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Friday 4 February 2022

Reviews: Persefone, Abhoria, Abysmal Dawn, Cosmic Order (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Matt Cook, Dr Claire Hanley & Rich P)

Persefone – Metanoia (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Following their excellent 2017 release Aathma was always going to be difficult for Andorran progressive/extreme metal band Persefone but now signed to Napalm Records they have unleashed their sixth opus Metanoia. Like with their previous 5 albums there is incredible technicality on display, but also melody and emotional power as well, all of this brought together in some of the most exciting progressive/melodic death metal of the year. 

Wilderun may have thrown down the gauntlet but Persefone are happy to step up to the challenge of trying to beat the Americans. Mixed by David Castillo and mastered by Tony Lindgren, Metanoia unleashes flurries of blast beats, swelling symphonic, hotshot guitar playing and versatile /clean/harsh vocals stylings from the opening moments Architecture Of I really displaying their experimental nature with off-kilter riffs. 

However following song Leap Of Faith is an evocative string laden instrumental that builds its orchestral layers across five minutes, to bring you into the middle part of the album. That kicks off with the symphonic metal styled Aware Of Being Watched and moves through the ferocious Merkabah a song that draws from Andorran heritage, into the 11 minute instrumental Consciousness (Pt.3), this again acts a transitional number into the closing three song suite Anabasis

This trio of songs displaying the full power of Persefone as a band as Pt 1 is an atmospheric, ethereal piece that is suddenly broken by the full bore tech death of Pt 2 the palm muted riffing and growls returning as it shifts into the dramatic piano refrains and electronic blips, the progressive nature of the band really being showcased as the 8 minutes flies by into the closing Pt 3 which has those strings and introspective piano again. 

The interplay between guitarists Carlos Lozano Quintanilla, Filipe Baldaia and keyboardist Miguel Espinosa Ortiz is absorbing throughout, they are the musical trifecta that drives this album. In the back room though Toni Mestre Coy’s downtuned basslines and Sergi Verdeguer Moyano’s explosive drumming are also at virtuoso levels, doing their bit on the heavy songs especially. Rounding things out is the duality of vocalist Marc Martins Pia adding depth and dynamism. Metanoia is a superior extreme metal album, which will certainly be featuring on some end of year lists. 9/10

Abhoria - Abhoria (Prosthetic Records) [Matt Cook]

After three or four complete playthroughs, Abhoria’s self-titled album resembles that of a well-oiled machine, familiar company firing on all cylinders with a backlog of acclaimed material to justify their confidence. The only problem? It’s the band’s debut. Despite the fact Walthrax utilizes vocal techniques and runs the table like he’s been doing it for 15 years. Despite the fact Vor assaults and manhandles their guitar in both groovy and frenetic ways. Despite the fact the band recorded their Prosthetic Records effort remotely and weren’t actually able to jam together in the same room until after the album was recorded. The band - self-appointed dystopian Black Metallers - immediately made it clear they have every right to share the spotlight with labelmates such as Undeath, Pupil Slicer, Venom Prison and Astralborne. 

The Thorn and Grave Expectations are particular standouts. The vocals are barbaric and imposing; the drums (courtesy of Jaud) bombastic; and the solo is equal parts chilling and cavernous on the former. The latter sees a catchy-as-fuck headbanger full of groove and chaotic drumlines that would certainly receive a nod of approval from behemoths Lamb Of God. False Idols, as the opening track, creates almost an epic fight scene, aided by raucous drumming and kick pedaling. Jaud also puts on a drumming clinic on UnevangelizedHollow is a straight run-through-a-brick-wall rager thanks to Walthrax’s consistently forceful vocals. 

It’s truly remarkable to think Abhoria’s discography has only just begun. Not only because of how polished and veteran-like the album sounds; there is much to be enthusiastic about in terms of what lies ahead. The folks over at Prosthetic knew they got their hands on something special. And Abhoria delivered a monumental collection of heavy riffing and galloping percussion that in eight tracks, firmly places them in the conversation when it comes to the leaders in modern black metal. 9/10

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier EP (Season Of Mist) [Dr Claire Hanley]

While their 2020 full-length Phylogenesis, showcased the band’s evolution and desire to push the boundaries of death metal, the follow up EP is a record heavily rooted in the past; featuring only a single new track alongside a reworking of a previous song, and two covers. The new material does not disappoint. A Nightmare Slain is full of attitude; a solo-laden offering, packed with frantic guitar riffs, blastbeats and cleverly composed, syncopated drum patterns. It’s absolutely crushing while also being incredibly melodic – not something that is easy to pull off. Apparently, it was written as a homage to the game ‘Bloodborne’, which means absolutely nothing to me, but I’ve included it here as useless trivia. You’re welcome. 

Unfortunately, the reworking of Blacken The Sky (from 2006’s From Ashes) was not as satisfying. It’s still got that groovy intro that builds into something far more menacing, and a thrash-esque intensity to the drumming, but the raw energy of the track has vanished in the production. Some of the intricacies and flair of the drumming are gone, and the vocal diversity and higher elements have been replaced with what come across as comparatively monotonous mids, despite my enjoyment of that signature raspy growl. Like putting a muzzle on a vicious animal, this feels muted and almost dull – when it comes to metal though, I’d sooner be mauled to death than be in the safe zone. 

Onto the covers. Up first we have Behind Space, taken from the album Lunar Strain by the one and only In Flames (one of my favourites from the band - more useless trivia for you). The punchy drums and razor-sharp guitars give the track the essential momentum it requires, and it’s certainly a solid tribute, but it’s not quite on par with the original. Lastly, we have the mother of all curve balls - Candlemass classic Bewitched. Hearing the band take on the Doom titans is certainly an experience – credit where it is due. As grindingly heavy, slow and laboured as it should be, the instrumental elements plod forward, with a Warrell Dane style vocal performance complimenting the darkness of the track. 

While the vocals play on the theatrical element, and are a terrific homage to Messiah Marcolin, not quite hitting those highs does leave the track somewhat lacking. Looking forward to hearing more new material from Abysmal Dawn although this particular EP largely failed to excite me. 6/10

Cosmic Order: Inner Temple (Argonauta Records) [Rich P]

Attending high school and college in the nineties, the bands of the “grunge” era are obviously a trigger for me when I see how artists of today describe themselves. This is especially true for me when you include names like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains, two of my absolute favorites, in your band bio. France’s Cosmic Order does just that (they listed Tool also, but more on that later), obviously piquing my interest immediately. But this can be a double-edged sword; now I am on high alert for the soaring, once in a lifetime vocals and unmistakable crunch of Soundgarden and the drug-addled, desperation and unique sound of AIC, which can be a distraction from what a great record that Cosmic Order has released with Inner Temple. You get some of that, but you also get so much more. 

I get the comparisons; kicking off the record with the track 8:16AM which you could have heard on rock radio or as an MTV buzz clip in 1994. Or Old Hag Attack, which could have been their cross over hit, slowing it down Black Hole Sun style. Or my favorite track, Plea(se), that would fit perfect on side two of Dirt. But what you also get are the gothic/Dark Wave vocals that could be from a band opening for the Sisters Of Mercy, reminding me of the great release by White Void from last year. I also hear the proggy elements that the Tool comparison brings, especially on a track like Better Life. But my mind went more to more of the nineties Voivod material than to Tool, which is a good thing. 

Cross The Line is another strong track, invoking that Tool comparison musically, but like on the rest of Inner Temple, the strong vocals make the songs their own, borrowing the best of what they love for something unique and truly enjoyable. Never mind the comparisons, this record rocks. Cosmic Order brings it on their debut. There are so many bands these days revisiting the glory days of nineties grunge, but Cosmic Order does it as good or better than most. The songs and production are all here, add the excellent vocals and you have an album that will stay with you and be on my year end list for sure. 8/10

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