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Monday 21 February 2022

Reviews: Firebreather, Bloodywood, Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side, Glasya (Reviews By David Karpel, Matt Cook, Richard Oliver & Simon Black)

Firebreather - Dwell In The Fog (RidingEasy Records) [David Karpel]

I come to Gothenburg, Sweden’s Firebreather and their new album, Dwell In The Fog, having
unfortunately missed their earlier efforts and therefore having not heard them previously at all. Hitting play, I’m clueless that I’m about to listen to an album that will no doubt be on quite a few AOTY lists. Wholly enveloping, the gargantuan sound is almost immediately reminiscent of Domkraft, label-mates Monolord, and High On Fire. Like those bands efforts, there’s so much more here than fortress-high, yards thick walls of deep toned fuzz. I know within the first half minute that I just walked into a darker place and my eyes need time to adjust. I’ve definitely missed stuff already. I’m going to have to go back… after I heed the call of curiosity and proceed all the way forward. 

Drone turns to melody turns to hooks bathed in molten swirls of blur. I can swear drummer Axel Wittbeck uses tree trunks for sticks. Percussion is pushed forward in production, which lets us feel their power and integral place in the band’s sound. Right there holding the bottom with Wittbeck is the thunking bass, handled by Nicklas Hellqvist, whose feet are grounded in magma because he plays like he’s eternally burning and enjoying every minute of it. The drums smash rhythms, the bass drives and pummels, and both buttress the raging vocals and waves of guitar melodies with space to expand. It’s important to note that Mattias Nööjd’s vocals are no mere hellish growl. His is a guttural fury expressed with proto-metal melodic instincts and the delivery of an awakening volcano. Emotive, at times despairing, and often cathartic, Nööjd’s voice is the expression of another wrathful instrument in the band’s arsenal. 

The opening doom-stoner prog-sludge of Kiss Of Your Blade exemplifies the aggressive, chanting, melodic, grooving tones that carry through the rest of the songs, this one driven relentlessly by the sledgehammer drums and tectonic bass lines. Next, Dwell In The Fog starts clean with guitar and bass following a line right into a wall of storms with subtle changes built layer upon layer. Mourning vocals come in low with a blues delivery until Nööjd lets loose, his call a climb up a craggy mountain into relentless storm clouds. This brings us to the masterful Weather The Storm. A quiet start until the churn of a pugnacious, stomping groove drives forward with thunderous drum rolls and howling war cry yawps. Then the riff changes gear to build an entrancing guitar solo girded by the rhythmic pile driving drums and the titanic bass. When the chorus comes, triumphant, shredding chords progress and fray and rise and finally break off into a clean-strummed almost ethereal close. 

The powerful Sorrow continues to amplify these themes with some more riffian psychedelics and The Creed follows with an almost elusive Wo Fat boogie smothered in controlled chaos on top of 2 tons of Iommi blues. Opening with a light march, the final song, Spirit’s Flown, flowers into the apotheosis of all of the best elements of the previous songs. After a welcomed soft start, the instruments plow forward like war machines and Nööjd chants his unique melodies as the guitars flow bright and hot as lava. Sorrowful, wrathful, or hopeful, each song is immensely percussive, droning, and layered with melody. Psychedelic sections open more portals into further emotional realms brought back to molten earth with Nööjd’s melodic growls. Dwell In The Fog is a tremendous album that expands the genre ever more so to include seemingly disparate metal elements into a delicious aural experience. 10/10

Bloodywood - Rakshak (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

Coming from someone who is solidly averse to Nu-Metal as a genre, Bloodywood served up one of the more exciting and unique albums I’ve heard in some time, regardless of label. Rakshak – the self-released effort – is the brainchild of Karan Katiyar, who took care of both the composition and production. It could have been the ever-present wind flute, the hard-to-shake sheer catchiness throughout or the fact that WWE and UFC are both name-dropped in the same line. To keep it real: this was a lot of fun. Seriously, how can you not enjoy the lyric “Hitler thought he was the shit / but in the end he gon’ lose”? 

From the start, Aaj is guided by a lightning fast keyboard as if it were written for a Legends of Zelda speedrun. Chakh Le is as hooky as they come, and the trio from India wonderfully create southeast Asian melodies. Jee Veery brings the massive vocals thanks to Jayant Bhadula. The rap-hardcore vocal dynamic knocks it out of the park. Not in the least because on Gaddaar, Raoul Kerr enthuses “None of that fake shit WWE/Cause you know we keep it real like the UFC.” For a genre that has never effectively kept my attention, Rakshak stands as the catalyst for change. 

The chemistry between vocalists; the precision and seamless flow of the rap sections; and the inherent folk metal aided by the Dhol, Tumbi and many other Indian instruments makes for a rollicking good time. Obviously, Bloodywood are the outlier in this genre, both because of from which they hail and the instruments they introduce. But that’s what makes them so great: they do what they want, how they want it. And I am thoroughly grateful for that, and thrilled for what the future holds. 8/10

Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side - Miles From Nowhere (InsideOut Music) [Richard Oliver]

Miles From Nowhere is the second full album from Swedish multi-instrumentalist Jonas Lindberg and his Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side progressive rock project. Forming in 2012, the project has maintained a stable line up which has carried over from the previous album Pathfinder as well as featuring a number of special guests. The music on Miles From Nowhere is very in a classic melodic progressive rock style but is a tour de force in both musicianship and songwriting. The album is made up of seven tracks which range from fairly compact 5-6 minute songs to 25 minute prog epics. 

There is plenty going on throughout the album and the longer songs are the most effective with plenty of shifts and ebbs helping maintain my interest throughout the songs length. Some of the shorter songs are vastly enjoyable as well such as the straightforward pop rock of Little Man and the jaunty Why I’m Here. The epics were the clear highlights for me such as the gorgeous folk-leaning Summer Queen, the guitar driven Oceans Of Time and the monolithic title track which at over 25 minutes is the band throwing everything in their arsenal at you whilst at the same time putting together an incredible well crafted piece of music. 

The album contains a large number of vocalists and musicians with vocal duties shared out between Jonas Sundqvist and Jenny Storm with backing vocals provided by Jonas Lindberg himself. Amongst the countless musicians appearing on the album you get Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings & Transatlantic) guesting some guitar work on the title track as well as Jonas Lindberg’s brother Joel Lindberg providing lead guitars on Why I’m Here. Although a lot of progressive rock of this scale and magnitude can end up being a bit bloated, that is certainly not the case with Miles From Nowhere

The musicianship and songwriting skills involved really carry these songs and ensure even the most gigantic of songs are afforded material that keeps them interesting throughout. This is definitely a must-hear album for prog fans. 8/10

Glasya – Attarghan (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

This Portuguese six piece are the second record of music influenced by 60’s and 70’s movie soundtracks that I have come across in as many weeks, so clearly this is something of a movement at the moment. This one clearly is looking to the likes of Ben Hur for tonal influence, but despite this Cinematic concept this actually sounds first and foremost like a Symphonic Metal release, with a good dollop of Power Metal concept album lore for good measure. 

Unlike others in the genre, this means that the soundtrack feel comes from a number of spoken word elements threaded throughout the piece, rather than just the usual cheesy introduction - but boy, we do get that as well, with one uncredited member of the band taking on chunks of the story throughout in the titular character using a voice that deserves the nickname ‘Deep Throat’. That means little story fillers not only mixed into the tracks, but within songs themselves – a bit like Queen using snippets of dialogue from the Flash Gordon movie in their soundtrack album. This actually really helps the storytelling aspect enormously, which depending on the vocal style deployed can be a challenge for the more casual listener on many concept records. 

Most arc-based albums require either a diligent analysis of the lyric sheet or many listens to start to unpeel the conceptual onion, but this approach means you get the story on the first pass. It’s a highly effective technique, and if I think about it, arguably the most successful Metal concept album I have ever come across – Queensrÿche’s seminal Operation: Mindcrime does exactly the same thing. The story is about the trials and tribulations of a Persian General who switches sides to defend the people invaded by the early Persians. 

Where it struggles is in length, which at nearly an hour and ten minutes of run time requires a lot of investment and focus no matter how much they try and support the listener narratively, which in this day and age is a big ask. In Glasya’s favour though is a rich and layered grasp of musical abilities. Many Symphonic acts walk a fine line between the repetitive and the overly technical, but that’s not happening here. Instead we get songs that stand distinctly from each other and pretty much a good song-writing backbone throughout. 

Vocalist Eduarda Soeiro’s Operatic Soprano style, which could give Floor Jansen a run for her money is an absolute asset and fits the tone of the piece well and with other male members of the band providing a range of supporting vocal styles it gives the piece the depth, range and epic quality that the piece deserves. It’s not the most fascinating of stories, but the fact that it can be so easily followed is a big tick for me. Perhaps a little too long in duration, but nonetheless a masterclass in how to focus on getting a story across in a market drowning in concept albums. 7/10

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