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Monday 14 February 2022

Reviews: Once Human, Firstdraft, Ty Morn, Hollis Brown (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Once Human - Scar Weaver (earMusic)

The Logan Mader/Lauren Hart metal machine return with their crushing sound for a third full length album. Scar Weaver goes further in terms of sound than their last two records, upping the technicality and brutality on this album. They did do something similar on the concept record Evolution, but this does it outside of the conceptual remit well, bringing the classic melo-death leads on Cold Arrival, but also fleshing the track out with huge synths in the background as it changes into almost an industrial battery. It's an intensely aggressive and hostile record, as all their albums are, this one though seems much more driven by rage than before. 

There's massive djent riffs (Eidolon), those oh so familiar Mader metalcore grooves, strewn throughout. Though Logan credits the bulk of this albums creative output to his co-guitarist Max Karon. This album has been almost on the back burner for a while, obviously due to the pandemic, but this extra time has meant that Scar Weaver features lots more experimentation. Much coming from vocalist Lauren Hart, who takes her place as one of the foremost vocalists around today effortlessly shifting between harsh growls and clean singing, but also everything in between. People will know Mader mainly from his time in Machine Head (he recently played with the band again), so it'll be a track like Deadlock that will really excite Machine Head fans as it features Robb Flynn. 

The songs are top drawer extreme metal, shifting through melodeath, death, metalcore, groove etc. There's quirkiness on Bottom Feeder which brings to mind Fear Factory, Deserted is thrashy, while their cover of SYL's is mega close to the original, even featuring Devy being Heavy. With a long gestation period, Scar Weaver is Once Human ascending to the lofty expectation that's been around them for a long while now. A superior release. 8/10

First Draft - Declines Are Long Gone (LyloProd)

First Draft are a French 2 piece consisting of Marine Arnoult (drums/vocals) and Clément Douam (bass), Declines Are Long Gone is their second album, 5 tracks of angsty, anthemic rock that has influences like, post-rock dynamism, Brit-pop haziness and shoegaze introspection. The lack of guitars is not at all a problem as tracks such as Time Hails No Sun benefit from Marine's propulsive percussion and attitude-filled vocals, Clément's bass playing, shimmering and thundering equally, driving the grooves of Kneel Down In Silence, has post-rock quiet/loud dynamism. 

The band fill their lyrics with philosophy and the challenges of the modern world, trying to inspire positivity. It's the sort of music that would have been featured heavily on those edgy TV shows in the mid nighties, big attitude and lots of feelings, that make First Draft part Garbage, part Mogwai and part Portishead. Delivering a message through inventive soundscapes that goes further than you'd expat for just a bass and drum duo. An intriguing listen but will appeal to a rabid fan base. 7/10  

Ty Morn – Last Villain Testament (Doc Gator Records)

First things first, I do love a good pun for an album title and this one is clever! Anyway back to the music and away from the realms of Susie Dent (sigh), Last Villain Testament is the second album from classic metal project Ty Morn, following the 2019 debut Istor. The main creative output for composer/musician Aron Biale, Last Villain Testament retains vocalist Raphael Gazal and drummer Per Mikkelsen from the first album, bringing in lead guitarists Joao Corceiro and Martin Szorad to flesh out the main bulk of the music created by Biale on bass/rhythm guitars/keys. Unlike Istor, the epic metal feel of bands like Manowar, Hammerfall etc has dissipated this time Aron much more focused on shorter more direct songs inspired by Diamond Head, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper, the tracks here balancing on that line between heavy metal and hard rock. 

Though it’s not as different to Istor stylistically as you may think, the songs are a little shorter but still performed with musical dexterity and a reverence for the influences. Hellastryke has got some backing choirs and galloping riffs, Wherever Demons Roam is a bit Teutonic coming from the Running Wild/Gamma Ray, Lifting The Curse has the pirate themes of Rockin Rolf. The only differences I can see is that there are one or two tracks that move closer to hard rock, but most of the album is still chest beating classic/power metal. It’s a partial concept record about and evil character called the Warlock and his observations with mans need for conflict and violence. 

There’s some war imagery, a bit of the occult and lots of classic metal tropes. But it’s an enjoyable record, for me the standout moment is Eyes Of The Many Gods, is one of the more theatrical songs here, feeling a bit like a Maiden epic, as that propulsive bass hook anchors the entire thing. However there is a lot to like and once again Aron Biale’s Ty Morn project is testament to the power of modern recording techniques and old school metal. 8/10

Hollis Brown – In The Aftermath (Mascot Label Group/Cool Green Recordings)

Recorded in one 24 hour session, fuelled by whiskey, In The Aftermath is New York band Hollis Brown’s recreation of the 1966 Rolling Stones album Aftermath. The band say that they wanted to capture their version of the album, which doesn’t always stay faithful to the original, as quickly and organically as possible. This is all well and good but my question would be why? I can understand perhaps recording an album of new material like this, especially since their last studio record was in 2019. Then throwing in a couple of covers at the end but recreating an entire album seems a little like jumping on a bandwagon. 

Now I know some of you will dive on me as we have reviewed the Ripple Music/Heavy Psych Sounds compilations that cover one artist or album, but that is usually various artists covering single songs. Not one band recreating an album, hell I wouldn't even mind if it was them re-recording their 2019 record for a more authentic feel. But no it's just them playing songs written by other people, in the public consciousness, no matter how 'lost' they may think this album is, it just seems a little pointless to rehash it, when a song such as Paint It Black has been done to death. 

They could have written a couple of their own tunes, along with a few covers, or even covers of different bands and put out an EP as a stopgap like most bands do. I'll give them it's well played, the Americana style of their music shines through but for me, I don't see the point. 4/10

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