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Tuesday 15 February 2022

Reviews: Hangman's Chair, Pyrrhic Salvation, Veonity, City Of Lights (Reviews By Rich P, Charlie Rogers, Simon Black & Matt Bladen)

Hangman’s Chair - A Loner (Nuclear Blast) [Rich P]

Hangman’s Chair have been a long-time purveyor of the “doom” that many of you know and love. I have seen comparisons to Type O Negative and Paradise Lost thrown around a lot when talking about the French band, which was pretty accurate (if not a bit lazy) for their first five albums, with each release producing more and more than your boilerplate doom offerings from record to record. Album number six, A Loner, brings a new element to Hangman’s Chair, where more shoegaze, atmospheric, post rock vibes start to shine through, combining with their expertise of doom to bring an exciting offering, which is saying something six records into their career.

An Ode To Breakdown is a strong opener, with soaring, harmonic vocals, and a sense of melancholy you get throughout A Loner (go figure with that title). The second track Cold & Distant is just that, while recalling the 2020 classic release, Inlet by Hum. I hear a lot of a band like Hum throughout this record, which is a REALLY good thing. Who Wants To Die Old does recall to that Paradise Lost comparison and adds those soaring vocals, which is a strong point overall on A Loner

The title track, and my favorite on the album, is more of an upbeat track musically to start, but here comes a Type O type slowdown in the middle, combined with those excellent vocals again makes this a standout of the nine tracks on the record. Again, think more atmospheric post rock than doom, but excellent, nonetheless. I always want a strong closer on an emotional album like A Loner, and A Thousand Miles Away brings just that. Almost ten minutes of melancholy with the shoegaze-y guitar parts and those layered harmonies that make the vocals the strongest part of the album.

While just a casual fan of the band before, A Loner has prompted me to go back and revisit the Hangman’s Chair discography in more detail. You can get bogged down with all of bands bringing the doom these days, but you can hear on A Loner that Hangman’s Chair is not your run of the mill tuned down Type O or PL clone. While A Loner does drag a bit in the middle, musically and vocally this record soars, and is recommended for anyone who wants to bring some heavy melancholy into their lives. Good Stuff. 8/10

Pyrrhic Salvation - Manifestum I (Self Released) [Charlie Rogers]

6 years after releasing their demo, Virginia’s Pyrrhic Salvation come forth with their first almost-full-length release. I say almost-full-length because at 5 tracks and at 28 minutes long, Manifestum I exists in the undefined zone between an EP and an album. This seems apt given the chaotic and mysterious nature of the music, which blends elements of tech death and grindcore together to form a strange, almost Lovecraftian sound - the more you try to analyze it, the less you understand. 

Moving from razor sharp riffing into more open passages, into discordant and messy sections, then being grabbed by otherworldly moments of groove that hook you in before the melodies fall apart again, leaving you confused and lost in the nebula of non-connected notes. 

There’s a lot going on, and I’m not entirely sure it all works. The guitar tone can get rather nasally at times, with some of the frantic lead passages meandering away like the insane ramblings of a sentient table saw. The drums have a very live and human feel to them, with some moments where you truly question whether they’re there to keep time or just add an oppressive hammering noise. Vocally, the textures fit the madness perfectly, with phrases teetering on the edge of insanity blending extremely well with the maelstrom conjured by the instrumentation. 

I just wish the bass tone had more than just lows to it, as in its current form you miss out on some of the upper delights that using a fretless can bring to a record. Booming out at the bottom of the sound wall seems like a waste of what sounds like some quite tasty playing. Overall the production has a DIY vibe to it, with parts that feel like an attempt to polish was made, but an overall grimeyness to the sound that fits the madness of the music. 

Not a game changer of a record, but certainly seeds of something new in here. It’ll be interesting to see what Pyrrhic Salvation do next, but if you’re pressed for time and the idea of tech death meets grindcore doesn’t appeal to you, don’t feel bad about skipping this. 5/10

Veonity - Elements Of Power (Scarlet Records) [Simon Black]

I first came across Veonity with the release of their Sorrows album back in 2020, and at the time remember being struck how for a power metal album they had with a timely sense of delivery, landed an unusually dark and moody album than you might have expected. This, their fifth studio offering, is in the much more traditional territory that you would expect from Northern Euro Power acts, with a much more up tempo feel, keyset and beat – plus of course the obligatory concept story. In some ways that’s a shame, as the darker feel last time out was one of the things that made the release stand out, as well as giving reign for vocalist and guitarist Anders Sköld to really push his performance beyond the norms. 

This time round he’s no less impressive, but with upbeat melody and a lot more pace being the order of the day, this really feels like a four piece at work in the arrangements, rather than the feeling that there was one extra member last time round. There’s always a risk this may happen when you are doubling up an instrument and vocals in a high tempo situation, with the end result being that the vocal melodies are following the chord melody lines really closely. Musically these guys remain tight as you like, with some really well delivered bits of blistering technical brilliance that raise the eyebrows when you least expected it, and the album also manages a strong stand out anthemic Power, floor-filler for the festival circuit in Curse Of The Barren Plains, which although clichéd as fuck has a really catchy melody line and keyboard riff. 

That said, when things get the most complex is also when they get to be the most noteworthy – Blood Of The Beast, being the stand out example of this. Mood wise it would have fitted well on the previous outing – it’s darker and moodier and the arrangements flex a little and once again allow Sköld to dominate vocally, even though the overall feeling is of a more accessible song. Last time round the album worked because it wasn’t doing the same old things so many power metal records do. To be honest, I’m not going to get dragged into the ins and outs of the concept’s story – frankly, the music needs to stand on its own first and foremost. This time round they are following those standard Power tropes somewhat, but fortunately because the execution remains flawless, they pull it off, although perhaps not quite as memorably as last time round. 7/10

City Of Lights - Before The Sun Sets (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

I wasn't sure what to expect with this record, another Frontiers collab, another melodic rock band, ho hum. However dear reader I was wrong as Before The Sun Sets is a premier example of how to do melodic rock well. British songwriter/guitarist Neil Austin and Greek vocalist Manos Fatsis are the two men that City Of Lights is built around and they are the real driving force, Austin's songwriting inspired by the current crop of European AOR bands and those 80's legends. 

Recruiting Fatsis on vocals has proved to be an inspired choice as he possess' one of those ideal melodic rock vocals. Gritty, passionate and melodic, he handles rockers and ballads with ease giving his all to both as Austin cranks out some slick guitar riffs and programs the lush walls of synth. With songs in the works Austin recruited the sibling rhythm section of Degreed, Robin and Mats Eriksson, on bass/drums respectively, to give that authentic melodic rock heartbeat. 

At its heart Before The Sun Sets blends the style of new school bands such as Degreed/Creye with the older sound cultivated by Journey and Bad English. The final title track especially could have come off any Journey album you'd care to mention, a chest beating ballad that never is too saccharine. To flesh out the tracks here Nathan Doyle, Daniel Johansson (Degreed), Christoffer Borg (Taste/ex-Art Nation), and Mike Kyriakou all add guitar solos, Mikael Blanc (Degreed) also has a nifty key solo. 

Rockers such as Racing On The Redline, Giving Me Back Heart and Midnight Club are balanced with more mid-paced anthems like Put Your Heart On The LineEmilySnake Eyes (which half inches both a deep Purple and Gary Moore riff)  and of course big ballads such as Joanna and Dying Light. With massive production and backing choirs Before The Sun Sets is a slice of melodic rock, that impresses throughout. 8/10 

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