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Thursday, 27 January 2022

Reviews: Tokyo Blade, Kandia, Chapel Floods, Perpetual (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Tokyo Blade – Fury (Dissonance Productions/Cherry Red Records)

Storming out of the pandemic with their eleventh studio record, NWOBHM survivors Tokyo Blade continue to prove why they are such an inspiration to nearly all of the NWOTHM bands that currently doing the rounds. We cover so many of them that it was only right to give the originators a spin and on this 15 track record, you can see that the flame of youthful rebellion in the early 1980’s still burns bright. While many of their contemporaries have gone on to be arena headliners, Tokyo Blade keep that D.I.Y spirit alive, despite more lineup changes than Spinal Tap, adversity and even relative obscurity, they are the true die-hard favourite. 

Fury is packed with riff after riff of biting classic metal, the guitar duo of band leader Andy Boulton and John Wiggins getting everything going on gallops like I Am Unbroken while the groovy Disposable Me is a testament to the syncopation between bassist Andy Wrighton and drummer Steve Pierce. As we journey through the 15 tracks you understand why so many bands cite them as an influence. They play a classic style of British metal that has made its way across the Atlantic and into Europe, the whole NWOBHM scene has been emulated but Tokyo Blade remain one of the originators drawing their own style from band such as Thin Lizzy (Eyes Wired Shut & Heart Of Darkness), AC/DC (Nailbomb) and of course Judas Priest (who were formed nearly a decade earlier). 

Fury is their second album for Dissonance Productions and their third since the return of original vocalist Alan Marsh whose sneering snarl is so key to those early records. This is no 80’s rehash though, Fury feels modern and heavier than ever, tracks like Cold Light Of Day moving them into Queensryche dramatics, driven by orchestral segments, big choruses and a great guitar solo section. Usually an album with 15 tracks would start to dip but Fury is paced very well, the mid-paced rockers usually followed by faster metal showcases. It keeps your attention, gets your head nodding and after a couple of listens even singing along. A great album from a British metal institution, Tokyo Blade are still as sharp as ever. 8/10 

Kandia – Quaternary (Frontiers Music Srl)

The latest acquisition by the Frontiers & Beyond initiative is Portuguese alt-metal band Kandia. Once again teaming with producer Daniel Cardoso (Anthema) as they done on their two previous albums, the duo of vocalist Nya Cruz and guitarist André Da Cruz along with drummer Eduardo and bassist Bernardo. The band have apparently tried to add to their signature modern metal sound on this Frontiers debut adding frenzied sax to Murderers, this whole record feels like bands such as In This Moment or Lacuna Coil but with more of a Pink Floyd or Tool level of experimentation. Bouncy modern metal riffs are counterpointed by proggy flourishes as the vocals shift between emotive cleans and the occasional growl. 

It’s aggressive but also melodic, unfortunately it’s also very familiar, taking cues from bands that have been the leaders in this style but there is enough of their own edge for it to still be an entertaining listen. Nya particular has a great voice similar to ITM’s Maria Brink, giving it her all on poppier numbers like The Flood, while André’s guitar playing is equally impressive on the big modern metal stompers such as Fight Or Flight as it is on more introspective songs such as Holocene. The Frontiers & Beyond initiative is there to bring somewhat unknown or young bands to a wider audience and I’m sure they will lap up Kandia’s proggy modern metal. 6/10

Chapel Floods – EP (Self Released)

The three track Demo EP, from Rotherham band Chapel Floods, is what would happen if grunge was infected by stoner/sludge, if Alice In Chains jammed with Crowbar, or Corrosion Of Conformity got heavily into Soundgarden. 

Thick syrupy riffs languish in distortion and reverb from the first chord of Time Servers and it’s off we go into the riff fuelled three track demo. We are firmly ingrained in the 90’s music scene with this offering, conceived out of jam session between Bing, Shawn and Luke, while the pandemic was hindrance they persevered, they were able to play their parts by themselves eventually adding Will and here is the result. 

Time Servers slithers and creeps, before the massive doom riffs of Thousand Year Stare bring that low end bass crunch, down tuned riffs and hypnotic vocals as it segues into Crooked Nose. The demo production, adds a rawness to the EP bolstering the punishing riffs. A heck of a start for a band who have gigs planned, try and catch them at a venue near you before they level it. 7/10

Perpetual – Backlash EP (Self Released)

Perpetual hail from Poland and play aggressive groove metal. Backlash is their second EP following one from 2018. While their line up may have changed a little the style remains bringing together bands such as The Haunted, Devildriver and many of the crossover thrash bands out there on Incapacitated. Backlash features 6 songs and is about 30 minutes long, so it’s an ideal look at what the band do. 

Tracks such as the thrashing Parallel Reality and the bouncing Fourth Dimension highlight the subtle differences in the songs on this EP drawn from a variety of influences that are present on this EP. Musically it’s a a step up from the first EP however I do find that the growled vocals are infinitely better than the shouted “regular” vocals, which sound a little too ragged to my ear. Still there’s nothing here that is bad. While it is similar to a lot out there Perpetual do it well. Let’s see what a bit more touring, playing and writing brings. 6/10

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Reviews: Wille & The Bandits, Silverlane, Agvirre, Urzah (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Wille & The Bandits - When The World Stood Still (Fat Toad Records)

Cornwall has always produced a lot of mysticism and mythos, the people are usually defiant and a little bit left of centre to the rest of the UK (though we Celts are all little like that). Music plays a part in all Celtic heritage and Cornwall is no exception, even in their rock n roll. Wille & The Bandits have been flying the flag for Kernow, roots rock for across previous albums and through shows across the world that have regularly won them the awards of best live band. 

Their last album was excellent and When The World Stood Still promises to be better, mainly due to it being bitter suite and a wee bit mystical. Recorded during the pandemic, the record sees vocalist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Wille Edwards crafting tracks about the world wide lockdown, with live music going silent they huddled together in possibly the most iconic studio in the UK John Cornfield’s Sawmills to put down When The World Stood Still

Sawmills itself has played host to The Stones, Muse, Oasis and Robert Plant and now seems to be on its last legs, so this record stands almost as the studio’s epitaph. You can feel the magic in the production, engineering and mix etc, there’s a torrent of emotions brought through the eclectic sound of the band, from rock to Americana, funk to blues and everything in between it all has this warmth to it guided by the hand of John Cornfield, who engineered and co produced with the band. 

The crowdfunded record is a journey through various musical landscapes, Caught In The Middle featuring some big fuzzing riffs, Harry Mackaill bass throbbing on top of Tom Gilkes strutting drum beat, as well as a bit of hip hop attitude. The rhythm section throughout brings the thunder, I’m Alive feeling like a Soundgarden cut due to Wille’s husky, melodic vocal. He shows off his string bending prowess with tracks such as Without You and Solid Ground, both of which feature a slower, evocative atmosphere, built on the foundation of Matthew Gallagher’s Hammond/Fender Rhodes/Mellotron combinations and Edwards impressive guitar playing. 

The influences on both these songs being clearly Led Zeppelin (Without You) and Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (Solid Ground). The Good Stuff is an upbeat hip shaker with some slinky slide/lap steel guitar. But they don’t stop with just this as Will We Ever is pure Delta blues, Move To Fast is stinking of funk and the title track is infused with gospel. It’s the eclectic nature of the record that keeps the attention high, you never quite know where they are going to go next but you know that it’ll be yet more rootsy, blue collar rock brimming with influences such as Cornell, Petty, Seeger, Springsteen and host of bluesmen. When The World Stood Still poses the question if things will ever be the same? Let’s hope for yes as I would love to see this record live. 9/10

Silverlane - III: Inside Internal Infinity (Drakkar Entertainment)

Formed under another name in 1995, Silverlane have existed since 2005, releasing their second full length Above The Others in 2010. The melodic power metal band then sort of went to ground. According to the PR that accompanied this record their were births, marriages and divorces but now 12 years later they return again the core membership of Tom Klossek (vocals), Uli Holzermer (lead guitar), Chris Alexander Schmitt (guitar) and Daniel Saffer (bass) return, with the addition of Basti Kirchdörfer on drums, as former drummer and band founder Simon Micheal Schmitt produces this record. 

They have also lost a keyboard player but III: Inside Internal Infinity still has plenty of synths, keys and orchestrations. So after 12 years how have Silverlane faired in their return? Well the recitation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is an auspicious start but it builds in to I Universe a track that displays a much more muscular, modern and mature style from Silverlane. They are still melodic, the power metal is still there but this third album more often than not are in a very modern sound, Blessed sounds a bit like Metallica, Soul Of Tears is the albums big ballad and there's a lot of orchestrals on Medusa which has fantasy lyrics galore. 

I'm all for this more modern sound as it displays that Silverlane have evolved as a band over past 12 years into one that fits right into 2022. Melodic metal with a rougher edge that brings songs such as Für Immer Und Ewig, which features Patty Gurdy on co vocals, to life. Good things come to those who wait and Silverlane have the waited long enough. 7/10

Agvirre - _ _ _ _ _ _ (Through Love Rec/Surviving Sounds/Trepanation)

Well this is an angry record, a tsunami of blackened post-rock with elements of shoegaze, drone and ambient all delivered with an existentialist, nihilistic outlook. Like the debut album Silence this album handles with struggles with mental health in a wider societal context rather than through a personal lense, this includes the pandemic, lockdowns, isolation, political unrest, social division and police brutality and systematic racism, the album is claustrophobic, but also angry, grief stricken and uncompromising. 

The opening track Urtica In Glass is a 10 minute track that builds from the sample of a police incident that escalates into an armed standoff, backed by some fizzing electronics, expansive drumming augmented by trumpets, that come from brass trio The River Versus. It builds and builds, the bass from Dave pulsating as the drumming gets louder, then it explodes into frenzied wide eyed vocal screams from Frenchie who is responsible for the electronics/synths. It's a unwaveringly heavy start to the record, the vocals especially just screams, not many lyrics just impassioned screams. Drawing from the sound of bands like Ghost Bath, Alcest and Cult Of Luna, Urtica In Glass picks up speed, Richardo's guitars played with some black metal tremolos, as the atmosphere changes again to a more cathartic sung passage with impressive percussion and those wonderful trumpets. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ builds on their debut but makes leap into uncharted waters, they have tightened and build upon those foundations with something that is as impressive as it is experimental. _ _ _ _ _ _ (In Plain Sight) serves as a shoegazing interlude readying you for the third and final track on the record For El Dorado, Whenever I May Find You, it rages from the first few moments, before dropping into hammond drenched sections as the brass flares up again in the emotional post rock sections towards the end. It's an EP that marks, the deafening latest chapter in this band's impressive history, a band to put on your watchlist. 9/10  

Urzah - II (Self Released)

Bristol psychedelic sludgers sent me their debut offering back in June 2020. Their thunderous three track EP featured crushing riffs, plenty of reverb and grooves as deep as the Avon. It was grungy, dirty and hypnotic in places, perfect for those early pandemic blues. So over a year later we have their second EP, this time it's four tracks and last time I said did they expanded their style they could be real contenders. 

So how excited was I when Where Is Your Sun?/Bloodrite started the EP with some aggressive hardcore vocals and chugging riff feels a bit more like Crowbar, as they shift into a the Bloodrite section bringing more stomping riffage as it fades to silence. II sounds a lot better than the first EP, it's got a cleaner production sound to it, making a song like The Lure, which is just a shimmering clean guitar instrumental feel a bit more resonant as we are taken into the final track Shards which again feels like a groove metal track in the vein of Corrosion Of Conformity meets Pantera. 

II is the evolution of Urzah, combining what they have done with additional flavourings to broaden their sonic horizons. Watch out for Urzah at a venue near you soon. 7/10

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Reviews: Earthless, Opensight, Lalu, SOM (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Simon Black & Rich P)

Earthless - Night Paradise Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Like emerging from a dreamstate, the echoed clean guitars wash over you as the cymbals are deftly crash like waves on a shore. This is opening passage of Earthless latest offering Night Paradise Of One Hundred Demons, made up of just three songs the first part of the title track, is almost pastoral, bringing you into the ethereal world of Earthless, starting the record off slowly and hazily before the pace quickens a little into a percussive gallop and keening guitar, the song shifting almost into a theme from an imaginary western as Leslie West once put it. 

It's almost as if Earthless are deliberately trying to distance themselves from the previous record Black Heaven where they had shorter songs and vocals. Here the return of gargantuan instrumentals can only lauded as it's certainly Earthless' wheelhouse. A record based on a Japanese legend of a sleep demon, comprised of a 41 minute title track split into two parts and a third song that is 20 minutes in length. It's Earthless at their most experimental and downright impressive. Apparently the title track took on a life of its own in the studio each time they thought they were done with it it took on a new life and they went into another direction. 

Part 1 becomes an impressive guitar display from Isiah Mitchell, featuring lots of emotional lead playing that culminates in an almost joyous conclusion. In stark contrast Part 2 opens with a creeping, windswept introduction Mario Rubalcaba's marching drumbeat in sync with Mike Eginton's rumbling bass lines, the short touches of keys and occult soundscapes letting those nightmarish visions build. If they were one band who have turned the Covid lockdown into a positive as Isiah Mitchell moved back to San Diego so was able to get into the studio with the other two members and jam this record out. 

Part 2 of the title track is much creepier, at the beginning but towards the end it explodes into a wild guitar driven psych/doom exploration packed with riffs and solos that stay in that occult realm. The 2 part title track is magnificent kick off to the album, telling the story of the Yōkai while the third song, Death To The Red Sun is equally as epic falling into Earthless' early sound as it brilliantly harks back to their heydey of psychedelic rock jamming, the trio locking in for grooves upon tasty grooves. Night Paradise Of One Hundred Demons is glorious return to form for Earthless. 9/10

Opensight – Mondo Fiction (Self Released) [Simon Black]

OK, so this is a bit different.

Opensight are an independent act from London who’ve released a few EP’s over the last decade but have now finally got around to a debut full length album. Clearly these guys grew up in the kinds of homes where TV and movie soundtracks were a thing (guilty your honour), because this comes across as a hybrid of a soundtrack music LP from 1960’s ITC golden TV era mixed with a bit of early 70’s progressive rock and proto-metal. Once you get past the initial “what the actual fuck” moment when starting to listen this is actually quite a positive experience, because believe me in this reviewing game true originality is a rare and blessed thing. The band prefer the sub-genre cinematic metal though, which is a more grandiose and marketable way of saying the same thing.

It’s an eclectic but effective mix, not least because there’s some really skilful playing and instrumental work here and the eclectic style means that it constantly keeps you on your toes, because like any good piece with progressive elements it constantly surprises. Let’s face it, when the opening track In Here With Us includes a horns section, you know anything can and will happen. There’s touches of jazz (light ones mind) to the full blown progressive instrumentalism of longer tracks like Villain, this record does not keep stylistically still. There’s also a good use of semi-acoustic guitar arpeggios at key moments to control the pace rather than just using them as a means of gently starting a song and again these pace and time shifts do not jar but help keep the flow interesting.

Ivan David’s voice works best when trying to keep things moody and haunting, but his range adopted for the bulk of this record is a little limited. To be clear, that’s a stylistic choice in the approaches he takes, because when he does vary the tone and style a little, for example in the opening verses of Secrecy, you can hear that range is definitely there, just not always being used. If there was a little more of that variation in the vocal tones and styles to go alongside what the instrumentalists are doing then this might be rather unstoppable, as the material on this record is exceptionally well written and performed. 

The only weak song on here is a cover of the theme for Thunderball, which whilst absolutely summarising where this band are coming from does not work because the original song just simply is not strong enough in comparison to their original material. Thoroughly and unexpectedly enjoyable, which let’s face it is why I do this gig. 7/10

Lalu - Paint The Sky (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Vivien Lalu is a French keyboard player specialising in the prog genre mostly. He is the son of Noelle and Michel Lalu who were members of French 70's proggers Polène. Prior to this he has released three albums that were collaborative efforts that were more driven by cinematic progressive metal, that was heavily inspired by Dream Theater and Devin Townsend. For his debut on Frontiers he want to write an album that was very much in keeping with his 70's prog rock roots. To this he needed a vocalist with an exemplary back catalogue in the genre so Vivien approached Damian Wilson who has served time in Threshold, Headspace and Arena so is in my opinion the perfect singer for this style of 70's melodic prog that draws from Yes, Genesis and King Crimson, while also retaining that metal edge of Dream Theater and Italian band DGM. 

In fact Simone Mularoni of DGM played on the previous Lalu releases and is one of the many guests on this record. However rounding out the band here along with Wilson and Lalu are guitarist/bassist Joop Walters (previously a live second guitarist) and drummer Jelly Cardarelli. The four members here are ina brilliant unison concocting technically impressive but ultimately entertaining and accessible music. Swathes of keys and clean guitars are the order of the day as Wilson's melodic voice soars like Jon Anderson, Jelly never wobbling behind the kit as his expressive style anchors these musical flights of fancy. 

As with the previous outings there are a number of guests, as I've mentioned with Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Alessandro Del Vecchio (every Frontiers band), Steve Walsh (Kansas), 'The Fretless Monster' Tony Franklin (The Firm, Whitesnake etc), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) and Simon Phillips (Toto) joining Mularoni on the guestlist, to all add their experience and techniques to this record. Clocking in at just over an hour, Paint The Sky is a prog rock force of nature, perfectly capturing the 70's progressive rock sound of bands like Yes with a modern flair. 8/10

SOM: The Shape Of Everything (Pelagic Records) [Rich P]

The term “Shoegaze” gets thrown around a lot these days. Seems like any band that slows it down a bit and adds lush vocals and soundscapes are lumped into the genre that was brought to us and perfected in the 90s by bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and thought by many to have started with Jesus And Mary Chain’s landmark classic Psychocandy. We have bands seemingly in every genre incorporating aspects of the underrated style, especially those black metal bad boys whose dad saw Lush on that Lollapalooza so many years ago. Then, somehow, The Deftones became the torchbearer for shoegaze, for reasons I will never fully grasp. Sure, you can hear that Chino and the boys had a few Cocteau Twins records in their collection, but nothing to me has ever screamed shoegaze on any of their albums. 

Bringing me to The Shape Of Everything by SOM, who’s promotional materials throw around terms like “For Fans of The Deftones”, which to me shortchanges what they bring to the table. SOM leans all the way into the heavy Shoegaze, with the shining and shimmering vocals, MVB guitar effects, slowed down pace on many of the eight tracks, but keep enough of the crunch to appeal to the heavy music crowd. Songs like the opening track Moment or the sprawling, lush Clocks could fit into any modern or even 90s era Shoegaze playlist. Heart Attack, my favorite track on the album, goes into full MVB mode in a really good way. You get this throughout all eight tracks of The Shape Of Everything, never really veering too far away from the original formula. 

Rather than that Deftones comparison that I think will disappoint fans looking for some more of the same, I think more of bands like Mew (if you never heard their classic And The Glass Handed Kites do yourself a favor and track it down), Spotlights (who have opened for The Deftones, so you have that…) Astronoid who incorporate shoegaze elements with some prog metal thrown in, and a top album of 2021 for me the debut from Slowshine. I enjoyed The Shape Of Everything, but the album can be a bit repetitive at times. While SOM have really focused and executed on what they do well, The Shape Of Everything suffers from some repetitiveness end to end and could use something to set them apart from the throngs of bands who are incorporating Shoegaze in their music today. SOM has given us a worthy debut that has a lot of promise of what’s to come from them as they keep the spirit of Shoegaze alive. 7/10

Monday, 24 January 2022

Reviews: Kissin' Dynamite, Comeback Kid, The Ferrymen, Confess (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Matt Cook)

Kissin' Dynamite - Not The End Of The Road (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Now I always thought that Kissin' Dynamite were a glam band. But on their seventh record they have wholeheartedly embraced the pumping power metal for Not The End Of The Road putting European power metal with an 80's glam metal shine. You make balk at the idea but bands such as Dragonforce have successfully brought in that 80's ethos into their music, so why not go the other way? Yeah ok it's not full pelt super shredding, but there's influences from Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and The Scorpions, especially on the swaggering What Goes Up and the tongue in cheek Yoko Ono which will be a live show killer. 

There is also however a few nods to 90's with Good Life which feels like Katrina & The Waves in their Eurovision pomp, the song itself was released as a single to raise money for a Children's cancer charity and features guest vocals from Charlotte Wessels, Alea der Bescheidene (Saltatio Mortis) and Guernica Mancini (Thundermother), while Coming Home sounds Alter Bridge at their most radio friendly. Not The End Of The Road is about as polished as your neighbours car on a Sunday morning, No One Dies Alone is a full on rocker with that chorus inciting some laughs at MoM Towers as does the thumping Voodoo Spell which kicks off sounding like The Prodigy but goes into yet more power glam. Packed with anthems Not The End Of The Road will be warmly welcomed during the summer festival season! 8/10

Comeback Kid - Heavy Steps (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Cook]

If you were itching for a by-the-book hardcore album, then you’re in luck, because that’s precisely what Comeback Kid offer with their newest full-length, Heavy Steps (Nuclear Blast). To be fair, Jeremy Hiebert and Stu Ross leave their fingerprints all over the 11 tracks, riffing hard and sneaking in guitar fills here and there. One curious decision, though, was to incessantly incorporate layered pick sliding on No Easy Way Out, which in it of itself is basically the refrain repeated over and over again, especially at the conclusion. 

Understanding it’s almost canon of the genre (for better or worse), Heavy Steps at times felt fragmented and wandering. Face The Fire especially seemed like the five-piece independently wrote their own parts and came together without any cohesion or direction. Conversely, Shadow Of Doubt is an absolute rager; Dead On The Fence is another example of the axemen putting in work; and Standstill opens with a serviceable introduction thanks to skinsman Loren Legare and adequately keeps the pace throughout. But lyrics such as “Everything relates to everything” are borderline offensive in its utter lack of creativity or thought. 

The aforementioned Face The Fire announces “We’re still playing those drums/you’ll see what happens,” as if to say, Look, we have instruments, and we promise we will break the mold…except it never materializes. Andrew Neufeld’s gravelly performance on the mic is unique in its cadence and sound, though it fails to contribute to any superlatives the record might receive. Hardcore punk is raw, edgy, in your face and take your pick with any number of other abrasive adjectives. 

But in 2022 and beyond, there needs to be more, not in the least to stand out and/or trailblaze for future bands, but also to leave people wanting more. Heavy Steps spit in the face of innovation, and two decades since the band first formed, Comeback Kid fell flat and appeared to assume fans would consume their newest music unflinchingly and without question. 6/10

The Ferrymen - One More River To Cross (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

The third album from The Ferrymen, pretty much does what the first two did. Combine melodic hard rock and symphonic/power metal into a driving style of melodic metal that comes from three extremely talented performers. The band is comprised of Magnus Karlsson (Primal Fear), Ronnie Romero (Lords Of Black/Rainbow) and Mike Terrana (Rage) and with One More River To Cross they return to flex their musical muscle with track such as Bringers Of The Dark outlining what the trio do so well, a galloping drumbeat, big riffs, massive vocals and the augmentation of sweeping choirs, orchestras and keys. 

Karlsson is no stranger to this style of music having curated numerous projects for Frontiers and along with Romero and Terrana they have built up the chops to make this kind of music be as slick and impressive as it is here, rarely lacking in quality even on the ballads where Romero gives us a blast of that voice Ritchie Blackmore chose to front the legendary rock band. They are a band that have come out fully formed from the debut the quality was evident, there's been no building up the band across their releases, they grasped early on what they do as trio and have proceeded to do exactly that on every subsequent record. 

Now I scored the last two The Ferrymen albums highly, but there is a feeling of deja vu on One More River To Cross which does make you think that perhaps the project may have hit it's nadir a little. Now that's not to say it's bad, far from it, this a great melodic metal, but there's not much else. 7/10    

Confess - Revenge At All Costs (Rexius Records) [Matt Cook] 

It’s very easy to take music lightly - consuming it, writing it, performing it. But the harsh reality is not everyone has the opportunity to express themselves or even take part in creating and contributing to the scene’s landscape. Take Confess for example: Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani were quite literally sent to jail in 2015 for expressing anti-religious and anti-regime sentiments in their native country of Iran. They sought refuge and eventually found themselves in Norway, having been given asylum and (hopefully) a safe spot to continue their craft. And how fortunate for us. Revenge At All Costs (Rexius) is chock full of raging sentiments and in-your-face attitude that can only be conjured up from the depths of dissent and disenfranchisement. 

The stage is set as Based On A True Story features news clips reporting the aforementioned arrests. Unfilial Son is a forearm shiver of heavy-as-hell hardcore and punk. At first listen, Slipknot appears to be a significant influence on the groove/thrash metallers. Megalodon and I Speak Hate…are straight-up headbangers. The riffs come alive in extremely tight and clean bursts (Phoenix Rises, Hegemony, You Can’t Tame The Beast). The vocals provide a raspy, aggressive tool in which to be guided throughout the album. The seven-year absence from Confess’s last full-length only allowed the group to amp up the intensity and hatred, not that they need much more motivation or inspiration. 

Revenge sternly lifts a middle finger firmly against the notion of being targeted and imprisoned in the name of metal. The band’s bravery and courage works in tandem with their scintillating songwriting and vitriolic vocals. When threatened by their own government, Confess found freedom elsewhere all in the name of being able to release their art and music, and rightfully so. Even in the modern era, metal is threatened. Let this be a reminder that it will never die, and this ferocious foursome is fronting the charge. 8/10

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Reviews: Abyssus, Dark Legion, Blind Sun, Dysnerved (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Abyssus - Death Revival (Transcending Obscurity Records)

There's death metal and then there's proper freaking death metal, Abyssus' are in the latter category. Coming from those early days when thrash gained a pair of balls and everything got a lot more aggressive, Abyssus' sound is drawn from bands like Obituary, Bolt Thrower and even Slayer. Full of rapid pace, razor sharp, thrash metal riffs but cut with technical precision, outright brutality and guttural growled vocals, Death Revival is Abyssus reclaiming their position at the nadir of the Greek death scene. 

Despite this being only their second full length album, they are no slouches having released an EP or Split record pretty much every year since their debut Into The Abyss in 2015, and in fact even before that as well. So with this much experience behind them you would expect Death Revival to rip your face off, and it does from the snarling opening moments until the crushing, doom laden, disgusting finale of When Wolves Are Out To Hunt each song bludgeoning you with destructive, formidable death metal. The Beast Within is possibly the heaviest offering at track four with a dirty groove and crushing riffs.  

Genocide offers a brief slow down with the intro of traditional Greek music, but mostly this album refines what they set out to achieve on Into The Abyss, increasing the extremity while still retaining those thrash sounds that permeate through Metal Of Death and the raging The Ten Commandments. This Athenian five piece have unleashed one of the toughest death metal records of the year so far. Crank it loud! 8/10   

Dark Legion - God Of Harvest (Elevate Records)

Formed by Evil King guitarist Spiros Rizos Dark Legion, Elevate Records delivers the debut album from Dark Legion a band who are 3/4's Greek as Rizos' plays all the guitars with drummer Theoharis Theoharakis and bassist Aristofanis Tzaerlis making up the rhythm section. God Of Harvest is the debut record from Dark Legion and it was styled after the European progressive metal acts with particular reference to bands like Evergrey and Queensryche. Songs such as Inner Fire feeling like those mid-paced dramatic days of Empire

For this kind of music you need a decent vocalist, so Spiros managed to find Argentinian vocalist Walter Osedin to fill the role of Geoff Tate and he handles things admirably his soaring voice, he brings passion and poise to album midpoint ballad 1000 Miles but also has the melodic delivery of Timo Kotipelto when they ramp up the speed when the record moves into Neo-classical realms on Reign Of Chaos and The Dragon's Saga as we go into the style of bands such as Stratovarius, Rizos' displaying his tasty guitar chops. God Of Harvest is a decent debut from Dark Legion, there's nothing here to set the world alight but there's 10 tracks of melodic metal with some virtuoso playing and influences from some of the biggest in the genre. 7/10

Blind Sun – Under Them Stones (Self Released)

You always know that Greek stoner metal will deliver and Under Them Stones, the debut album from Athenian (I think) stoners Blind Sun certainly delivers if you like feast of crunchy riffs, fuzz bass lines and some gritty vocals. There is very little info about the band available so I have no idea who is in the band but they seem to be a five piece previously called Supersonic Fox. Still that really doesn’t matter as the music here speaks louder than any PR or Biography. Under Them Stones is oozing with swaggering stoner metal, that often manoeuvres into doom on the slow burning Stoned Goddess

The throbbing Ghosts Of Revolutions Past features that magical instrument, the cowbell before moving into the heavily psych sounding I Am. Their singer is a perfect fit, her vocals feel soulful and born from the blues, while the rhythm section do more than just keep the beat, the bass especially is rampant throughout with little flourishes and breaks. Of course there are riffs and glorious air guitar baiting, solos from the guitar duo. Cranking this record up will do wonders for your day, as it’s a listening pleasure! Another fine addition to the Greek stoner scene. 8/10

Dysnerved - Man In The Middle (Self Released)

Thessaloniki based Avant Garde style of music that takes from black/death and post metal, they sound as if they have influences from Alcest, Ulcerate and countrymen Hail Spirit Noir. It's been a long time coming having been recorded between 2018-2020, but this debut record has emerged from the darkness with 8 tracks of atmospheric extreme metal that shifts its focus between long repeating single chord pieces such as the opening to Daily Routine Of A Hollow Mind and frenzied snarling extreme metal ferocity on Apophenia

As the band class themselves as Avant Garde there's a huge amount of experimentation within the songs, drummer Alekos stradies the pace, unleashing violence but also deftness. Kostas' bass growls and grooves on Us, adding a tumultuous uneasiness. While Simos' guitar playing is eclectic, ranging from djent palm muting, black metal tremolo picking and crushing doom. 

The three instrumental members of the band make it feel as if it's been recorded against all odds, over a long period of time, the album feels like that, lots of different sounds brought together depending on shifting moods. The constant being Manos' aggressive vocal style, he has a raw, throat shredding execution that is beguiling and terrifying. An interesting record that blends multiple disciplines into slice of extremity. 7/10    

Friday, 21 January 2022

Reviews: 40 Watt Sun, Great American Ghost, Verikalpa (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Zak Skane & Richard Oliver)

40 Watt Sun - Perfect Light (Cappio Records) [Paul Scoble]

40 Watt Sun is the project that Warning main man Patrick Walker went on to after the demise of the worlds most melancholy band. Formed in 2009, 40 Watt Sun released their first album, The Inside Room in 2011. The album still has a huge, sad doom sound, that was similar to Warning, but had a softer, more rounded sound, the melancholy woeful feel was still there, but there was some positivity in the lyrics. Five years later 40 Watt Sun released their second album with Wider Than The Sky, and this time there was a sizeable move away from heavy metal, to a sound that was based around a clean guitar, singer songwriter sound. Again the album had an overall feeling sadness and melancholy.

Perfect Light has been made in a different way to 40 Watt Sun’s other albums. The bands two previous albums were made with a band lineup; on Perfect Light, Patrick has worked with guest musicians to write and record. Some of the songs are just guitar and vocals and were recorded by Patrick Walker alone, but on others there were collaborations with Andrew Prestidge and Roland Scriver (The Osiris Club), Ajit Gill (Vertaal), Lorraine Rath (Amber Asylum/Worm Ouroboros), and pianist/composer Chris Redman. As a result this album has more variation to 40 Watt Sun’s other albums, a little bit more light and shade. 

As with the last 40 Watt Sun album Wider Than The Sky there is no metal on this album, the closest is a couple of places where there are guitar parts with a small amount of distortion, but it’s more a warm overdrive rather than a heavy distortion. The main style is centred around Walkers acoustic guitar with a little piano and fairly minimalist drums and bass, there are elements of folk (although definitely not jigs), 70’s Singer Songwriter, and maybe a little subtle country. I have seen the style on this album described as ‘Chamber Folk’ which fits quite nicely.

The album opens with Reveal, which features a gentle finger picking acoustic guitar and vocals that are just as gentle. The vocals become a little more fervent, and the music a little bit more purposeful for a chorus that also features backing vocals. The songs final part has a repeated line of “I’m strong enough to lift you up”, which signals a positivity that feels like a new addition to 40 Watt Sun’s palette.

Behind My Eyes continues the gentle finger picking style of guitar, this time with minimalist percussion, the chorus is louder and has more drive to it. In the second half of the song a piano is added, which felt a little bit country in style and helps to build the track as reaches its end. Overall the music and lyrics feel contented, which builds on the positivity of the previous track.

Third song Until sounds and feels most like the style on 40 Watt Sun’s last album, Wider Than The Sky. The guitar is strummed and feels taut, Walker’s voice has a little more angst than on the previous 2 songs. The song boasts a fairly big and passionate chorus, a melody lead with some warm overdrive on it, and that one and only overdriven riff that takes the song to its end. Next comes Colours, which is very soft, classical style guitar, matched with soft vocals in a way that reminds me of some of Leonard Cohen. The second half of the song has an instrumental classical guitar part that is just exquisite.

The Spaces In Between has a simple Acoustic Guitar riff, gentle, lilting vocals and some really beautiful piano parts, the song has a meditative feels to it that is drifting and dreamlike. Raise Me Up has a sense that is a little bit more pensive and introverted. The song features fairly minimal guitar, bass and drums, it’s slow and feels more depressive than the rest of the album. As the track develops it gets more purposeful and resolute, the drums come to the fore and drive it forward. Nearer the end the lyrics feels more positive, so the track starts talking about pain and ends feeling as if that pain has been dealt with, giving the song a very cathartic feel. 

I’m not sure if it’s because A Thousand Miles is talking about places that Patrick loves, or if it’s the finger picking style of guitar, but I found this track reminiscent of Ralph McTell’s song Streets Of London. The song has minimal drumming and has a lilting, drifting quality that is ephemeral and delicate. This is another track that has a feeling of contentment, a musical equivalent of a warm summer evening.

The album comes to an end with Closure, which is a simple song with softly strummed guitar and vocals that are at the fore, with lyrics that are positive. The music is gentle, lilting and exquisite, the perfect end to a near perfect album. Perfect Light is a stunning album. For an artist like Patrick Walker, who has such a reputation for producing sad and melancholy music, to produce something that comes across as being so filled with positivity and fulfilment feels as if he is escaping his reputation. Don’t get me wrong, this has it’s moments of down, Raise Me Up being a case in point, but it feels as if he has come to some sort of resolution, this is the happiness that comes from dealing with pain, it’s the happiness that comes from overcoming adversity. 

Maybe I’m reading too much into the final track being called Closure, but I can’t get away from how this album makes me feel. In the notes I made whilst listening to this album I found a line that that said, “Watching From A Distance (Warning’s perfect masterpiece of sadness and despair) feels like being Heartbroken, Perfect Light feels like being in love”, and I think I’ll end this review with that thought; if Patrick Walker made a soundtrack for your misery with Watching From A Distance, he’s just made an album for you to listen to when you have healed and are in love again. 9/10   

Great American Ghost – Torture World (MNRK Heavy) [Zak Skane]

Boston based hardcore act Great American Ghost have teamed forces with the well established metal producer Will Putney which has famously done with Thy Art Is Murder, Knocked Loose and A Day to Remember to produce a collection songs that cover themes like sexual abuse, corruption and addiction laced with bludgeoning riffs. With the experimental opening of Kingmaker, the band utilise Slipknot inspired percussive samples sandwiched between chunky double kicked drum grooves complemented with razor sharp guitar riffs courtesy of Davier Perez and Kikos Gasparrini. 

The vocalist Ethan Harrison passionately shouting about false leadership and abuse of power ensures the band make a promising first impression that still keeps their love of hardcore on their sleeve. Torture World combines classic beatdowns with anthemic choruses followed by machine gun precise breakdowns that you will find any Meshuggah or Fear Factory song. Womb combines death/thrash metal inspired riffs with some hardcore attitude which will please fans of Knocked Loose and Malevolence especially with the soaring solo that is featured in this track. Finally their explosive delivery of Death Forgives No One combines the groove of modern deathcore acts such as a Spite and Fit For An Autopsy and with the finesse of Nu-metal creativity. 

If I could describe the album in one word I would call it fierce. Davier’s machine gun precision drumming is a great marriage with the razor sharp accuracy of Nikos guitar riffs whilst laying a perfect base for Ethans vocals. I admire the production that Will Putney has put to the bands songs he has done a really good job of capturing the bands attitude to audio form. The only criticisms that I have is the band could of gone more experimental with their sound like they did with their opening track Kingmaker. However they have delivered a slab of modern heaviness. 8/10

Verikalpa - Tunturihauta (Scarlet Records) [Richard Oliver] 

Tunturihauta is the third album from Finnish folk metaller Verikalpa. A band self-described as “Finnish folk metal crazy drunken warriors” it is very clear from the outset that this band veers more towards the party side of the folk metal genre rather than the black metal or epic and atmospheric sides though it is definitely wrong to write these off as a Korpiklaani or Trollfest clone as Verikalpa have a few tricks up their sleeves. Verikalpa have a sound that is more in keeping with bands like Finntroll in that it is full throttle folk metal with high amounts of speed and energy, bouncy folk melodies, throat shredding vocals and forays into extreme metal territory. 

Album opener Verikauhu sets the tone with its barrage of blast-beats and violence mixing with the jaunty folk melodies. Talven Varjot is much the same but with a darker and more menacing tone whilst Raivokansa is far more melodic and rousing and the title track is a slower and moodier song. Despite the limitations of folk metal Verikalpa have managed to produce quite a varied album. Tunturihauta won’t sway the opinions of those who dislike folk metal but if this sort of thing is your bag then this album is recommended. It is frantic and fun and whilst rather silly (like a lot of folk metal) this band proves they have metal chops as well. 8/10

Thursday, 20 January 2022

Reviews: Ashes Of Ares, Nocturna, Diamond Dogs, Planeswalker (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Simon Black)

Ashes Of Ares - Emperors And Fools (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt Bladen]

Despite this only being their third album, Emperors And Fools has a lot of experience behind it, the core duo of Freddie Vidales and Matt Barlow have been a part of Ashes Of Ares for nine years but of course they have been in the music business for many years previously both previously as part of Iced Earth. it seems there is very little chance of either going back to that band (or that band existing again) so fans of Barlow's voice and Freddie's playing will have to make do with Ashes Of Ares. I say make do, but Ashes Of Ares have been slowly gaining momentum with every release, coming from what was quite a simplistic, generic debut, their previous full length and EP have seen them become a more well rounded, expansive musical force. 

Still firmly rooted in American power metal, the symphonic elements are utilized on cinematic intro track A City In Decay , before first track proper is the riffy I Am The Night driven by the scratchy thrash of Vidales' guitar/bass playing, he's a riff machine playing both instruments with ferocious precision and technical prowess. Van Williams returns as the drummer for the record but there are couple of guests brought in as well Pyramaze's Jonah Weingarten adding keys to the intro. Wiley Arnett (Sacred Reich) and Charlie Mark add solos to The Iron Throne. The final epic song Monsters Lament has a solo from Bill Hudson, keys from Brian Trainor and guest vocals from Tim 'Ripper' Owens (a bonus treat for Iced Earth fans. 

Once again Emperors And Fools refines and enhances the Ashes Of Ares sound again, bringing it close to those early Barlow fronted Iced Earth albums, mainly of course due to his always incredible vocals (often imitated, never bettered) but they also add their own style rather than slavishly copying. Primed is a rampaging offering followed by the equally aggressive Where God Fears To Go as the acoustic guitar laced title track slows the record ready for the power and speed to return again, though a track such as What Tomorrow Will Bring is an ideal example of what Ashes Of Ares do incredibly consistently. Chest beating heavy metal from stand out musicians, power/prog/thrash all together in one record. Play Emperors And Fools loud and proud! 8/10

Nocturna - Daughters Of The Night (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

This Gothic/Symphonic Supergroup is a side project for Frozen Crown’s Federico Mondelli. Whereas that act reigned back their Symphonic tendencies for last year’s Winterbane release in favour of more Power tropes, he’s more than compensated for it here. In this case we have not just one, but two rather powerful clean voices from Grace Darkling and Operatic soprano Rehn Stillnight.

The Frozen Crown resemblance remains strong though, perhaps not surprisingly given Mondelli’s distinctive playing style, but the interplay between the two singers is generally what’s keeping your attention throughout. Despite the overt Symphonic tendencies, this album remains fairly up tempo throughout, with some blisteringly heavy delivery from the rhythm section that are a bit more frenetic than is usual for the genre, which adds to an overall sense of fun, with the Gothic elements coming more from the overall mood and the fairly basic keyboard melodies. That’s a roundabout way of saying is that it does not get boring after three songs, which can happen a lot when your tempo stays downbeat and moody for too many tracks on the trot.

Neither does it outstay its welcome, with ten tracks (two of which being instrumental intros and bridges) and most songs around the four limit mark, this is a record focused on punchy delivery first and foremost. That focus on robust song-writing and structure is a massive asset, and the instrumentals all really happen in the background, allowing the vocals to steal your attention, as I suspect this whole project was crafted to achieve. The Symphonic cliché of the twenty minute epic finale is mercifully avoided, although closer The Trickster does stand out for having the best use of harmonic interplay between the two frontwomen.

Having not one but two female voices is certainly unusual and with one taking the full on Operatic melodies with a more Power Metal counterpoint from the other makes for some interesting sounds and some damned fine harmonies, although perhaps a more gruff and edgy contrast along the lines of a Doro or a Noora Louhimo style of delivery might have been interesting, even if only used occasionally. That said, I’m somewhat positive about this and would be interested to see if this becomes a full on living and breathing live act, rather than just a one-off lockdown studio project, because it would be a shame if this band did not get the opportunity to flex their muscles in the flesh. 7/10

Diamond Dogs - Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous (Wild Kingdom Records) [Matt Bladen]

Most long running bands have their fair share of drama, for many it can lend to the end of the band but some embrace it, adapting it into their music. Diamond Dogs do this; naming themselves after a David Bowie record you sort of know what style of music this Swedish band play. Having been treading the boards across the world since 1991, they have been bringing their 70's British R&B sound to the masses since then. They have also played in bands and artists such as Johnny Thunders, Ian Hunter, Electric Boys, Glenn Hughes, Michael Schenker, Glen Matlock and UK Subs. So very experienced but as I mentioned earlier they have had numerous deaths, members leaving and the band have also disbanded before coming back together in 2019. 

So what of Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous, well this eleventh studio record once again, has a big whack of glam, some hip shaking rhythm & blues and the cocky punk swagger of the The Quireboys or The Hellacopters. If you enjoy any of the bands mentioned throughout this synopsis then you'll enjoy Diamond Dogs, for me though 24 tracks was probably too many, I'm unsure why this wasn't two seperate albums or even a bonus disc rather than one long record. Still decent if you're a fan, for me though there was too much quantity over quality. 6/10  

Planeswalker – Tales Of Magic (Self Released) [Simon Black]

Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Power Metal acts do love their concept albums. So endemic is the proliferation of these, that it’s sometimes quite refreshing when bands opt not to do one. Indeed of that vast number of albums that do the magical, mythical and science fiction stories tend to dominate, with myths, movies and books supplying the greatest percentage of the source texts - so I guess this one is fairly unique in my experience being the first one I have come across with a story borrowed from a game (in this case Magic – The Gathering). 

Now, I know bugger all about this game (as indeed most of the source material in the many of these records that cross my desk each year), so for me what’s more important is how good at communicating a story a band are with some decent tunes and performance. The danger is that the musicians get too wrapped up in the details of a plot and miss the accessibility of the story, which to be honest should be a secondary reward for the repeated listener rather than an entry criteria. That’s why a band focussing on good, accessible and well written songs in to the story over time, giving the listener added layers to enjoy with every repeat listen.

And this is where this record falls slightly flat. 

Which is a shame, because with Jason Ashcraft and Michael Sozos reunited from Helion Prime for this project I was hoping for something with that accessible punch. Now to be clear, the performances on here are top notch, but for most of it’s run the album isn’t reaching out and demanding your attention through well-crafted songs. It misses those kind of everyman songs that could be played independently of the concept record until you get to the end and this is rubbed in your faces with a spot on cover of Kiss’s A Million To One, which suddenly bucks the trend and supplies that anthemic, catchy and thoroughly enjoyable piece of music that’s going to work fantastically well live that we’ve been missing up to this point. 

It’s inclusion on a concept album about an RPG shows that all in all this is a project with a bit more structure and direction needed in future. Perhaps I’m being unfair, given that there’s a lot of projects out there assembled remotely without the benefit of road testing with a live crowd, but compare this cover track to the rest of the album and the contrast is blatant. If they had balanced this a bit more, then this would be getting a lot more enthusiasm from me. 5/10

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Reviews: Tony Martin, Eliminator, Darkness Divine, The Bad Electric (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Tony Martin - Thorns (Battlegod Productions/Dark Star Records)

If you don't know who Tony Martin is then stop reading immediately and educate yourself. Now if you do (or you've come back from reading) then you'll know he is the second longest serving vocalist of Black Sabbath, fronting the band when it basically became a Tony Iommi solo project. He was also the singer on the best album not to feature Ozzy or RJD, Headless Cross and it seems as if Martin is trying to return to those days again on his third solo album. 

Thorns comes two previous solo records an numerous vocal slots with other bands such as The Cage, Phenomena and most recently Magnum offshoot Kingdom Of Madness. So there is quite a body of work behind Martin away from the Sabbath mothership but he will probably be forever associated with the Birmingham originators of heavy metal. In two words, I can describe what Thorns sounds like, Black Sabbath, I mean it is always going to sound like Black Sabbath but Thorns strays more into the style adopted since the Dio years rather than the early Ozzy albums. 

Opener As The World Burns feels very Dio-esque with the bouncing riffs of Scott McClellan (who co-wrote the record with Martin) underpinned by Venom sticksman Danny Needham who is more Cozy Powell than Bill Ward, despite his day job. The record features two bassists, I assume sharing the low frequency duties, one being session four stringer Greg Smith and the other is ex-Hammerfall man Magnus Rosén. They take the position of Geezer's thundering rhythms, getting to show off a bit with slap playing on Black Widow Angel as Scott McClellan plays riffs that are part-Iommi, part-Zakk Wylde. 

As with a lot of Martin's career there is theatricality to his performance, Book Of Shadows adding a choir to make things more dramatic, it is a song that slows the pace of the album but does show that Martin still has a brilliant set of pipes at 64 years old as does the Crying Wolf which features some acoustic layers to it. We jump back into the heavy rock style with No Shame At All which is in the vibe of Evil Woman, but it's on the psychedelic, doomy sounds of Nowhere To Fly that will get the pulses of Sabbath lovers racing (or as much as they can for a doom fan) as will punching Run Like The Devil.

Closing out with the title track where Martin duets with Pamela Moore (of Operation:Mindcrime fame) and there is a Queensryche sound to this final number. Thorns is a great slab of heavy metal that will appease any fans of Black Sabbath/Dio. With the current Ozzy tour being continually postponed and Sabbath now just a memory I'd love to see Tony Martin touring this record soon! 9/10       

Eliminator - Ancient Light (Dissonance Records)

Don't confuse them with the multitude of bands with the same name from the USA, this Eliminator come from Lancaster and play NWOTHM, which of course used to be called NWOBHM. They released an album in 2018 called Last Horison which was well received but Ancient Light is a record that will see them take their place in the upper echelon of the NWOTHM style. 

Produced by the amazing Chris Fielding at Foel Studios in Wales, he gives the album the same treatment he has to bands such as Conan and Alunah, making it feel like an old analogue recorded release but also sound huge particularly the bottom end of Jamie Brandon (bass) and Dave Steen (drums). They drive the rampaging gallops of opening number Arrival and rarely take their foot off the gas as this 10 tracker explodes out of your speakers. 

Packed with a few nifty bass rundowns and the driving drums Ancient Light of course has plenty of twin axe harmonies from Jack MacMichael and Matt Thomas, they play off each other with skill and technical ability duelling in not only the solos but throughout the riffs too as there's a flourish here and a arpeggio there to move things out of what can sometimes be quite a well worn style. 

Having toured with bands such as Toledo Steel and Midnight Force, their experience is on show here, joining them to claw back the NWOTHM from North America to it's spiritual home. The title track adds a little goth flavour while anthemic Goddess Of Light gets you fist pumping. Vocalist Danny Foster giving you a taste of his impressive vocal, scaling the highest highs but with that gritty low as well and everything in between. 

You can feel all of the NWOBHM bands from the past coming through Eliminator's music but they stay very much in their own version of where those bands like Maiden, Priest etc have led. Ancient Light is a brilliant heavy metal album fusing, faster speed metal offerings with some more anthemic tracks such as Mercy and the longer Foreverless. Watch out for Eliminator as 2022 will be their year! 9/10  

Darkness Divine – Departure (Self Released)

Based in Glasgow Darkness Divine are a five piece that play a classic/thrashy metal with a modern edge. They released their debut EP Prelude in 2018 but have been working hard to get their full length together, obviously against the current adversity that all bands face. However finally they have gotten around to unleashing this debut out and it’s packed full of muscular heavy metal. The band cite their style as ferocity and elegance, with a mixture of both the power/symphonic and melodeath styles colliding with some classic/thrash metal riffage. 

Tracks like Handful Of Minutes have a heaviness of the latter featuring thrashy riffs and growls however This Is War moves towards the other end of the spectrum ringing out with emotion, as does proper lighters in the air ballad Halo. Luckily for the band they have a brilliant singer in the shape of Toni Benedetti-Martin who has a powerful vocal, that isn’t operatic, but carries emotion well and can get gritty and rough when needed. The record actually reminds me a lot of bands such as In This Moment, Avenged Sevenfold, Devilskin and even Triaxis/Rites To Ruin. 

For me the band work best when they are kicking out the riffs Dave Fulton and Stewart MacGillvray attacking on Throne and Mirror as Stewart brings some slinky leads to tracks such as 15 Seconds or Everflow. These heavier songs go full bore and while the slower tracks are great when bassist Gary McNeill and drummer John Martin drive something, like Nocturnal Poetry at full blast, it gets your head banging. After what apparently was a long wait, Departure emerges as great debut album from this modern heavy metal crew. 7/10

The Bad Electric - The Bad Electric (Self Released)

Swansea band The Bad Electric feature some noted names in the Swansea music scene but here they perform under the pseudonyms of Karl Dandleton (guitar/synth/vocals),Willie Dustice (guitar/vocals), Todd Bonzales (bass/vocals) and Bobson Dugnutt on drums. Decked out in orange cagoules they slam through five songs of "Robo Punk", which seems to riotous riffs, gang choruses and tongue in cheek/acerbic lyrics. Tracks like the fuzzy Double Science, the laid back psych vibes of Banana Peel or the punchy Drink To Get Through It are all done with the right amount of punk energy, pop sensibilities but also some nods to the members psych/stoner and doom 'day jobs'. It's a rocking EP that never pulls punches the best track on the whole thing being Mental Paul (and who doesn't know a mental Paul?) as it's a punky shout along that is a indicative of The Bad Electric's ethos. A cracking little EP from The Bad Electric announcing their intentions. 8/10

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Reviews: Fit For An Autopsy, Battle Beast, Tribute To Blue Öyster Cult, Maule (Reviews By Zak Skane, Simon Black, Rich P & Matt Bladen)

Battle Beast - Circus Of Doom (Nuclear Blast) [Simon Black]

Battle Beast are one of those acts that in the past I have to confess to snobbishly raising an eyebrow at without ever having had the decency of giving them a proper listening to first, because let’s face it as power metal band names go it’s a pretty cheesy one and yes, it did put me off. The problem is the genre is so chock full of repetitive albums, endless dull concept records, consistent quality yes, but little to differentiate one band from another in the large majority of cases – and in this game I get a lot of these records across my desk. 

That opinion changed when I saw Battle Beast in the flesh at Bloodstock a few years ago, leaving the Sophie Lancaster tent mightily impressed and suitably admonished. I’ve not got around to looking back at their catalogue though yet for shame, although in my defence when you review a few hundred records a year you don’t get a lot of time for historical research unless you’ve got an interview coming up. So I really am sitting down to this band afresh with this, their sixth full length studio album. 

The first thing that grabs you when you see them live is the full throttled delivery of singer Noora Louhimo, whose range, performance, presence and sheer gravitas always grabs you by the hair and bangs your head pretty damn hard until you get it. This record pulls exactly the same trick and her incredibly powerful vocals are strong, loud and crucial to the idiosyncratic sound that this band achieve – as well as going a long way to making them distinctive from the bulk of the power metal pack. 

Musically, there’s a lot of melodic power tropes in here yes, but this feels a slightly more edgy and brutal sounding piece than many of their cookie-cutter contemporaries despite the full on orchestration layers being built up here, that certainly on the opener sound like there was a lot more going into that recording than just a few well-crafted keyboards voices. Then there’s the highly catchy and accessible song structures and melodies, which pull the not inconsiderable feat of sounding commercially accessible whilst not relinquishing any credibility or heaviness. This jumps out from the second track Wings Of Light, but there’s plenty of other instances peppered in here.

For me what makes the album work is the distinctive house sound from the vocals and clear musical instrumental signatures that create ten distinctive but clearly differentiated songs that give you a new twist and direction each and every time. Best of all they do this without resorting to a lame overwrought concept - OK there’s a loose thematic one, but the concept album really is dead and gone for me in power metal circles, because I think we all need a break from them. 

This band are pumping some serious iron here and if, like me, you are coming to them for the first time on disk, then I really can’t recommend this highly enough as a great place to start. 9/10

Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds (Nuclear Blast) [Zak Skane]

Fit For An Autopsy have been one of the most talked about bands in the deathcore community since they have released their debut album, The Process Of Human Extermination. The bands main founder Will Punty has been big part of shaping the sound of modern metal with working with established bands in genre such as Thy Art Is Murder, Knocked Loose and The Amity Affliction. With six releases including an EP under their belt, the band has released their seventh album Oh What The Future Holds

To start this journey off we have the title track, Oh What The Future Holds which begins with some cinematic piano and clean guitars till it builds up to the first of many heavy sections on this album, Joseph coming in venting and questioning about the future of the human existence. Pandora takes this rollercoaster up a notch by showing us classic death metal riffage mixed in with some chanty choruses and soaring solos. The first single Far From Heaven allows us to witness the band exploring more experimental/technical territory with Patrick, Tim and Will utilising some tasty legato string skipping over Joseans tom tom drum grooves before it hits us with some polyrhythmic brutality. Two Towers is another one of the bands experimental efforts, with atmospheric guitars and ambient-layered vocals. 

Two Towers is also a moment in the bands in which they are stretching the boundaries of their songwriting skills by depicting a story in their lyrics. What I can get from the lyrics, is that it's a song about two entities that doomed to be separated till for eternity. A Higher Level Of Hate takes influences from Gojira with their tribal percussive intro before going into most string bending of grooves to Collateral Damage giving us some classic deathcore vibes with some chuggy riffs over some classic blasts beats. Collateral Damage also gives us some of the most searing solos that this band offers, and Savages brings the most tasty riffs that this album offers as well some of the most catchiest choruses. 

The closing track The Man That I Was Not shows off the bands musician ship to its fullest with Josean providing some Latin drum patterns over some jazzy chords that Patrick, Tim and Will are jamming over. In some cases it gives off a more post-hardcore sound that you would get from a band like Letlive or Dillinger Escape Plan. Following the clam before the storm Joseph and crew lead us into a heavier territory emotionally and dynamically, taking a groovier route before taking us to a sludgy climatic ending. 

In conclusion, I am going out on a limb and state that this is one of the best metal albums of 2022. I got to give credit to Will Putney’s production skills on this one by capturing the emotional experimental ore of this LP. He’s done a really good job capturing the dynamic range of Josean Orta’s drum performances all the way from the hell bent blast beats of Pandora to the Jazz/Latin inspired drum beats of The Man That I Was Not, those performances were captured flawlessly whilst keeping the overall drum sound natural in comparison to other modern metal productions. 

The guitar tones sound thick and juicy as always, but also leaves enough room to keep it dynamic on the ambient/experimental moments like the intro section of Far From Heaven and Two Towers. Joseph Badoleto’s lyrics still carry the poetic nuance from his previous efforts with the band but vocally starting to expand his range by doing other vocal styles like the melancholic melodies in Two Towers

This is the most mature release from the band to date and I would put this alongside other releases like Machine Heads The Blackening and Mastodon's Crack The Sky. 10/10.  

Various Artists - Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult (Ripple Music) [Rich P]

I am admittedly late to the Blue Öyster Cult party. Only recently have I realized the brilliance of the band and the influence they have had on the music that I love. Sure, we all know the three or so hits they play on classic rock radio, but their catalog is filled with their own brand of brilliant and unique occult rock that should not be overlooked. So, when I heard that Ripple Music (based on the idea from the late Steve Hanford whose work was completed by Ian Watts of Ape Machine) was releasing a BÖC tribute record I knew this would be a must listen. 

Tributes can be tricky, but the team nailed it with the bands that were invited and thirteen tracks selected. You get the optimal amount of hits and some cool deep cuts that will keep the BÖC fanatics happy. You get some ripper straight head covers and some bands making a classic their own, with end-to-end excellent results. Some stand out more traditional interpretations of the classics include the absolute on fire version of Transmaniacon MC by Tony Reed that takes the classic and makes it even more of a ripper, which is saying something. 

Great Electric Quest’s version of Flaming Telepaths and the Ape Machine take on Veteran Of The Psychic Wars are both true to the originals but perfectly executed to include what makes those two bands special. The War Cloud version of Stairway To The Stars is unmistakably War Cloud but teaming them with that song and Janiece Gonzalez’s vocals is the perfect tribute album formula. 

Some of the more unique interpretations make for some of the best moments on Döminance And Submissiön. Spindrift’s take on Don’t Fear The Reaper manages to make an already creepy song even more creepy (with zero cowbell) incorporating a more spacey and trippy feel to the universally know hit. Howling Giant partnering with Fu Manchu’s guitar hero Bob Balch resulted in a perfect formula for their version of the other gigantic hit, Godzilla, producing in a much more fuzzy, doomy, desert rock version which worked perfectly. Year Of The Cobra delivered my favorite track on the album, taking on the underrated BÖC track Fireworks, with Amy Tung’s haunting vocals and a slowed down tempo for a perfect combination of staying true to the original and making the track their own. 

Ripple Music has done it again. Not only do they have the best roster in rock, the output for projects like Döminance And Submissiön is second to none. This will be a treat for any BÖC fanatic or a starting off point for newbies that will be diving into their vast discography soon enough. 9/10

Maule – Maule (Gates Of Hell Records) [Matt Bladen]

Other than the Brits, who of course invented it, Canadians seem to be the second biggest producers of NWOBHM inspired music in the world. There literally hundreds of bands that play the rough and ready style of heavy metal invented by bands such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon. Evolving throughout the years, it drew from punk to become speed metal influencing thrash, death and black metal. 

Now yes there are plenty of European bands that have spearheaded the NWOTHM as it is now called but I always find the Canadians stills have that underground D.I.Y spirit that made the original NWOBHM so vital to metal music. I mean Canada also has a pedigree of bands such as Exciter, Razor and Anvil, who are influential in their own way, leading to more recent additions such as Cauldron, Striker and Skull Fist. 

You can now add to this list Maule who bring guitars as spiky as their belts and bright white hi-tops, the uniform of the NWOTHM. Their self-titled debut record is exactly the kind of album you want from this style, jammed to the gunnels with frantic, biting riffs, vocals that are delivered quickly and loudly, so as not to get in the way of more riffs/solos and production that feels like a cassette from the glory days. 

Comprised of Bones on bass, Eddie Riumin on drums, lead guitarist Danny Gottardo and Jakob Weel on vocals/rhythm guitar this four piece don’t hang around, slicing through the 9 songs here as if they were butter on Canadian bacon, going all guns blazing from Evil Eye to We Ride. Strap yourselves in as Maule deliver NWOTHM with passion and precision. 8/10

Monday, 17 January 2022

Reviews: Sonata Arctica, VRSTY, Reckless Souls, Spartan (Reviews By Simon Black & Matt Bladen)

Sonata Arctica - Acoustic Adventures - Volume One (Atomic Fire Records) [Simon Black]

Stick around for long enough and bands inevitably succumb to the temptation to do something subtly different with their core sound, because let’s face it doing the same thing for decades on end might not wear the punters out, but it does wear down on the players. If you have to spend months in studio writing, recording, rehearsing and then many nights cranking the same set out again and again live, you can forgive an act for wanting to spice things up a little from time to time, even if this tends to scare the crap out of label A&R staff. 

Sometimes this comes with a complete (and highly risky) change of musical direction for a core studio release, but many also dip their toes in the slightly safer territory of taking their existing catalogue and either playing with a full blown orchestra, or a scaled back acoustic version of their hit list. Sonata Arctica did the later live a few years back and well-received it was at the time, so rather than risking a release of new material getting lost in the pandemic chaos, the band have elected to cherry pick a whole bunch of songs and re-record fully acoustic versions over a two release set, of which this is the first (although this set is fairly close to that 2016 set list).

I have to confess I’m none too familiar with much of their extensive catalogue, but that means I can be objective - but then so too have the band. With a ten studio album backlog, there’s a lot of material to choose from and fortunately the band have remained pragmatic whilst approaching this - which is why you aren’t just hearing the same tracks played beat for beat and note for note with acoustic guitars and the odd tambourine thrown in for good measure. 

In some cases that has meant completely rearranging the arrangement to fit a totally different format and an almost complete genre shift to boot and I can’t think of a better example than the Neo-Classical power metal speedball that is Wolf & Raven, which here transmogrifies into a frenzied punk polka, whilst losing none of its charm and gaining buckets more catchiness along the way. Most of the material does not go that far off at a tangent though, retaining that heartfelt melodic melancholy that is their stock in trade.

Tony Kakko has always had a melodic, slightly folky timbre to his voice anyway, but always has delivered plenty of metal guts and power to boot - particularly live, which makes the dramatic transformation in his quite frankly beautiful singing on this disk all the more emphatic. Although the whole band are cohesively and fluidly working together, hearing Kakko with none of the rawer aspects of his delivery makes this sound like a completely different band, although you can clearly hear their distinctive essence in these versions. 

If anything it illustrates quite how accomplished their song writing actually is, allowing the ear to unpick subtle melodic refrains that might otherwise be buried under the bravado and overdrive of their power metal mode. Either way, I’ve found this fascinating enough to go back and compare the louder versions, so if nothing else I’m grateful for the opportunity to dig into a band I had previously only had a passing acquaintance with that little bit more deeply. Roll on Volume 2… 8/10

VRSTY - Welcome Home (Spinefarm Records) [Simon Black]

Imagine if you will, what might happen if an artist who grew up with an R&B and pop background went to a metal show and realised that he’s missed out on something pretty big up to that point? The answer is indeed VRSTY (pronounced “varsity”) who are a very unusual sounding beast indeed. Now I’m old enough to have been around when bands’ started experimenting with fusing metal with other seemingly eclectic genres in the 80’s, with not a care that their one-off song or side project might inadvertently spawn a whole sub-genre of followers capable of eclipsing their own place in the panopticon. I’m sure that was the last thing on Anthrax’s mind when they produced their Rap-Metal fusion spoof I’m The Man, little knowing that it would allow not one but two whole sub-genres to emerge and Martin Walkyier is still kicking himself for creating, but failing to earn a crust from his experiment in Thrash-Folk with Skyclad.

So enter singer Joey Varela, whose fusion of styles vocally produces a sound that might trick the casual observer into thinking they missed a key step in the Nu-Metal movement. Musically the instrumental side of things is clearly influenced by the heavier end of the musical spectrum though, but the R&B lyrical phrasing and styles (mercifully free from any hint of an auto-tuner) work surprisingly well with this and I will be curious if the subtlety of this can be pulled off in a high volume live environment, although Varela turns in a good extreme grunt or two to keep his metal credentials in order.

Actually the Nu-Metal comparison is relevant instrumentally as well, given that we have heavy riffs and rhythms, but soloing is de-rigueur and some of that layering comes from some light touch keyboards, but don’t underestimate the heaviness of that riffage on tracks like Closer. The album generally gets lighter as it goes on, but that feels more like Linkin Park ballad territory rather than R&B crooning. In fact the whole album is very moody and minor key driven, but there’s some good anthemic material in there – Paranoid being a good example of this and it’s exactly the kind of crossover stuff that could spawn band offspring and bring more people into the wacky metal world by accident.

Interesting, original and surprisingly catchy – I shouldn’t like it, but I do. 8/10

Reckless Souls - Timeless (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

We reviewed Norwegian band Reckless Souls debut album, What About Us back in 2018 and decided that it was prime slice of retro sounding rock n roll. A few years later and they are now in place to release their follow up. What you can notice is that despite the band having been together since 2013, on this album they have tried to change their sound a bit, adding a bit more punk and grunge to the mix. It means that Timeless is a darker record than the predecessor, a reflection perhaps of the time we live in at the moment. 

An emotional build gets us going on the intro leading into first song proper, the Western themed Where I Belong, atmospheric guitars and a tolling bell coming at the start before the distorted riff gets going. Starting off with a swagger were brought into big open chords on All Of Nothing shaped to be an arena offering. Musically there's a lot of dexterity on this record however personally I'm not too enamoured with the dulcet vocals, but that's possibly just me. 

If you can get round it, Timeless is a hip shaking rock n roll record, one that has garage rock directness and fuzziness on Voodoo Girl as well as straight up punk snarling on Room 114 leading to the proggy climax of Lost In TimeTimeless sees Reckless Souls following up their 2018 record with an eclectic rock record. 7/10 

Spartan - Of Gods And Kings (Pest Records) [Matt Bladen]

Inspired by Amon Amarth, Children Of Bodom and In Flames, Netherlands based band Spartan move away from Viking or Roman inspired lyrics, focussing theirs on the Greek myths and legends, thus their name. They have previously released an EP and an album, so what does their sophomore album offer? Well it's characterized as power death and that, is quite an apt way of putting things. Mainly sitting in the melo-death style, choppy metalcore riffs, bring some big beatdowns on Tomb Of The Great (Alexander Pt.2), there are old school twin axe attacks aplenty from the intro that gives way to opening number Prometheus

You may think that this album has a lot of sounds like Trivium due to the style seems to stick in, but there are also some cinematic flourishes on A Siren Song (Odysseus Part 2) which features some guest female vocals that brings touches of Epica as the harsh vocals work in conjunction with these soaring cleans. Of Gods And Kings was actually recorded in 2019 but delayed due to pandemic, I can understand why, as on record the band's music does seem a little similar, so without the ability to tour it, Of Gods And Kings may have been lost in the pile. Still if mythology themed melodeath appeals then check out Spartan's second album. 6/10  

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Reviews: Pridelands, Worm Shepherd, Lee McKinney, Enterprise Earth (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Matt Cook)

Pridelands - Light Bends (Sharptone Records/Resist) [Matt Bladen]

Australia is quickly becoming the go to country for modern metalcore. Yet another addition to the glut of emotionally charged metalcore acts coming from Down Under is Pridelands. They are a five piece that features two vocalists, the ferocious screams come from Mason Bunt, while Joshua Cory brings the emotional cleans, both have a glorious unison telling these very personal stories. The band state that this is a therapeutic record, coming from the bands life experiences both good and bad. 

They must have impressed with the demos as they have been snapped up by Sharptone Records and when you listen to their debut Light Bends, you can hear why there would be buzz around it. Building from the repeating radar ‘bing’ atmospheric and bubbling percussion from Joe Lipsam, I Reach Into Your Heart is a slow burn into the raging final part where we have screamed vocals and thick groove riffs. A dramatic opening that is followed by the insistent The Walls, which is driven by the riff from down tuned bassist Daniel Lohery and guitarist Liam Fowler, especially when the palm muting heaviness kicks in. 

It’s a rager that really shows the vocal dexterity of the band the clean/harsh voices working well. Pridelands draw their influences from a number of bands but on Parted Time they sound like Architects or Northlane, the use of atmospheric synths sitting side by side with the stop/start riffs. There is a vein of real emotional depth that cuts through Light Bends, when you’re listening to it, you almost feel the turmoil and experiences the band are going through in every vocal phrasing and every riff. It’s a strong debut that bodes well for a bright future. Pridelands confidently assert themselves against the glut of modern metalcore performers. 7/10

Worm Shepherd - Ritual Hymns (Unique Leader) [Matt Cook]

Devin Duarte is likely a name you should familiarize yourself with. The Worm Shepherd frontman leaves his mark on the deathcore five-piece’s latest album, Ritual Hymns (Unique Leader), punishing and pulverizing his vocal cords for our listening pleasure and flexing an array of abilities. Whether it be blasting a song to life on the opening titular track while nearly bellowing into pig squealing, the inhumane yelping and shrieking heard on Ov Sword And Nail or giving Travis Ryan a run for his money on Chalice Ov Rebirth, Duarte pulls no punches. 

Blood Kingdom is a particularly atmospheric and ferociously technical piece, complemented by damn good riffing on The Ravens Keep. The opener itself incorporates uncharacteristic (for the genre, at least) snare drums before skinsman Leo McClain unleashes a rapid-fire stomp fest. Worm Shepherd meticulously weave strings and orchestrations that whisper throughout the composition, neither overstaying its welcome nor feeling unnecessarily inserted. 

The aforementioned Ov Sword And Nail did, however, incorporate a rather chaotic mishmash that isn’t particularly comfortable on the ears and wandered more into noise territory. Fear not, however, because Ritual Hymns has enough vocal versatility, sensational shredding and death-defying drumming to please any fan of the genre. 7/10

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge (Sumerian Records) [Matt Bladen]

Probably known to most as the guitarist in progressive metalcore act Born Of Osiris, Lee McKinney is one of the creative driving forces behind the band, but like most metal guitarists there is another side to his virtuosity that’s not all down tuning and crushing riffs/expansive solos. McKinney is a virtuoso musician so the other side of his musical mind is revealed through his instrumental solo project. Having already released one record in 2019, In The Light Of Knowledge is the second full length to come out under his own name and it’s packed with incredible guitar playing, off-kilter compositions but also an ear for melody and keeping those who maybe aren’t fans of his main band or instrumental guitar music entertained. 

The musical dexterity on the record leaves moves between blissed out shoegazing, bouncing technical savagery, progressive soundscapes and even some 80’s style melodies on Highmountain. It’s a wonderfully, inviting album that could easily make you think of Joe Satriani as the virtuosity manages to balance with the musicality. As far as songs go Stormrage duels with a sax in a way fans of jazz fusion will love, Vitruvian Park is full of swirling atmospheric synths and piano, building into one of the most impressive numbers on the record. 

The Reason uses luscious classical guitars to lull you into the final song of the record. For Born Of Osiris and guitar instrumental fans, this will be a manna from heaven, however there is also lots to enjoy for those who like well crafted music. 8/10

Enterprise Earth - The Chosen (MNRK Heavy) [Matt Cook]

One of the more compelling aspects involving Spokane, Washington’s deathcore troupe Enterprise Earth is the mere fact there are only four members. I say that because The Chosen (MNRK Heavy) is filled to the brim with 14 blistering tracks of technical prowess on a level one would expect from a more conventional five- or six-person band within the genre. It starts with Dan Watson’s Jekyll-and-Hyde-esque vocal range which flows freely from harsh, pugilistic shrieks to guttural bouts of brutal growls, oftentimes rapidly interchanging in the same sequence. 

He even incorporates clean singing on Unleash Hell and Overpass, because of course he can. Likewise, guitarist Gabe Mangold lays down heavy, labyrinthine riffs, cascading on opener Where Dreams Are Broken. I Have To Escape is straightforward, by-the-book headbanging chug with damn good rhythms. You Couldn’t Save Me sneaks in a hint of groove and one of many electrifying solos. They Have No Honor provides everything you need for a killer live experience: a mosh-inducing sequence and a very breakdown-y line, making for what should be an explosive showcase to witness in person. 

Aside from a few interlude pieces that really didn’t need to be shoehorned into the already-crowded full-length, The Chosen stands as a cogent deathcore effort. It’s technical. It’s abrasive. And it’s a testament to the talent the foursome possess. 7/10

Friday, 14 January 2022

Reviews: Wiegedood, Shadow Of Intent, Power Paladin, King Bastard (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver, Matt Bladen & Rich P)

Wiegedood - There's Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media Records) [Paul Scoble]

Anyone who has had a passing interest in black metal in the last few years will be very aware of Wiegedood, the Belgian three piece has been one of the hottest properties in black metal through a trilogy of amazing albums and many incendiary live sets. The band formed in 2014 in Ghent, Flanders. The three piece made up of Levy Seynaeve on Guitar and Vocals, Gilles Demolder on Guitar and Wim Coppers on drums have released the aforementioned trilogy of albums; De Doden Habben Het Goed I, II, and III. I was released in 2015, II in 2017 and III in 2018. 

The three albums all had a very similar sound and structure; atmospheric black metal with savage and aggressive blasting melded with soft and introverted sections, all structured into 4 long songs. The more aggressive parts always had a very focused feel, as if all the fast, savage elements had been brought to a point. It made sense for the De Doden Habben Het Goed albums to be similar in structure and sound as together they form a complete whole, and it also makes sense for the band to change things with their forth album, and change they have.

The album opens with FN SCAR 16 which is a very nasty beast. The song starts with a bloodcurdling scream from Levy Seynaeve, whose vocals are unbelievably nasty, extreme and in places downright inhuman. The song features very fast and furious black metal, that has a definite second wave feel to it, in places reminding me of early Ulver. The song also features a simple 5 note melody that is repeated throughout the song, in some way similar to black metal pioneers Von, the repetition is very effective as after a couple of listens that nasty little tune was imbedded in my consciousness like a burrowing brain parasite drilling it’s way into my frontal cortex. 

Next comes And In Old Salamano’s Room, The Dog Whimpered Softly which is very fast, blasting black metal. The track does have a slower, more minimal part (a rarity on this album), but is quickly battering your skull in again. The song feels relentless and also features vocal samples, some Harsh noise elements and vocals that are staggeringly nasty. Noblesse Oblige Richesse Oblige has more of a dissonant black metal feel, very fast tremolo picked riffs drip with jarring cacophony as the blasting drums batter you into submission. At the end of the track some of these tremolo picked riffs are layered together to form a feeling of insane swirling chaos.

Until It Is Not is fast and flowing with some mid-paced parts, to make up for this pleasantness the vocals are savage and unhinged. The track has a section which has a bit of a noise rock feel, before those horrific vocals return send you back to drowning in anxiety. Now Will Always Be has a brooding intro before a simple riff and blasting drums crash in. The song features throat singing (which works so well on Wiegedood's material, I’m surprised more bands aren’t using it) and has simple riffs added to achieve a layered sound that is hypnotic and swirls around your head. The song comes to an end with one of the tremolo picked riffs dominating, whilst the song calms down and drifts to an end. Wade is a short clean instrumental that is brooding and very effective.

Nuages is a savage beast. War metal fast blasting, with so much aggression, particularly in the vocals. The track has a slower part that manages to be just as angry and aggressive as the staggeringly fast parts, a section that is very Industrial/Harsh Noise and a nicely dissonant ending. Theft And Begging is all about dynamics. The song opens very fast, before going into a slow and measured part, the track then speeds up but has a brooding feel to it. After this the song is slow, but very driving and purposeful, it then builds itself back for a very extreme end.

The album comes to a close with the track Carousel (no, it’s not a song from the musical). The track is fast and simple, this is another track that features a simple little tune that is repeated until it is burrowing it’s way into your prefrontal lobe to join it’s friend from the opening track, the song also features throat singing in a very effective way. The track has a dissonant solo and comes to an end with blasting and that simple, brain worm melody that runs through the whole song.

There's Always Blood At The End Of The Road is a staggeringly good album, it’s also very nasty, very fast, very angry and filled with filth and squalidness. The focus that was present on the De Doden Habben Het Goed albums is gone, but it has been replaced with frenzy, dissonance, viciousness and spite. Wiegedood have not fallen into the trap that a lot of bands who are initially successful fall into; they have developed and grown. Whether or not you like the new direction the band have gone in (and I like it a lot!), you cannot fault the band for playing it safe, or been timid. 

They have taken the bands already successful sound and by adding chaos, savagery and some of the most angry and vengeful vocals I have ever heard, produced a stunning black metal album. 9/10

Shadow Of Intent - Elegy (Nuclear Blast) [Richard Oliver]

Shadow Of Intent are a new band for my ears and Elegy which is the fourth full length album for the band is my first exposure to them. When reading up on the band I’ll fully admit that I sighed deeply upon seeing deathcore in the description but I really should not have written off the band before listening as Elegy is an excellent album. Although the sound of the band is rooted in deathcore there is so much more going on here and crossovers in other genres that deathcore is a lazy term to describe the glorious music on this album. One of the big overriding and impressive aspects of the band's sound is their use of symphonics which elevates this music giving it a cinematic scale and scope whilst managing to sound restrained and resisting the urge to go over the top. 

There are also elements of melodic death metal, technical death metal and symphonic black metal present throughout Elegy. Songs such as Farewell, The Coming Fire and Of Fury are prime examples of this mix being vast epic pieces of music whilst simultaneously being savage and brutal pieces of death metal. Life Of Exile is my personal favourite from the album with the cinematic elements being pushed to the fore and being a far more emotion driven and atmospheric piece of music with the excellent and effective inclusion of some clean vocals though the most ambitious moment comes at the end of the album with the expansive three part Elegy suite. Performance wise the band are on absolute fire with some fantastic drumming from Bryce Butler and some absolutely killer lead guitar work from Chris Wiseman. 

The vocals from Ben Duerr also need special mention for his ability to effortlessly switch from extremely guttural death growls to blackened shrieks. Elegy is an album that modern death metal fans should be all over with its compelling mix of deathcore, symphonics, melody and technical ability and at just over an hour it is just the right length as well. The band as well as being phenomenal performers are excellent songwriters and this is definitely an album that I will be happily revisiting. Though definitely rooted in deathcore this is a band that is very much transcending that genre into something very special indeed. 9/10

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel (Atomic Fire Records) [Matt Bladen]

Previously known as Paladin between 2017 and 2020, I would assume the name change came from there being several other bands with that name, the most prominent being the Atlanta Georgia power metal act. So now Power Paladin, who are also a power metal band have unleashed their debut album which flies in the face of most of the Icelandic music scene. The windswept, glacial introspection is replaced by galloping fantasy influenced tunes, powerful vocals, twin axe attacks and a keen ear for European power and traditional metal. 

The band are trying to actively trying to distance themselves from the extensive extreme metal representation Iceland has by bringing some chest beating, swords held aloft fun to the islands musical landscape. As soon as you press play you can pretty hear that they have nailed it, tracks such as the rampaging Into The Forbidden Forest remind me of the genre greats such as Helloween as well as fellow Scandi’s such as Stratovarius. It’s a thunderous effort that stands as the penultimate song on the record but, it is only one of the nine excellent songs featured on this debut. 

Kraven The Hunter kicks us off and while it’s got that NWOBHM punch and a shouted repeating chorus, it’s a delight for fans of soloing as guitarists Ingi Þórisson/Bjarni Þór Jóhannsson, bassist Kristleifur Þorsteinsson all get a solos in the middle eight. It’s a punchy opener that puts a smile on your face and a fist in the air. They take their inspiration from all of the classic power/symphonic bands, Evermore feels like Rhapsody meets Running Wild as it tells of sailing too far off lands, with Bjarni Egill Ögmundsson’s orchestrations and piano giving a cinematic sound. Atli Guðlaugsson’s piercing vocals are well in the realms of Michael Kiske or Jocaim Cans, delivering tracks such as Dark Crystal brilliantly as Óskar Rúnarsson adds some death growls, the speed metal feel driven by the relentless percussion of Einar Karl Júlíusson.

Single handedly trying to shift the Icelandic music scene into a more accessible realm Power Paladin's debut; With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel (an incredibly cheesy album name), is a brilliant album that fans of swords, sorcery and solos will love. 9/10

King Bastard - It Came From The Void (Self Released) [Rich P]

Heavy. That was going to be my one-word submission for this review for the debut from Long Island’s
King Bastard. That was the first thing that came to my head upon first listen; I was blown away by the
heaviness of this album. As you start to explore It Came From The Void more you get bits of a lot of
really great stuff. The mostly instrumental album brings the self-described “Psychedelic Filth” over the
six tracks. You can really vibe with the 70s space horror theme that is carried throughout, at times
feeling like you are on that ship floating to your doom. Or with the final track, Succumb To The Void,
alone in heavy space, with no ship, minutes before your oxygen runs out, marking the end with a nice
acoustic outro to really bring it home. 

This album makes you feel like you are there and does so amazingly with almost no vocals and just a few audio clips. Beginning to end you are engrossed in the story and can visualize the plight of the crew, leveraging many styles and instruments to get you there. You get the heavy doom on the opening track, From Hell To Horizon. Some heavy psych, with some nicely place saxophone on Kelper-452b. Some straight-out psych infused black metal on Psychosis (In A Vacuum), and that killer closing track where you get a bit of it all, including some keys, that bring a nice touch. I tend to lean more towards bands with vocals, but King Bastard has taken telling a story with (mostly) music alone to a new level. I did not need to crutch of the signer telling me what was happening on It Came From The Void, which is a testament to how good this album is, especially for a debut. 8/10