is anything wrong with that as I’m sure their fanbase would be up in arms if they suddenly started playing death metal. 

Untamed doesn’t do that of course but there are moments when they press the genre constraints a little, revealing those AOR and glam moments I wrote about earlier, a track like Summer Rain or Demon shifts away from the cemented style, but with the great production job there’s a cohesiveness to the album that makes it a joy to listen too. The summer may be over but BlackRain have delivered a feel good record ready for your next party. Leave the hairspray at home as somethings are meant to stay Untamed. 7/10

Sirrush – Molon Labe (Non Servium Records)

A band playing, cinematic black/death metal, writes and album about the The Battle Of Thermopylae in 480BC. No it isn’t the latest Rotting Christ record but its damn close. Italians Sirrush deal with one of the most famous historical campaigns ever on their new album Molon Labe (which translates to “come and take”), focussing on the struggle of the Greek (mainly Spartan) troops against the Persians, it is a story fueled by furious vengeance and the inability to surrender until all of them were wiped out, resulting an united Hellenic force that defeated Persia at Salamis, led by Athens. 

This album tries to capture the tenacity of the Greek troops and while it’s a story told plenty of times before when it’s paired with blistering blackened death metal it gets a much more impressive. I’d say that despite being Italian Sirrush have looked to the Hellenic Black Metal scene for their inspiration, with Rotting Christ and Varathon being the two major sound-alikes, theatrical atmospherics linking the blasts of ice cold black metal and groove driven death. 

A Son Set His Father Free and With Your Shield…Or On It both heavily focus on creating and atmosphere before unleashing the ferocious percussion of Sculptor Of Flesh, while the trio of Adranor (bass), Tiyris (guitar) and Otagron (guitar) carve through intense riffage, changing the pace a little for With Your Shield, that is until the title track goes back to trve black metal. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and Sirrush both imitate and flatter the Hellenic style well, point your Dory towards the enemy and advance with Molon Labe as your battle cry. 7/10

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Reviews: Nickelback, Gaupa, League Of Distortion, Doctor Doom (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Nickelback - Get Rollin (Nickelback Records/BMG) [Matt Bladen]

Chad Kroeger, Ryan Peake, Mike Kroeger and Daniel Adair have been the metal/rock worlds whipping boys for a long time now. Is what they do serious? Is it a joke? To be honest they probably couldn't give a flying shit what people think of them as they sell tens of thousands of albums play to hundreds of thousands of people and are all millionaires having had massive chatting singles in the past, cementing their place as Canada's biggest and probably most successful musical export. 

Get Rollin' is their tenth studio album and was born out Mike Kroger's want to get heavier with their sound, recorded with no time limits in place as they have their own record labels so basically do what they want, it's been in the works since 2019 at their studio in Canada but Get Rollin' with it's very un metal album cover has finally arrived. Preceded by a cover of Charlie Daniels Band The Devil Went Down To Georgia and the first single from this record being the riffy San Quentin, perhaps doubling down on the band wanting to focus on being heavier, though I've always thought that when they want to be Nickelback are able to get some really metal grooves. 

The heavy riffs continue on Skinny Little Missy, another Nickelback trope of having a lot of innuendo, followed by a reflective, nostalgia driven ballad in Those Days. So far it's same dog, same tricks, High Time with country meets Cheech & Chong being the one song that doesn't stick to the tried and tested Nickelback formula. Despite being one of the most divisive bands in the rock world Nickelback have brought another solid album of music that isn't as heavy as you'd expect from the preamble before it. Still it'll sell shit loads and the singles will be lodged on the radio for weeks. 7/10

Gaupa - Myriad (Nuclear Blast) [Rich Piva]

We are blessed by the music gods to have such excellent stoner/doom bands with killer female vocals these days. Gaupa is another great example. I have heard some comments regarding the band that they sound like a stoner band with Bjork on vocals. This really shortchanges how excellent the band and their new album, Myriad, is. Yes, there is some truth to that comment, but the crew from Falun, Sweden brings so much more to the table with their latest offering.

The title track, Exoskeleton is an excellent blend of stoner and heavy blues vibes with some proggy bits. This is the theme throughout Myriad. Diametrical Enchantress has a killer low end and some nice riffs, and is way more on the stoner tip, reminding me of something from the killer Wytch record from last year. Moloken brings some of the psych/prog vibes as well as the vocal style that reminds us of the lead singer of the Sugarcubes, but vocalist Emma Näslund has a more soulful voice compared to the Icelandic one.

The tracks Ra and Elden are more of slow burners with more of the same excellent vocal performance that is evident thought the record. One of the song names of the year, My Sister Is A Very Angry Man, has another great riff and goes all out prog on us creating my favorite song on the record; frantic, unique, and super fun. The folky acoustic track Somnen sung in their native language is a nice lead into the killer closer, Mammon that incorporates all the goodness throughout Myriad with some especially cool guitar work.

Gaupa has gifted us with not just another female lead stoner record to throw in with the rest of them. The band brings all their bag of tricks to the table, leveraging the unique (well…except for that one) vocal stylings, their riffs, but also some psych and prog vibes to make this a fun and different offering from most of what you will hear this year. 8/10

League Of Distortion - League Of Distortion (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Formed as a union between Exit Eden's Anna Brunner and Kissin' Dynamite's Jim Müller, League Of Distortion is a chorus driven modern metal band with throbbing electronic pulses. Having formed as a way to express their frustration and fear of the pandemic, a way of channeling that through some dark music. 

This debut album is a fast paced, extremely modern style of metal, but it does seem to taking a similar route as a lot of bands, relying on electronics to create an atmosphere, tracks such as It Hurts So Good pairing those pulsating synths with some huge riffs and Brunner's gritty vocals, raw vocals. Influences of In This Moment, Stitched Up Heart and New Year's Day hang heavy, but unfortunately League Of Distortion don't add anything more than these bands have been doing for a long time now. 

From the goth creeping of I'm A Bitch, the alt country of Rebel By Choice and the slithering The Bitter End, it's all very angsty and hot right now, but as much as I can say that they are just a new addition to a very large contingent of bands that use this style but to paraphrase their song of the same name Do You Think They Fucking Care? 7/10

DoctoR DooM - A Shadow Called Danger (Black Farm Records/Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

DoctoR DooM is back after seven years with their second full length, A Shadow Called Danger. I absolutely loved their debut and thought maybe it would be a one off and disappear situation, but the French band is back and as good as ever with their latest.

DoctoR DooM are firmly rooted in the 70s proto arena, but A Shadow Called Danger has more proggy bits and is heavier than their debut. By heavy I am not talking riffs to knock your head off, but a more urgent and darker vibe. The killer opener Comeback To Yourself is some killer heavy proto, but the tempo changes and different directions bring more prog and maybe even a bit of a jazzy feel to the record. Songs like What Are They Trying To Sell and Connected By The Worst are firmly rooted in 1975 in the best kind of way. 

The former has a heavy, doomy breakdown (you may expect this more given their name, but…) that is that next level of heavy that you didn’t get from their debut while also bringing some killer keys along for the ride. The latter a proto ripper that may be my favorite track on the record. These songs and the whole record sound amazing; the production is spot on for what these guys are bringing. This album goes in many different directions, but never sounds too scattered, case in point Ride On, a slow burner with its acoustic opening and almost bluesy feel that once again is firmly rooted in 70s influence. All eight tracks on A Shadow Called Danger are keepers and flow perfectly over the entire 45 minutes that flies by on each listen.

I am so happy to have a new DoctoR DooM record, and you will be too if you dig the proto with some prog and even jazzy vibes that these guys bring. A Shadow Called Danger is a must listen for anyone who wants to hear a perfectly produced unique rock album that will be a keeper for years to come. 8/10