Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Thursday 31 March 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Killing Joke & The Imbeciles (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Killing Joke & The Imbeciles, Tramshed Cardiff, 28.03.22

The Imbeciles

Hailing from New York, The Imbeciles (6) play Americana infused rock music, with a psychedelic element. Built around three guitars, bass, drums and harmony vocals there's a hint of another band called Howlin Rain, whom I'm very familiar with, there's even some Tom Petty influences too. Though with a dirty NY punk edge too. Having originally been a punk band, they have evolved into the pub rock style which as I've said also incorporates those fleeting touches of Americana and psych. A little out of place on this bill, which the sheer number in the smoking area showed. However, they have had a working relationship with Youth producing their second record so that's probably why they have got the gig. A decent enough rock band to get the show started but it was clear that the majority were here for the headliner only.

Killing Joke

With the throbbing pulse between the bands building, it was time for Killing Joke (7), who came to the stage assuming their positions on stage. Vocalist Jaz Coleman, drummer Paul Ferguson, guitarist Geordie Walker and bassist Youth, with keyboardist Roi Robertson (who was relegated to the side of stage) then dove straight into the classic double tap of Love Like Blood and Wardance.

The now full room jumping and chanting in unison, the heavy bass throb and drumbeats of Youth and Paul Ferguson massively overpowering everything else on stage. That meant the guitars were sidelined to a distorted fuzz and Coleman's wild vocals and sneering lyrical prowess was barely audible. It seems as if Coleman himself was having some difficulty as well constantly trying to hear himself when he was singing. He also seemed to avoiding the monitors in the middle of the stage due to moments of feedback. If it was as loud on stage as it was in front of the audience then I can understand the struggle.

Performance wise Killing Joke are great to watch Jaz shifting around the stage like he's possessed, imbued by the spirit of their music. Paul's drumming both primal and tribal, Youth takes lead bass with lots of pedal work and fuzzing low end that's throbbing and distorted as Geordie's guitar playing has an animalistic bite, the keys doing some layering that was Gothic, harsh and menacing.

Originally a post-punk outfit, their sound has adapted in recent years adding more industrial metal influences, leading to them being a much heavier prospect live. Unfortunately due to the sound issues, for the casual observer, myself included, a lot of the songs blended into one long stomach churning industrial dirge. There were moments of brilliance, that showed why they are such an influential band to acts such as Metallica, Faith No More, Nirvana etc but in the Tramshed, they were perhaps a little too loud, I know I sound old but there is a point where volume becomes noise. 

Not that the faithful Killing Joke fans cared as they were bouncing throughout the entire set. Even when it drew to a close quite abruptly due to going over the time allowed for their set. Influential, experimental and unique in their position as a band, they just weren't at 100% tonight.

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Scrape (Heat #2 02.04.22)

Interview With Scrape By Matt Bladen

MoM: Introduce yourselves/remind everyone who you guys are. Band name, members, style etc?

SCRAPE: We are SCRAPE from South Wales. Chris Sibley (Vocals) Darren Vanstone (Guitar) Chris Andrews (Drums) and Ian Pickens (Bass) We could be best described as a hybrid of Hardcore/Thrash Metal/Stoner Rock. We’ve been on the South Wales scene in various forms for the best part of 30 years, but SCRAPE has been around since 2019.

MoM: How have the last year(s) been for the band? What have you been up too?

SCRAPE: Like everybody else Covid put a spanner in the works as far as gigging goes, but we managed to record our debut E.P Armed With A Mindset in Bristol last Summer and get that out on Bandcamp and there’s been a steady flow of gigs since.

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

SCRAPE: We’ve all attended the M2TM shows over the years and Sib, our singer participated in a heat at Fuel a few years back with his former band Stitched Up and had an awesome time in doing so.

MoM: How are you feeling entering the M2TM format back as it should be? Playing in front of a crowd again?

SCRAPE: Really looking forward to it, a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone and we cant wait to get on that stage again and hopefully introduce some people to our band, who may otherwise may not have checked us out

MoM: What would it mean to you to play Bloodstock?

SCRAPE: What we like about Bloodstock, is that it still largely retains that “underground” vibe so mixing it up with a host of bands who’ve influenced us over the years along with bands who continue to inspire us would be a massive privilege, but we are also hoping that these M2M gigs will also work the other way and open up people’s minds to the local scene and encourage them to support their local venues and bands.

MoM: Tell us two truths and one lie about the band?


1. One of us used to be a champion sprinter
2. One of us was once a roadie for Snoop Dogg
3. One of us once out drunk Dimebag Darrell

MoM: Finally give us a four word rundown of what to expect?

SCRAPE:Blood, Sweat, Riffs, Threats

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Kill By Mouth (Heat #2 02.04.22)

Interview With Kill By Mouth By Matt Bladen

MoM: Introduce yourselves/remind everyone who you guys are. Band name, members, style etc?

Kill By Mouth: Cassar on vocals and guitar, Simon Merrifield on bass and James Langston on drums. We are a Groove Metal band with Hardcore and other influences in our music. There’s a bit of Death and Black Metal in there as well as a shit load of Thrash! We listen to a wide range of music and it all seeps in to our music in some small way! Most people say we are like a groove metal so we went with that, Prong , Sepultura etc, all good stuff!

MoM: How have the last year(s) been for the band? What have you been up to?

Kill By Mouth: Although we, like many, were affected enormously by the pandemic, we kept on writing and where possible recorded songs at Unit 13, Tredegar. But now we are ramping up our work, playing more gigs across South Wales, recently playing Bristol for the first time and now looking to go further afield. We are also going to complete the recording for our self-released album in the very near future!

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

Kill By Mouth: We have all been to Bloodstock as festival goers multiple times. It’s a great weekend, fantastic line ups you don’t see in other festivals. We regard Bloodstock as the number 1 Metal festival in the UK by far. It’s our first time entering the Metal 2 The Masses and we are very much looking forward to it.

MoM: How are you feeling entering the M2TM format back as it should be? Playing in front of a crowd again?

Kill By Mouth: We are so stoked to play M2TM, Fuel and Cardiff. We love playing live in front of a crowd, nothing beats the feeling of playing live, making Noise. It makes us who we are! Also meeting, making new friends in the crowd and the other bands. It’s going to be a great night.

MoM: What would it mean to you to play Bloodstock?

Kill By Mouth: Well to share a festival with the biggest acts in Metal would be such an experience, it would be with us for the rest of our lives as a career highpoint. Bloodstock’s a household name in the metal community and the Bloodstock name carries major credentials for any band who plays it. To be part of that would give Kill By Mouth a massive boost in so many ways. 

The Metal 2 The Masses is important to bands like us across the UK as it gives us a chance to aspire in venues across the Britain with a likeminded audience. We can’t think of any other festival giving the grassroots a chance like this. It many ways it shows the camaraderie in Metal and makes Bloodstock more than a festival, it’s looking after the future of Metal and it’s fans.

MoM: Tell us two truths and one lie about the band?

Kill By Mouth: 

1. Kill by Mouth has been a solo ,duo, trio, quartet and back to a trio.

2. Before playing live ,we huddle and chant ,”Praise be to King Diamond ,Praise be to King


3. Two of us in the band have been a support act for Napalm Death.

MoM:  Finally give us a four word rundown of what to expect?

Kill By Mouth: Headbanging! Slamming! Metal Blast!!!

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Reviews: Meshuggah, Absent In Body, Pattern Seeking Animals, Gen & The Degenerates (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Meshuggah - Immutable (Atomic Fire Records)

Vocalist Jens Kidman, guitarists Mårten Hagström and Fredrik Thordendal, bassist Dick Lövgren and drummer Tomas Haake, make up the pioneering Swedish metal band Meshuggah. The godfathers of the tech-metal/djent they have finally returned with their ninth album Immutable the follow up to their 2016 record The Violent Sleep Of Reason. To say this record is much anticipated would be to undersell it as, Meshuggah are one of those bands that inspire devotion and memes...so many memes. So what does Immutable bring to the party? More riffs, palm muted, downtuned, grooving riffs, a powerful rhythm section built on off kilter, fuzzy low ends and bludgeoning drums. 

Meshuggah are a machine, the songs on this record are full of the mechanical rhythms and a heaviness that could level cites, but also Immutable sees the band adapting their style, picking from industrial, post-metal and even ambient bands, relying much more heavily on atmospheric instrumentals than Jen Kidman's vocals, though they are still conjure lots of gurning. The band apparently approached this album with as few restraints as possible and it shows, although of course they have always been a forward thinking band. However it seems that with such a long time between albums they have managed to experiment a little bit more and in different ways. 

That Abysmal Eye is classic Meshuggah, jammed to the gunnels with the that style that inspired an entire genre, it's progressive, polyrhythmic and features a mind-melting syncopated lead break however in opposition to the more esoteric opener Broken Cog which features whispers and the industrial twinge of bands like Fear Factory, Ligature Marks is much more technical, but also in some ways more direct, using some distinct one note, building atop the relentless rhythm section, while the final song Past Tense is brooding, dark finale. 

Those added elements come on They Move Below, an 8 minute, instrumental offering, building from auspicious beginnings for an impressive feat. At 13 songs Immutable is a weighty record that may put off the casual listener, but for anyone who loves the progressive experience of Meshuggah Immutable is another mind melting stop on their groundbreaking musical journey. 8/10    

Absent In Body - Plague Of God (Relapse Records)

Any band that features Amenra guitarist Mathieu J. Vandekerckhove, Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Scott Kelly, Amenra vocalist/bassist Colin H. Van Eeckhout and Iggor Cavalera on drums, you know is going to hit hard and probably mean that if you listen to it, you'll probably not be able do much without having an existential crisis. 

Plague Of God is a nihilistic vision of the world, conceived by some of the post-metal/sludge royalty and delivered with as much fuzz, feedback and ominous noise as possible. Rise In Ruins, the first offering on this album, has already been used as the theme for 'The House Of Black' in AEW, is both indicative and in some ways isn't at all of what this record offers. It's a sprawling, crushing, despair ridden piece with a low end that hits the subsonic and vocals that range from unsettling whispers to manic screams. This sense of unease and foreboding pressure continues as the record slams you with one gargantuan sludge riff after another, pausing only for yet more creepy atmospherics. The heaviness increases on In Spirit In Spite, crushing industrial grind give way to throbbing spectral clean guitars distorted rhythms and spoken word elements, which strangely is more potent in being emotive. 

Plague Of God is 6 songs but when they are all despair ridden lumps of white hot rage then any more than the 35 minutes of anguish. The industrial percussion on Sarin some may say is understated playing from Cavalera but it still hits home, while his tribal-like beginnings can be heard on The Acres/The Ache, he's often beneath a bass sound from Eeckhout that sounds deliberately blown out and ghostly and twin guitars from Vandekerckhove and Kelly that resonate with heavily distorted riffs and lingering single note harmonics. Engulfing you totally in hopelessness the crushing The Half Rising Man closes things out without any feeling of redemption or catharsis. After Plague Of God you'll want to lay down in a dark room and contemplate existence and that's precisely what Absent In Body want you to do. 9/10

Pattern Seeking Animals - Only Passing Through (Inside Out Music)

A band that can be considered to be a Spock's Beard off-shoot, Pattern Seeking Animals return with their third studio album. Still featuring the talents of (Spock's Beard/Enchant) vocalist/guitarist Ted Leonard along with Jimmy Keegan on drums/vocals (ex- Spock's Beard), Dave Meros on bass (Spock's Beard) and songwriter/producer/keyboardist John Boegehold (ex-Spock's Beard). So like with their previous two records there's going to be a hell of a lot Spock's Beard, Genesis, Yes and 70's prog rock influences that come through on Only Passing Through.
I Can't Stay Here Anymore is very indicative of their sound, bright breezy rhythms, drenched in synths, with time changes throughout and glorious harmony vocals from Leonard and Keegan like the ones that many will recognise from Gabriel/Collins or Morse/D'Virgilio. It's the most Spock's Beard/Genesis sounding track on the record, then followed by the mammoth Time Has A Way, a labyrinthine 10+ minute progger that uses every prog trick in the play book for full Yes vibes, including percussion and some horns too, and that's just in the first four minutes.

If this wasn't a 10 track record I'd say that Time Has A Way would be the centerpiece but this is prog so band third track in followed by the nostalgic, whimsical Rock Paper Scissors as they changes styles multiple times from the dramatic, synthy Said The Stranger and more Yesisms come on Here With You With Me. Sticking to a familiar template Pattern Seeking Animals, have certainly found their musical pattern on this third studio record in as many years. Classic prog rock sounds updated for the modern ear. 7/10 

Gen And The Degenerates - Only Alive When In Motion EP (Marshall Records)

Only Alive When In Motion is the debut EP from alternative rockers Gen And The Degenerates. Fronted by vocalist Genevieve Glynn-Reeves aka Gen, it's her excellent, irreverent, snotty, soulful vocals that take pride of place as the focal point of the band, with odes to Florence & The Machine, Gossip, Skunk Anansie (who they will be on tour with this year) and the unhinged energy of bands like PiL and Turbowolf. 

The lyrics of this EP draw heavily from Gen's past experiences with past/abusive/traumatic relationships on Crying War, her "origin story as a bi-sexual supervillian" on the shout along Wild Thing a clarion call to do you, no matter what others think. There's a huge amount of empowerment in her lyrics, built around breezy, hard rocking instrumentals. The funky Adore Me deals with mental illness, while it's Girl, God, Gun for me is the best song on the record, a 'proper' hard rock track, stacked on Evan Reeves' drumbeat, that apparently got them signed in the first place. 

It's obvious that someone over at Marshall Records has taste as Only Alive When In Motion is  that rare breed of EP that captures what a band do brilliantly, leaving you wanting more. AC/DC-like riff on Burn Your Pedestal anchored by the thrusting bass lick from Jay Humphreys and distorted stabs from Sean Healand-Stone and Jacob Stones, Crying Wat meanwhile is bluesy opener that sets a slow anthemic burn for the album. Crafted for their incendiary live show with lots of call and response. An impressive EP, I suggest you get down early if you're attending any of those Skunk Anansie shows. 8/10   

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Risperidrone (Heat #1 01.04.22)

Interview With Risperidrone By Matt Bladen

MoM: Introduce yourselves/remind everyone who you guys are. Band name, members, style etc?

Risperidrone: We're a 4 piece band with members scattered across Cardiff and Bath, formerly known as Junk DNA we reformed in 2020 as Risperidrone with the line up of Elliot Murphy on vocals, Wigg Grant on guitar, Rob Edwards on bass and Tom Kirkby on drums. We play groovy hard rock with doom/stoner rock influences and riffs that slap harder than Will Smith on Oscar night

MoM: How have the last year(s) been for the band? What have you been up to? 

Risperidrone: The pandemic has been a bit different for us than most bands, as we formed in 2020 to record an EP in the depths of lockdown. In a way it kind of helped to have the time to focus on writing a bunch of material but we've all really missed playing live, and now that things are slowly getting back to normal we're hyped to start gigging

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past? 

Risperidrone: We actually played M2TM way back in 2016 as Junk DNA, it was a really good atmosphere there and it's awesome to be taking part in it again after such a long time

MoM: How are you feeling entering the M2TM format back as it should be? 

Risperidrone: It's the first gig in years for all of us so to put it bluntly, shitting ourselves. But in a good way

MoM: What would it mean to you to play Bloodstock? 

Risperidrone: It would be amazing to get the chance to play at a festival as big as Bloodstock, it would be absolutely surreal to be able to say we're playing at the same festival as some of the huge names that are there this year

MoM: Tell us two truths and one lie about the band? 


1. Nobody in the band could use a plectrum until a few months ago
2. We were all born and raised in Cardiff
3. Half of our songs on the EP were recorded before they were ever played by the full band

MoM: Finally give us a four word rundown of what to expect? 

Doom, headbanging, sweat and beers

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Catalysts (Heat #1 01.04.22)

Interview With Catalysts By Matt Bladen

MoM: Introduce yourselves/remind everyone who you guys are. Band name, members, style etc?


David Challenger: Vox
Elliot Blake: Guitar/Synths
Craig O’Connor: Guitar
Paul Owen: Bass
Haitham Alhardan: Drums

Electronic Melodic Metal

MoM: How have the last year(s) been for the band? What have you been up to? 

Catalysts: We’ve been lucky enough to release our 6 track EP Sparks this year, so it’s been great to get our music out there on the major streaming platforms. We’ve also had loads of fun filming our music videos for Sparks, Sylvia, Alive and our cinematic masterpiece that is The Otherside. We were literally playing with fire on that one.

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past? 

Catalysts: We are M2TM virgins

MoM: How are you feeling entering the M2TM format back as it should be? 
Catalysts: We are looking forward to playing live again and being part of the M2TM community.

MoM: What would it mean to you to play Bloodstock? 

Catalysts: It’s will be a fantastic experience to play our music live on such an prestigious stage and line up.

MoM: Tell us two truths and one lie about the band? 


1.We recently had latest single Sparks used on Soccer AM. 
2. Certain members were tour support for Pink. 
3. We’re known as the most good looking band in South Wales

MoM: Finally give us a four word rundown of what to expect? 

Catalysts: We’re the future butt

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Reviews: Von Hertzen Brothers, Leslie West Tribute, Bomber, Night Crowned (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Von Hertzen Brothers - Red Alert In The Blue Forest (Doing Being Music)

Red Alert In the Blue is the eighth offering from Nordic siblings Von Hertzen Brothers. After adding many more radio friendly melodies and shorter timings to their music in recent years. Much of their audience were drawn in by the longer, progressive structures from their earlier records. Always an intriguing, enlightening and entertaining listen VHB, have taken in to consideration the 2+ years of lockdowns etc to focus on making this new record one that goes back to their roots, figuratively and literally. Figuratively by conceptually basing the album around the climate emergency, these Finns burn bright on this album, putting environmentally charged lyrics in all of the 11 songs that feature. 

Literally by this record just being the three brothers Jonne, Kie and Mikko, recording in their native Finland and releasing it through an independent label. The three men are polymaths as I'v discussed before so let loose in their studio they have decided to hark back to their earlier years with intricate, multilayered musical explorations that still retain the melodic, accessibility of their most recent albums. Red Alert... starting creepily and inauspiciously with Day Of Reckoning, those lush vocal harmonies and some delicate synth and guitars, building and building, until it opens into some the driving straight ahead rocking of Nine Lives and A New Day Rising, a fist pumper of an opener welcoming you back into the musically dense world of VHB. 

Blue Forest is the first longer song, coming in at over 8 minutes, this again starts with an introspective, but righteous message of deforestation, before oddly then building into full EDM, all electronic drum loops and pulsating synths. The brothers then take us to a campfire with the folksy, percussive, acoustic The Promise and the definitive single of the album All Of A Sudden You're Gone, which is simplistic number, but one that has a huge amount of depth behind that sing along chorus. Despite the hard hitting lyrical inspiration of the climate emergency, VHB look for hope on Red Alert... and you get that on tracks such as Peace Patrol which features a parping Pink Floyd/King Crimson like sax solo and soaring guitar solos. Pirates Of  The Raseborgian meanwhile has a shanty-like style to it, Anil taking heavily from Yes.    

In conjunction with the album the brothers have set up the The Blue Forest project which is a combination of music, art and nature conservation! Featuring 12 artists donating paintings inspired by the album to be sold at auction to protect the forest area of Southern Finland, so Red Alert In The Blue Forest not only sounds good, but also does good. The band putting their money where their mouth is. Musically adventurous as usual but with a clear message. VHB bring back the prog on Red Alert In The Blue Forest. 8/10

Leslie West - Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West (Provogue Records)

Leslie West was true guitar great. The main driving force in Mountain along with bassist/vocalist Felix Pappalardi, his unique style, phrasing and songwriting has been an influence to a myriad of artists in various genres. Already in the works as a retrospective collection of West re-recording some of his best known works before his death in 2020. After his untimely passing this record then became a tribute to the great man. Compiled and executive produced by his widow Jenni, his manager Bob Ringe and music industry veteran John Lappen, Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West, is probably the ultimate kudos for one rock music's most influential. Featuring an all star cast of performers, there were queues around the block to be on the album. 

With the exception of two tracks, West's longtime rhythm section of bassist Rev Jones and Bobby Rondinelli power these songs, the guest artists then adding their parts. Most of the the tracks special guest vocal and guitar performances the majority of the vocal turns done by Ronnie Romero (Lords Of Black/Rainbow) who is paired up with top gun six stringers such as Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Robby Krieger (The Doors) and Elliot Easton (Cars), for some of the deeper cuts on this record while there's also the vocal excellence of Joe Lynn Turner on tracks such as Nantucket Sleighride and For Yasgur's Farm where West's guitar playing is emulated by shred lord Marty Friedman and Martin Barre (ex-Jethro Tull). 

You can hear the way the guitarist play with reverence on these tracks with some of the one man outings such as Zakk Wylde on Blood Of The Sun and Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke on Silver Paper both encompass their respective covers, the latter having been befriended by West relatively recently. With the original rhythm section there's an authenticity on this record, especially in the songs that perhaps are not as well known. However the two biggest 'hits' benefit from the most star power as Theme From An Imaginary Western is given a theatrical reworking by Dee Snider's vocals as he's backed by Twisted Sister axe man Eddie Ojeda, Ozzy/Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo and Mike Portnoy on drums, Snider appears again on Never In My Life which has Mr Scary himself George Lynch. 

The erstwhile Mississippi Queen gets the louche rowdy touch of Slash with Marc Labelle of Dirty Honey behind the mic. Tribute records always need the right mix of song choice, special guest appearances and of course love and respect for the original artists. Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West has all of this, making for a an ideal entry point to the man's music (then check out Climbing! by Mountain) as well as a great tribute for long time fans. 8/10

Bomber - Nocturnal Creatures (Napalm Records)

Nocturnal Creatures, sounds like the title of a Kiss album, or a tell all documentary about a sleazy New York Nightclub. Well this Nocturnal Creatures is an unashamedly retro feeling with nods to 70's and 80's, it's what the Swedes do well and Bomber live up to this billing as being yet another excellent addition to the Swedish retro rock/metal scene. A Walk Of Titans (Hearts Will Break) adds a touch of the epic, The Tiger adds a little of Y&T, kicking out those late 70's feels. Zarathustra meanwhile has the bite of AC/DC, though Fever Eyes and the cheeky Black Pants Magic has some AOR/Glam tendencies. 

Anton Sköld's lead vocals are excellent, vibrant and melodic locking in to the twin harmonies with Max Huddén on the Lizzy-like You've Got Demons. It's Love Andersson's bass and Rasmus Grahn's drumming that brings the thunder on Hungry For Your Heart and open the groovy instrumental Kassiopeia which nicks a bit of Billy Idol. Nocturnal Creatures features some great, throwbacks to the glory days of rock n roll but wrapped in modern trappings. Live for the night and love rock n roll, that's the message that's loud and clear on this full length debut. 7/10

Night Crowned - Rebirth Of The Old (Noble Demon)

Four tracks of nihilistic brutality from the Swedish blackened death metal act Night Crowned. Rebirth Of The Old is a stopgap EP that intends to bridge the gap between their previous record Hädanfärd and their as yet unreleased new record. 

The EP features three tracks from that second album but with English vocals so Rex Tenebrae stays the same but with Christian Älvestam (Solution. 45/ex-Scar Symmetry) but Fjättrad becomes Shackled and Ett Gravfäst Öde translates to A Fate Sealed In The Grave, the songs basically maintaining that same level of ferocity as the originals but with English lyrics, giving those that don't speak their native tongue more understanding of the lyrics. 

They've also included a cover of Old Man's Child's Born Of The Flickering to hit the ground running with some out and out black metal mastery. If you're fan of Night Crowned then you'll get a kick out of hearing these three tracks a little differently as well as their take on the Norwegian band, other than that though this is nothing more than a collectors piece. 6/10 

Reviews: Kingcrown, Ouranous, Ancient Settlers, Achachak (Reviews By Simon Black, Paul Scoble, Matt Cook & Rich P)

Kingcrown - Wake Up Call (ROAR! Rock Of Angels) [Simon Black]

Melodic power metallers Kingcrown have been quiet through lockdown, which is not surprising since their debut was released before the world went to hell in a hand cart … OK, one of the recent times when the world went to hell in a hand cart. Debut album’s need relentless toilet touring and gruelling support slots to get the word out and this was somewhat stunted by the pandemic, so to some extent this feels like they’re having to go through the motions again. To be honest I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for this French five piece as in the main these are experienced hands who’ve cut their chops and done their dues elsewhere.

The band hinges around brothers Joe (Vocals) and David (drums) Amore and with the rest of the line up all being different musicians from their 2019 debut, it’s effectively a new band anyway. There’s also a lot of experience in there and it shows in the writing and well-crafted delivery. Despite having a lot of power metal tropes and plenty of melodic hooks, this is also a really technically accomplished album, with some thundering and powerful delivery, particularly from some absolutely blistering shredding from guitarist Bob Saliba, whose fingers fly the frets like the man naturally sweats WD40 fluid. This is a very different beast from the debut, and it’s entirely because of the mix they have here of highly experienced players who can leverage a whole bunch of approaches and push the brothers a bit further than A Perfect World managed.

Joe Amore’s vocals are a bit of an unexpected treat too. He’s got the guttural roars, the clean and open harmonics but can also hit the high notes fairly effortlessly and I’m strongly reminded of Jorn Lande for the kind of stylistic variety that can be thrown at you in the course of any given track. They also know how to structure a song, with plenty of catchy anthemic choruses, thundering rhythms and beautifully fluid lead breaks to keep the ear well and truly wormed. I can hear a lot of traditional power tropes in there too, which given that this was produced and mixed by Helloween’s Roland Grapow is probably not surprising (and he also throws a few guest solos in for good measure) but it’s the unexpected technical flourishes and twists that stop this from straying into cookie-cutter Power territory. Refreshing, energetic and well-crafted this is head and shoulders above their debut. 8/10

Ouranos - Voir La Lumière (Sludgelord Records) [Paul Scoble]

Ouranos is a solo project from musician Silmar, ex-member of Iniquus, Synode and Wisdom Of Dust. Silmar began making music as Ouranos in 2016, releasing a demo entitled Les Visions Du Vide in 2018 and then a debut album one year later with Hiérophanies. Both the demo and the debut album were self-released, however album number two is being released on Sludgelord Records.

The style of music Ouranos play is based in black metal, with a healthy dose of doom added for extra heavy, this is then mixed with electronica to become something that is neither black metal or doom. The album is split into five long tracks, most of which feature all the elements you’d expect of heavy music, guitar, bass, drums and harsh vocals, but this is mixed with sounds you’d usually expect in electronic music, this does give some of it an industrial feel, but in many places it’s used more to temper the harshness of the more traditional ‘Metal’ elements. The album opens with Apnée, which opens with a very slow, heavy and fairly droney riffs, and has harsh vocals over it, the vocals are quite high in the mix, but it isn’t overbearing partly because the vocals are very good and work well with the music. A tremolo picked riff is added and the pacing starts to increase. This then drops into full on blasting black metal, with some very pleasing electronics. The song comes to an end by the Black Metal slowly fading and leaving us with just electronics, which themselves also fade.

Next track L’Écho again opens in a slow way, but this time its dramatic and driving with harsh vocals. The pace picks up, moving up to mid-paced, it feels as if the song is about to explode, which it then does into some savage black metal. As with the last song the black metal is layered with electronics to make a huge sound with massive amounts of energy to it. The song then drops down to just mellow drifting electronic noises, which slowly get darker in tone until harsh vocals are added. The song comes to its end with drums and a dissonant Guitar riff, which slowly fade. Next we get the song La Boussole, which has a slow dissonant opening that builds to a blast beat with layered Guitar riffs and electronics which is fairly reminiscent of Mare Cognitum. The song then goes into a slow, dissonant, nasty doom which takes the song to its end. Fourth track Fêlure is made up of slow and very doomy material. The first half is slow and very dissonant, drums are added increasing the complexity, but not increasing the tempo. The second half slows to a crawl with a dissonant, droney guitar solo that wails mournfully until the track slowly fades to silence.

So far so good, unfortunately the final track lets the rest of the album, which is excellent, down. This track, called Au Bout du Tunnel is more like a piece of harsh noise, that black or doom metal. A few electronic noises fade in for short while, then the track turns into a series of tones that are raising in pitch. As each tone gets close to its highest note it fades, to be replaced by the same tone, but at a lower register, so it feels to the listener that this is a tone that is constantly raising in pitch. After about a minute you realise that the tone cannot be constantly raising as it would have become ultra sonic by this point, and this is where you realise that this is layered identical tones that all raise a little bit, that are being looped. 

So, Au Bout du Tunnel is a bit of aural illusion, once you realise this you go through a series of emotions, first it’s interesting and clever, then it starts to feel like an intro so you wait to see what happens, after about 5 minutes this starts to feel frustrating, then you realise that the track in question is nearly twelve minutes long and it becomes irritating, and you wait for it to finish, thinking “There must be more to this”, but there isn’t it’s the same loop for most of the track before it fades into electronic noises. As the album is 45 minutes long about a quarter of the run time is wasted on what is just a repeated short loop, which I hate to say it, feels like padding.

Voir La Lumière is three quarters of a great album, tracks 1 - 4 are a great mix of black and doom metal with some really interesting electronics that I think is genuinely innovative and original. Most of this album is beautifully dark and intriguing, but once you get to that last track all those dark atmospheres are ruined. As I said that last song feels like padding, and it’s such a shame, this is still a strong album, but with a track that fitted with the style on the opening 4 tracks, this could have been an amazing, important album, rather than being a missed opportunity. 7/10

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse (Crusader Records) [Matt Cook]

Oftentimes in melodic death metal, vocalists will sound brutish (Johan Hegg, Amon Amarth) or like sandpaper (Mikael Stanne, Dark Tranquillity). Frontman Antony Hämäläinen approaches the genre in a similar-albeit-subtle-at-times way, opting instead for a more raw, archaic delivery a la the legendary Obituary vocalist John Tardy who made a career off belting out vocals unlike anything ever heard before. Furthermore, Our Last Eclipse – Ancient Settlers’ Crusader Records debut – sees the band offer an immersive, drawn-out experience that gets progressively better with each listen. 

Oddly enough, the album pits death metal alongside a warm, welcoming guitar intro (Cerements) and simply enjoyable and fun vibes (Cast In Gold, Into The Depths I Rise) without sacrificing quality or heaviness. Hämäläinen doesn’t command attention 100 percent of the time. Rather, the vocals are sparse, allowing for the music to pick up the slack. Nothing feels rushed; nor does anything drag on like a limping Marathon runner. The length allows for a relaxing listen. Jotnar Magick is a durable example. Increasingly building up as the instruments collectively come to life, the singing is raspy as hell and the hook (both vocals and guitar) is catchy, powerful and strong. Library Of Tears clocks in at just under seven minutes and satisfyingly comes around full circle by the end.

Two of the later songs – Silent December, Memories – give Carlos Chiesa-Estomba and Emmy Reyes the chance to shine, finger-tapping and becoming lost in a cacophony of adept soloing. But they just had to include tacky chanting on Memories. I get it – songs written primarily for a live audience. But hearing it without the accompanying crowd makes it come off cheesier and easily could have been taken out without harming the record. In any event, Our Last Eclipse is a formidable release, presented by talented musicians. Never overly melodic or death-metal oriented, it’s a more approachable listen especially for the uninitiated. 7/10

Achachak - Planet Hashish (Dostava Zvuka) [Rich P]

You have a good idea what is coming when an album opens with a big bong hit. That is not saying that it is a bad thing, but you pretty much know if you are going to want to stick around when that is the first sound you hear on an album. Not that you should be surprised on an album called Planet Hashish, delivered to us by my newest stoner friends from Croatia, Achachak. This could go a couple of ways. First, it could be totally cliched stoners worshiping the green stuff offering something that has been done a million times before. Alternatively, it could be something fun and unique that is right up the alley for the stoner fans who love the groove but don’t need all the hokey lyrical weed worship. Let’s see where Planet Hashish lands. 

Well, you get a bit of both, but much more of it is the latter. The title track kicks us off and despite the bong hit opening, the riffs are a plenty and sets the stage for a strong stoner rock record. You get high wizards and stuff like that, but you also get a killer groove that you find throughout the nine tracks on Planet Hashish. Breathe opens with some killer riffage as well and has a slow gallop to it that I totally dig. A chill, Kyuss-esque instrumental bridges over to Orange Moon, which may be my favorite track on the album. A crunchy riff fest with witches and wizards and that low voice belted out by Ante Kodžoman makes this the perfect track for any stoner playlist. The guitar work shines on Orange Moon as well. 

Weed Wagon lyrically brings us closer to scenario one outlined above, but the opening riff makes up for it (so does the fun solo). Desert Eye is another stand out track that reminds me of a bunch of bands in the genre but not one that is a perfect match (for some reason musically I am hearing some Bleach era Nirvana and early Soundgarden, maybe I’m the one that’s high). The Hasheesh Eater is a super fun stoner track with some more of those killer riffs to continue that trend. The Fisherman’s F(r)iend wraps up this trip (and it is a trip, there is some concept album stuff going on here) with a slow burn, almost like their own Planet Caravan until the heavy kicks in to end the trip. A nice way to end the visit. 

The latest from Achachak is fun and worth a listen for sure. Those of you who are bored with the weed worship records can overlook some of the lyrical content and enjoy the stoner grooves and killer riffs that Achachak is bringing here. Welcome to Planet Hashish indeed. Come and stay a while. Check this one out. 8/10

Monday 28 March 2022

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Eulogy (Heat #1 01.04.22)

Interview With Eulogy By Matt Bladen

MoM: Introduce yourselves/remind everyone who you guys are. Band name, members, style etc?

Eulogy: We are Eulogy a hard rocking 4 piece from Cardiff band members are :-

Vocals and Bass – Neil Thomas, 
Guitar – Mike Williams, 
Guitar – Brian Perkins,
Drums - Joshua Bird

We play hard edged detuned rock with a melodic vocal that detracts from the dark content that the lyric delivers.

MoM: How have the last year(s) been for the band? What have you been up too?

Eulogy: Not to dwell on the subject but covid was a disaster for us and most other bands, we had to cancel a uk tour in 2020/21. However on a positive note we are now getting bookings, released a 3 track live EP Live And Raw and are currently writing songs for our first album Rebirth. We head into the studio in July.

MoM: What experience have you had with Bloodstock/M2TM in the past?

Eulogy: We have had the pleasure of playing twice before, loved it. Great to meet the other bands and we made some good friends carrying on to gig with some of them.

MoM: How are you feeling entering the M2TM format back as it should be? Playing in front of a crowd again?

Eulogy: Loving it, cant wait to get on the stage plug in and unleash the riffage

MoM: What would it mean to you to play Bloodstock?

Eulogy: Apart from everything, yes everything it would be a defining moment for us

MoM: Tell us two truths and one lie about the band?


1. We have just released a 3 track live EP “ Live and Raw”

2. We are big fans of beer and its consumption

3. We are Ed Sheeran's backing band

MoM: Finally give us a four word rundown of what to expect?


1. Big Riffage (We know it two words)

2. Melody

3. Volume

4. Energy

Reviews: As The World Dies, FM, Ronnie Atkins, Voltstorm (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

As The World Dies – Agonist (Transcending Obscurity Records)

Featuring Ash Cotterill (guitars) and Bill Richmond (bass) of Pemphigoid, former Ashen Crown drummer Chris McGrath, Memoriam/Massacre guitarist Scott Fairfax along with vocalist Jay Price, As The World Dies is the latest entry into the burgeoning British death metal scene. Now this is the live line up of the band but on record there are a multitude of musicians making a mark on Agonist. More on that later. As The World Dies draw from bands such as Bolt Thrower, Benediction and Cancer, but also carve their own path, with their use of twisting otherworldly synths and atmospherics to conjure dark soundscapes. 

The swells on Until You’ve Bled, being particularly effective. Now of course underneath these more cinematic moments there is some seriously impressive OSDM. Cotterill and Fairfax’s guitar playing raw and vicious but built around progressive time changes driven by the unrelenting rhythms of Richmond and McGrath. Jay Price has a growl that often feels more like he’s in a hardcore or deathcore band, but then there is a modernity that runs through this debut record. 

He’s aided by three legends of the scene behind the mic as Dave Ingram (Benediction), Kam Lee (Massacre) and Karl Willetts (Memoriam/Bolt Thrower) all lend their voices as do several more guests, meaning that As The World Dies is something of a death metal showcase. With the guests both writing and performing, giving each song it's own individuality within the remit of being OSDM. Thankfully even with guest writers and performers, Agonist feels like a coherent record, fiercely modern death metal with an old school ethos. |Recommended. 8/10

FM – Thirteen (Frontiers Music Srl)
Somethings in life are just comforting; a blanket on a warm night, a cup of tea and toast, tomato soup and FM albums. The slick, polished AOR of Steve Overland and co has been something you can always bet on to be a damn fine listen, while never shifting away from the style of music they have always been known for. Even after a hiatus’ their 2010 record Metropolis made everyone fall in love again, Overland’s blue-eyed soul vocal and the hip shaking rhythms of Merv Goldsworthy (bass), Pete Jupp (drums). 

The key to their melodic rock menu, with Overland on guitar joined by Jim Kirkpatrick and Jem Davies on keys FM have released five additional albums since 2010, as well as re-releases and live records, so they have managed to keep themselves busy and their fans happy. On Thirteen, their thirteenth studio record, as soon as you press play it’s like putting on your favourite jumper, bristling melodic rock riffs, twinkling keys, lyrics about love sung with soul, as the bluesy base of FM’s sound remains ever-present. 

Thirteen studio albums under their belts is quite an achievement, add to that the other records they have and their constant presence on the touring scene, FM are probably at the highest point of their career, and there is something comforting about that. 7/10

Ronnie Atkins – Make It Count (Frontiers Music Srl) 

On something of a tear as of late, Danish rock vocalist Ronnie Atkins, releases a new album pretty much a year after his last record One Shot. Again the focus is on being as upbeat as possible though of course much of this albums creation and the lyrics are due to Atkins dealing with Stage 4 Cancer. He’s clearly making the most of his time by trying to crate as much as possible, recording this album in a similar way to One Shot laying things down with guitar and piano then Chris Laney (producer/rhythm guitar/keys) and the band recording their parts, this was both due to the pandemic and Atkins’ health. 

Make It Count continues where One Shot left off with soaring melodies, anthemic choruses and that all important Atkins vocal. Again this record is a little lighter than other bands he’s been a part of (Pretty Maids), but sticking to that melodic/pop rock feel of bands like Def Leppard, Journey and Bon Jovi. Unsung Heroes and The Tracks We Leave Behind are a bit riffier while Rising Tide and Blood Cries Out go into melodic metal territory, like I said upbeat and anthemic are the words of the day however there’s balladry too where the emotion rings out of Atkins’ gritty vocal Let Love Lead The Way, being the best. 

Make It Count features a number of great musicians too to make these ideas come alive including Pontus Egberg (The Poodles/Wolf), Oliver Hartmann (Hartmann) and Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall). More melodic rock mastery from Ronnie Atkins who is making the most of uncertain times with some quality music. 7/10

Voltstorm - Voltstorm (Self Released)

Formed by guitarist Fred Stigliano and vocalist John D. Prasec in 2019 with drummer Ivo Yordanov joining shortly afterwards. The London trio have been plying their trade on the toilet circuit throughout the UK, building up a wealth of material, six of their tracks have been put down on this self titled EP. Produced by Alessio Garavello (Power Quest, Freedom Call), Volstorm is highly influenced by bands from the European/UK metal power/traditional sound such as Helloween, Iron Maiden and even early Metallica. Across the six tracks Voltstorm also show that they have a political and social edge to their lyrics. 

Kicking off with C.O.D which I did think may be a tribute to the the video game of the same name, however it is much focussed on the actual stresses and worries of a soldier. Backed by Maiden-like rhythm, it's an anthemic opener that leads into the thrashier One Life, though this never sounds aggressive enough to be full on thrash metal. Ivo is a perfect time keeper, not flashy, but like a metronome, Fred gets his chances to show off with guitars, while John has Eric Adams styled lows, though not the range. 

Unfortunately The Game kills any momentum they have built up with the weakest track on the EP in my opinion. It's only really with Rebel that they get this back but while Voltstrom are good classic metal band, if they stayed in the faster style they would be a bit more memorable for me as a band, but as I've never seen them play live I can't really say how well these tracks will translate live, though I'm sure No Surrender with it's use of synths will really go down a storm. There's a lot of potential on Voltstorm and as a document of where the band are at the moment it's great to have some way of knowing what to expect at their shows. A decent enough first strike from this London three piece. 6/10   

Sunday 27 March 2022

Reviews: TYR, Greyborn, Ǻskvӓder, Dirty Sound Magnet (Reviews By Rich P & David Karpel)

TYR - A Night At The Nordic House (Metal Blade Records) [David Karpel]

Tyr. There’s no escaping the imagery of their oeuvre: Beards, windblown hair, bolted and tanned leather, matted wolf pelts, iron and steel weaponry, mead served in drinking horns. Blood is destiny, distant shores hold legends of warriors, heroes, gods, rites, and the always nearby Hel. Mythical beasts, legends, battles for survival to the very last. And everything is epic! Every song, whatever length, it’s the last song, perhaps the only song, a marching song, the last words to leave a warrior’s lips. Songs to drink by, songs to war by, songs to die by. Here Tyr presents superbly performed songs of their brand of symphonic metal with fiery guitar solos that sing like thrown bolts of Odin’s lightning, and vocals that call honor to their Scandinavian ancestors. With a no retreat, burn-the-boats percussive charge, much of Tyr’s catalog reveals they’ve mastered their craft and have provided fans with enough soundtracks to Norse mythology to fill a few records.

A Night At The Nordic House was recorded live in February of 2020 with the Symphonic Orchestra of the Faroe Islands, the band’s homeland, and it captures the ultimate, magnificent fulfillment of these songs. There’s nothing more epic and appropriate than a symphonic folk- metal band sharing the stage with a full orchestra and playing their best songs, like Gates Of Hel, Blood Of Heroes, Mare Of My Night, and By The Sword In My Hand, among many others. Horns unfurl the banners as waves of strings weave the songs into an immersive cultural experience.The sound is simply tremendous.

A confession: I am a first generation Jewish Cuban American with Eastern European roots, and after listening to this album, even I felt like a Viking. Folk myths and romantically heroic visions of bloody battles are given extravagant treatment here. And it works. A visual person, I can’t help but imagine a large swath of shallow-draught longships packed with Viking warriors readying an invasion of the English coast with these songs on their lips as they prepare to battle for the glory of their people and their gods. Stereotypes? Yes, and the very kinds the band lives to represent. While longtime fans will no doubt enjoy the hell out of this recording, those new to Tyr would be advised to check out Hel or Valkyrja before giving the time needed to listen to a full blown hour and a half of live, symphonic Tyr. 8/10

Greyborn - Leeches EP (F2M Planet) [Rich P]

Greyborn brings the stoner/desert/grunge goodness on their debut EP, Leeches.  The French trio introduce themselves to the heavy rock community with a concise five song EP which is a nice jumping off point to what promises to be some strong output in the future.  For now, let’s talk about what Greyborn is offering with Leeches.

The five tracks from Leeches do not stray too far off the combo platter of the heavier Alice In Chains stuff with a side of the more darker Queens Of The Stone Age material to bring you some compelling fuzzy and heavy rock. The title track is a great opener to the EP, laying the groundwork for what to come, with the bass and drums right up front and some great vocals from Theo Jude, who is also the drummer, and I love lead signer drummers, especially when they play the way Jude does. Bits & Pieces comes next and is probably the best track on the EP. 

Heavy and catchy, I find myself singing the chorus and hearing some influence from the great Therapy?Jharia brings some middle eastern vibes to the dance and offers up more of the tuned down heavy that can be found all over Leeches while continuing the heavy/catchy vibe with some layered vocals to make the trip even more memorable. After Dark could be a 90s rock radio hit while harkening back to that QOTSA reference. Corrosive Faith closes out the EP slowing down the pace while highlighting the extremely strong rhythm section and leaves the listener looking for a side two.

There is some serious potential here from Greyborn. You get the riffs, you get the upfront rhythm section, the great vocals, five excellent songs, and production that is right up my alley. This EP is the ultimate teaser. Now we wait to see of Greyborn can live up to the five outstanding tracks on Leeches. For now, enjoy this short slab of excellent heavy rock. 8/10

Ǻskvӓder - Fenix (The Sign Records) [David Karpel]

On Fenix, Gothenburg, Sweden’s Ǻskvӓder combines retro garage and alternative pop rock via the twists of Husker Du, the Replacements, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Soul Asylum. While their promotional material mentions the legendary and fuzzier bands The Hellacopters and Turbonegro as influences, with a crisp mix and spoonfuls of sugar Ǻskvӓder embrace the more pop side of the garage genre. At some points they even sound like late-stage Green Day with a somewhat grittier Davy Jones at the helm. But for the surprisingly captivating ballad Head Home, much of the point here is to wreck a room with a smile and rock and roll rapture. Most of the songs are short, sweet, and anthemic in nature. The album is mixed clean, soaked in melody, and chock-full of memorable choruses and harmonies, which makes for a lot of upbeat fun.

The opening song, Blurry Lines, sounds too much like The Rembrandts to ignore. And while I at first found that disconcerting, Ǻskvӓdersells it with a joyful panache. When We Fall, with its harmonies, handclaps, and shakers, revels in pop rock tropes that, again, work really well. Let You Down brings in some cowbells and a chorus you’ll find yourself singing along with by the second time it comes around. Fenix as a whole is a good time full of quick, memorable, fun songs that are catchy on first listen. After spending some time with the album, at one point I found myself humming the melody of Claptrap when not listening to it. There’s just so much infectiously enthusiastic and positive energy here. This remains true even in the previously mentioned Head Home, the longest song here at 4 minutes, a lighters-in-the-air, bluesy ballad with charming harmonies.

When I played Head Home in my house, my wife–raised on doo wops, Motown, and the like–claimed that the song, especially the chorus, reminded her of a 1965 pop ballad by Gerry & the Pacemakers, Ferry Cross The Mersey. I looked into it, and, yes, that checks out. The point here is that pop sensibilities rule on Fenix. This is even true of my favorite song on the album. With a Priest/Maiden double axe attack, clean solos, harmonies in the chorus, tambourines, stupendous melodies, Zealot is a standout tune that nevertheless stays within the contours of the established energy of the album. Ǻskvӓder has so much to say, so much to give their fans, new or otherwise, evidenced by how many songs they pack into an album–twelve here. Unfortunately, including so many short songs, some start to sound like others, which takes away from the shining moments. 7/10

Dirty Sound Magnet - DSM-III (Hummus Records) [Rich P]

I seem to pick up a ton of “retro” bands for my reviews.  This is not just me calling something “retro”, but usually in the press materials this is specifically called out. Now I enjoy the retro stuff, but you must bring me something interesting and with unique twist or I am going to forget what I listened to once the first note of the new Ghost record comes on. On third album from the Swiss self-proclaimed retro rockers Dirty Sound Magnet, DSM-III, the trio mentions Zeppelin, the Doors, and Pink Floyd as reference points. I feel like this cheapens the band as an unoriginal rip off of everyone’s favorite classic rock bands and is way too easy of a description. 

There is a lot of cool and unique stuff that makes up DSM-III, without unnecessary call backs to our classic rock heroes. I am a sucker for some good psych in my rock, and DSM-III brings it right off the bat with the opener Body In Mind. With a cool, funky riff to kick us off and production that is perfect for what they are bringing to the table.  You can tell it’s three guys in a room, jamming and having a great time while poking fun at those who pilgrimage to India for “spiritual enlightenment”. It’s a super catchy track that I find myself humming throughout the day. You can tell right away singer/guitarist Stavros Dzodzosz has some serious chops and this is evident in the solo on Body In Mind. Meet The Shaman continues that so-called journey, with some psych drenched guitars and chant like vocals that brings you right on the trip they are describing. 

Toxic Monkeys is a ripper with a great opening riff and a cool Blue Cheer kind of crunch to it. Pandora’s Dream, like several of the eight tracks on DSM-III opens with a great riff that this time leads to some funkiness and some great harmonized vocals.  This may be my favorite track on the album.  Heavy Hours starts some sweet slide guitar and brings that bar band feel that almost reminds me of Raging Slab, which is a good thing. Sunday Drama is the perfect instrumental closer, starting with nice, chill guitar work and showcases Dzodzosz’s chops to bring it all home. 

DSM-III is a super fun album that is the perfect length and sounds excellent. The instrumentation is top notch and the retro feel that is so “in” today is present but not in a derivative way. This one will stay with me for a while and will be mentioned in some fashion on my year end list. Good stuff. 8/10

Friday 25 March 2022

Reviews: Abbath, Michael Romeo, Breathe Atlantis, Daxx & Roxane (Reviews By Alyn Hunter, Matt Bladen, Zak Skane & Simon Black)

Abbath - Dread Reaver (Season Of Mist) [Alyn Hunter]

A name... and face... that needs no introduction, Black Metal's eponymous household name has returned with his 3rd album Dread Reaver. Nine tracks of blistering Black'n'Roll with a bit more emphasis on the former as has been his modus operandi since this project's inception and Olve Eikemo has returned once again to demonstrate that in spite of all his well-documented struggles, you would be naive to write off the works of a man when his entire genetic make-up is ice cold riff gold. 

The first minute of the album sets the tone with driving riffs, pounding double kicks, a *proper* shreddy solo, then Abbath gurgling unintelligibly after the initial blast fades out. Normal service is quickly resumed with Olve's iconic throaty rasp atop a fury of blasts. It's not long until you get that "welcoming an old friend back into your home" sensation and then you've realised he's drunk all of your whiskey and is sodomising your furniture but you absolutely let him get away with it because somehow he has enriched your existence. The onslaught continues until the track close with a fading scream as that old friend makes off into the night with his trophy table leg liberated from the confines of your living room. It's about as impactful an opening statement as Abbath could make to start the record. 

 Then Scarred Core kicks in and hot damn I could just go and start doing a jig - a drum beat that seldom changes throughout and pure musical infection in the guitars. Once again Abbath has been afforded the luxury of some undeniable musical talent amongst his line-ups for his releases and that theme continues with the furious solos that elevate the riffs and bring that relentless 80's thrash character to each track which is a signature ingredient of the appeal. Ole Farstad, take a bow. There's no instance where his often chaotic lead work comes across as gratuitous and if anything I could only describe it as vital. Mia Winter Wallace (of Nervosa fame, not Pulp Fiction) has returned again to the fold handling the bass duties and Ukri Suvilehto is responsible for turning the kit into some form of thinly spreadable paste. 
All of which featured on his previous Outstriders record and if anything the genius move is keeping this group together as that's where the real blueprint for success lies. 

Worth noting is that the song-writing approach has shifted for Dread Reaver. Gone are the upwards of 8 minute mid-tempo epics of previous era with no track breaching the 5 minute mark. This is condensed neck-breaking material force fed in rapid succession. Therein lies my main bug-bear with the record as a whole though as I do wish a little more could've been eeked out of one or two of the tracks, particularly when a number of them have intros albeit short - Dream Cull, here's looking at you, especially when the opening riff post-intro is classic Abbath. For what it's worth though that same intensity really suits other pit-inciting numbers like Septentrion, Myrmidon & Trapped Under Ice, and more than anything else this demonstrates the marked departure from the direction of his former project. Speaking of which though, the closing title track Dread Reaver oozes that vintage mid-tempo Immortal vibe whilst paying its own homages to Motorhead through the iconic chorus, but that former style is more in isolation than it has ever been on an Abbath record. 

For all the reputational foibles that are so synonymous with Abbath (that this reviewer for one is glad that he's actively been trying to overcome), there's no denying that the man has the uncanny knack of churning out quality riff after quality riff and has been doing so for many a year now. Dread Reaver is further demonstration that this conveyor belt of spinal injury inducing axe-work shows no sign of slowing and whilst I cannot deem this to be anything that will shatter the fabric of the genre nor necessarily even Olve's best work..., it's Abbath, and Dread Reaver delivers shorter and more concentrated doses of the albums that preceded it. If you're a fan, you'll buy into every second and very likely end up breaking the speed limit if you're spinning it on the road. To the uninitiated, give it a whirl - more than anything else it's "fun" which is a very underappreciated attribute in this genre. I for one hope that Olve continues crab-walking for a long time yet. A very solid 8/10

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds Part 2 (InsideOut Music) [Matt Bladen]

The second part of Michael Romeo’s concept piece based on H.G Wells’ book, features one change in the line up but is still full of Symphony Xcess (sorry). Once again we have 13 tracks of incredibly cinematic progressive metal with orchestrations inspired by Hans Zimmer and John Williams, most of which serve as interludes between the songs or brilliant intros, though on Hunted both the stirring orchestral and the virtuoso guitar playing combine for a breathless instrumental towards the climax of the record. It’s not just all about the symphonic elements though, War Of The Worlds Part 2 is also full of the kind of anthemic metal Romeo has been the creator of with Symphony X for so many years. On the last album I stated that I actually thought it was better than the most recent Symphony X album, and Part 2 continues adding even more progressive and experimental flourishes. 

Romeo takes the virtuoso, neo-classical guitar playing, of which he is quite rightly considered to be one of the best, to new levels of intensity and dexterity. However he also once again shows his ability in creating the incredibly dense, orchestral scores that are a key element to this record. He’s again backed by the rhythm section of John DeServio (bass) and John Macaluso (drums) but this time Rick Castellano, has been replaced by the more well-known vocals of Croatian singer Dino Jelusick, who has sung in Animal Drive, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Magnus Karlsson’s Freefall and as backing vocalist for both Jeff Scott Soto and now Whitesnake. Vocally similar to JSS and David Coverdale, it would also be remiss not to point out he also has a lot of Russell Allen too, in his husky, powerful tones. 

On tracks such as Just Before The Dawn there’s whiff of melodic AOR, as Hybrids brings back the dramatic style of Romeo’s day job as does ParasiteWar Of The Worlds Part 2 is more progressive metal mastery from one of the biggest names in the genre. Theatrical, cinematic and glorious heavy metal, War Of The Worlds Part 2 is a welcome return from Romeo and co. With the addition of Jelusick, hopefully there will be some tour dates announced soon as I’d love to see this performed live! 9/10

Breathe Atlantis – Overdrive (Arising Empire) [Zak Skane]

This album starts off to a predictable metalcore suspense opening that consists of tribalistic drum and guitar stabs before it builds up to double kicks and liner chugged guitar riffs. At first I wasn’t really impressed because I’ve heard that formula so many times with bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Parkway Drive, so when a band at a smaller stature does it, it comes off quite beige. It wasn’t until the clean vocals kicked in that it grabbed my attention, with the soaring vocal melodies swooning from verse to choruses their take on the sub-genre became more interesting. 

The title track Overdrive generates some nostalgic 2009 era metalcore with the harsh to clean vocal trade offs as well as the dream scape sounding additional guitar tracks that contain sonic remints of bands like Dead By April and I Prevail. The nostalgia gravy train continues with the bouncing dissonant riffs and the catchy choruses with Savoir and Earthquake. Dead And Gone and Heavy Hearts show the bands more aggressive side with the bands pushing more of the meat and potatoes instrumentation to the front of the mix generating a more organic sound, with the lyrical hooks going in a more personal direction, tackling subjects like companionship and setting aside the past. Personally this is the best moments on this album. 

Gates Of Hell and Out There oozes melodic death metal inspired lead lines and riffs that take a nod to bands like In Flames and Soilwork and finally their closing track takes us through a journey of ambient beginnings, atmospheric swells to drum break verses to anthemic choruses. Even though it started off on a generic start, Overdrive has become a great listen. The album has reat production; the guitars and bass sounded well recorded whilst the drums sounded realistic and well performed but most importantly the vocals sounded genuine and perfectly processed. The only criticism I would say is that, there could have been more different tempos or time signatures through out some of the songs to keep it interesting. Overall genuine and interesting take on metalcore but it’s on going to reinvent the wheel. 7/10

Daxx & Roxane – DROP (Self Released) [Simon Black]

There aren’t many occasions in this game when you come across a band who started out as a Thrash outfit and morphed into a Hard Rock one. It’s almost as if this New Wave Of Classic Rock thing was more commercially attractive or something? These London boys are a couple of albums in now, doing well with it reputationally and this release is intended to be a tween album stopgap from last year’s self-titled sophomore and whatever is coming (presumably next year).

It’s definitely one for the fan base and is four track EP with covers as diverse as Florence & The Machine, Sammy Hagar, Téléphone and Stevie Wonder. Hagar’s Heavy Metal opens proceedings, which although fast and furious and full of riffage, isn’t cutting new ground. Neither really is Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious, which let’s face it is not a novelty when it comes to covers, but the Florence & The Machine track Delilah works surprisingly well, by virtue of the fact that it the original is so radically different from what you would expect of a hard rock outfit. 

Closing with Argent Trop Cher the EP ends on a bounce with a good anthemic floor-filler bringing to a close this enjoyable interlude that gives a slightly different take on where they are coming from influence wise. Roll on the album… 7/10

Thursday 24 March 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Therapy? & James And The Cold Gun (Review By Matt Bladen)

Therapy? & James And The Cold Gun at Tramshed, Cardiff, 23rd March 2022

A warm Wednesday night was the setting for a show 2 years in the making, having missed most of the queue, I made my way into the first gig at Cardiff’s Tramshed for a while. What was instantly notable is how the beer selection has gotten much much worse. There wasn’t even a non-alcoholic version of everything so my two friends who I’d met at the gig were stuck with lime and soda, though one of them was so excited for the show they probably would have drunk sand if offered.

Still this is a music review so I’ll get to that now; the support for this tour was Cardiff based rockers James & The Cold Gun (7), a band heavily inspired by The Manic Street Preachers, even wearing the T-shirt. Though their name comes from a Kate Bush song. Their style of music is loud, raucous indie rock with more than a punch of punk both James’ taking guitar and vocals, while cranking out the noisy riffage. Playing to a hometown crowd they quickly won over the room, both with their infectious energy but also their live power. I’ve seen certain venues call them Wales’ loudest band and watching them live gets that point across. Pitched somewhere between The Manics, Frank Carter and Idles, James And The Cold Gun don’t do subtle with their simple yet effective music and their direct uncompromising lyrics, and ideal way to get the Tramshed rocking on a Wednesday (well that and the booze)

A 30 minute change over, more Guinness and Newcastle Brown consumed and it was time for the main event Michael McKeegan (bass/backing vocals), Neil Cooper (drums), Stevie Firth (additional guitar/backing vocals) and Andy Cairns (vocals/guitar) took to the stage to a rapturous applause and kicked straight into Meat Abstract, this ferocious number was the first ever single for Norn Iron alt rockers Therapy? (8) and an ideal way to start off this nostalgic tour celebrating 30 (well now 32) years of the band. What was promised was a run through almost their entire history, from old to new, favourites to deep cuts, covers to unreleased tracks, we got it all, packed into a tight 1hr and 30, and there was very little time to stop, save for a few thank you, gear changes and a drum solo, though it was Cooper’s birthday so we can forgive him. 

Much like The Wildhearts, Therapy? have a very loyal, fanatical fanbase, however the Tramshed wasn’t full, possibly due to Bristol being the previous night. However those that were there were in full voice for Potato Junkie and their cover of Hüsker Dü’s Diane. Andy Cairns was visibly ecstatic to be back onstage, exclaiming this a few times in his thick Northern Irish accent. Mixing the set up a little from the previous night we were also treated to a different new song, Ugly, from their album promised later this year, much to the delight of their faithful. For me going in having only seen the band at festivals and knowing tracks such as Die Laughing, Trigger Inside, Teethgringer, Nowhere and Screamager, I was mightily impressed with the quality of their songs, driving hard rock cut through with punk ethos and clever lyrics. 

Therapy? make an ideal band to let loose some built up energy too. Having the next day off there was a promise of sticking around and drinking, though what they'd drink I have no idea! Still off I went into the night (work calls), reflecting that in watching Therapy? live this 30 year plan has paid off very well.

Reviews: Hardcore Superstar, Thrown, Reckless Love, Intimidation Display (Reviews By Simon Black & Matt Cook)

Hardcore Superstar – Abrakadabra (Gain Music) [Simon Black]

In a crowded marketplace and with an origin dating back to the wilderness years of metal when anything vaguely associated with the 80’s was simply not going to get a product out on the racks, someone in Hardcore Superstar came up with the moniker of 'Street Metal' to describe their take on their sound. I can see where their coming from, as their early stuff fused the attitude and technical ability of thrash with the look and feel of sleaze. It’s a nice idea – let’s look back fondly on the first real divergence in metal and try heal the wounds - a very Swedish thing to do to be fair, as this is a country that could fix the problems of the world with a bit of fika (for everyone else out there, that’s coffee with sticky buns to die for). 

Having lived through this period of musical history and with tastes that straddled both sides of the divide, I feel qualified to comment that it was probably a bit too late, given that by this point the musical divergence was unstoppable. By the time they emerged, we now had at least another twenty flavours of sub-genre leading back to that original metal root, but hey you have to distinguish yourselves somehow in this business. I’ve not followed their career too closely, but these days apart from their look, there’s little to illustrate this original concept in their music. Abrakadabra is very much a Rock ‘N’ Roll record, although there are hints of the technical aspects of the thrash influence in the arrangements and delivery, but these are flourishes and fundamentally the sleaze is the slightly stronger influence. I would argue that even that’s fairly distant though, as this is first and foremost a solid R’N’R sounding record, and quite a good one at that. 

For a four piece, these Swedish chaps can’t half pack a punch instrumentally and the vocal performance of front man Joakim ‘Jocke’ Berg is thoroughly entrancing, with gravel and edge, but the ability to scale the high notes effortlessly when needed. The ten songs on here were all crafted in lockdown, but at under forty minutes don’t hang around and outstay their welcome. But then after over twenty years at this and a dozen albums under their belt, knowing how to focus your best down in the studio should be second nature by now, although it’s depressing how many bands just go through the motions by this point in their careers. The title track gets the groove going early, but it really doesn’t let up throughout and manages to avoid sounding dated, derivative or repetitious, which is quite an achievement for both a genre and a band that have been around this long. 

By the time you get to the single, the rollicking Catch Me If You Can, they are pretty much unstoppable, and even when they mess with the pace, such as the calmer bridges mid One For All, which is pure anthemic festival fare, it doesn’t spoil the ride. Even the inevitable semi-ballad opening to Dreams In Red drips with attitude and balls and doesn’t disappoint. When we do get a slower piece, the acoustic closer Fighter, allows Berg to turn on the mood. It’s an effective power ballad, with a catchy chorus and deserves a wider audience. This is a band that somehow slipped under my radar over the years, but is exactly the sort of pure Rock ’N’ Roll stuff that turned my head as a teenager in the 80’s. Proof, should any be needed, that the reason this style of music sticks around so long is precisely because there continue to be acts like Hardcore Superstar who know how to deliver it properly. 8/10

Reckless Love – Turborider (AFM Records) [Simon Black]

Sleaze Metal, perhaps more than any other sub-genre of Metal, has had to evolve pretty hard to survive since its birth in the 1980’s. For a band like Reckless Love, hailing from Finland gives them country roots that link back to perhaps the progenitor of the whole genre - the grossly underrated Hanoi Rocks (who perhaps epitomised the 80’s incarnation of the movement by living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse). The fact that Hanoi Rocks ditched Helsinki and relocated to London’s Soho the first chance they got is historically interesting, as it said everything about the challenges facing bands over there forty years ago (and they would probably have kept moving West to L.A. if Vince Neil hadn’t killed their drummer) but by the time Reckless Love came along the whole Sleaze / Glam movement had well and truly imploded whilst the Finnish Metal scene had done the reverse and exploded into the vibrant and diverse scene that it is today.

That explosion explains why a sub-genre that with the notable exception of parody acts had gone the way of the dodo has allowed this act to not only establish themselves, but to survive and flourish. Gold records in their native Finland is still an exceptional achievement for any band and Reckless Love have clocked up three so far out of a total of four studio albums up to this point. So no pressure then, for album number five… Part of that survival stems directly from the fact that this band know that staying in retro-Sleaze mode is not going to be enough on its own, but that doesn’t stop them rising the wave of 80’s retro enthusiasm with an album that as is steeped in the decade as it is also a very wide step away from Sleaze. And a good job it is too…

Stylistically, the influence this time is 80’s video game cultures, which broadcasts load and clear from the get go with a cover that evokes Tron flooring it to Judas Priest’s Turbo. Musically it’s also a million miles away from Glam or Sleaze, instead being chock full of 80’s Pop-Rock and Synthwave tropes. So extreme is this that they have even opted for a fully sampled and programmed drum machine sound as the backbone for the record, which although makes perfect sense when you have to record in a lockdown is so against the ethos of modern metal that it raises the eyebrows somewhat. Although to be fair this feel is as much of an evolution as it is a divergence – you could hear this back as far as 2013’s lead single Night On Fire, so perhaps taking things to this conclusion was going to happen. Add to that and you’ve got 80’s guitar synth as well and what you have is a record that really sounds so far removed from their Sleaze roots that it’s perhaps going to bust them a whole new fan base without scaring away the old ones. I hope sincerely so, because it’s actually a surprisingly enjoyable listen.

Having recently been enthused by Beast In Black’s stylistically similar Dark Connection, I find myself more open to this than I probably would have been six months ago, but this piece is not exciting me quite as much because it’s a little more Pop/Rock than Metal for me. Olli Herman’s vocals also have lost a little of the edginess of yore, adding to the very over-polished sound this album has in total although the anthemic melodies are still there. It’s quite a short record, and some of the tracks have unexpected and abrupt endings, but generally this is a minor niggle for an album that’s surprisingly catchy and that I did not expect to like as much as I did. 8/10

Thrown - Extended Pain (Arising Empire) [Matt Cook]

From now on, every ticket purchased for an upcoming thrown concert should come with a complimentary neck brace. The Hardcore Swedes explode with the panache of a polished group on extended pain, five quick-hitters that don’t reach three minutes apiece. It’s impossible to listen through without harkening back to memories of being thrown (pun intended) around in a mosh pit and rained on by that guy who always insists on throwing their water bottle in the air. Marcus Lundqvist plays the role of front man with much poise and vigor, expertly guiding us through the cacophonous 10 minutes of anger, hatred and aggression. And his supporting cast all but rises to the occasion. 

Drummer Buster Odeholme not only works the kit but also produced the release, and brings with him experience via Humanity’s Last Breath, which speaks for itself. The dueling guitarists – Johan Liljeblad and Andreas Malm – stand out especially on parasite, the closer with a riff dripping like syrup: slow but sweet. Fast forward is a solid toe-tapping affair and features the apt line ‘How can life be staying still / when everything seems to be going downhill?” Unfortunately, and coincidentally, New Low struggles a bit. The drums don’t seem to line up with the chugging guitars and lacks the pop it needs for such a track. And some of the transitions sound poorly mixed. Fret not, though, because extended pain is a straight banger. 

Grayout, the band’s debut single and appropriate opener, sounds like what you’d expect if Red Bull was a song. And collectively, the album is tremendously easy to listen to. It has all the makings of a successful Hardcore release – grit, bite, ferocity. Known mainly for Melodic Death and Power Metal, Sweden can now boast it houses one of the more exciting up-and-coming Hardcore acts that should not be missed if you’re brave enough to traverse what should be a rambunctious mosh pit. 7/10

Intimidation Display – Pulverizing Inferiority (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

It’s said Thrash Metal emanated from the Bay Area; Hardcore and Punk had various iterations in hotspots like Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Melodeath? Head to Sweden. Add to our global collection Maryland, a small state that is quickly becoming the epicenter for disgusting, agonizing death metal, not like what’s been festering in Florida since the late 80s/early 90s. This is a different kind of animal entirely, and Intimidation Display are doing their part to further strengthen this identity (Maryland Death Fest’s 18th installment will take place in May). 

Pulverizing Inferiority is half true. Yes, there is a boatload of pulverizing music within, but there is nothing inferior about it. Baltimore’s Blackened Deathgrind trio (I hope you don’t mind sub-genres!) sounds like they recorded and produced all their material in the bathroom of a subway station. It should go without saying, but that’s a compliment. Zach Barrows’s soupy vocals is filth covered in grime. Vociferous Condemnation is a blistering song that makes me want to mosh until I die. A rumbling drum assists. If you’re in the mood for pig squeals and “bree’s” (and why wouldn’t you be?), Ghosts provides you with just that. 

The drumming on this album is powerful without being over-bearing. Mike Alksnis ignites drum blasts with the speed and zeal of a semi-automatic machine gun. His driving lines emerge on Necrolepsy, paired nicely with downright tumbling riffs. As it is a Deathgrind band, however, none of the eight songs eclipses the three-minute mark. Personally, I would have liked a lengthier record simply to keep the madness going. But that’s not a slight on the band, rather my hunger for more, a testament to Intimidation Display’s aggression and power. 7/10

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Reviews: MWWB, Agathodaimon, Crown Magentar, Tyrannosaurus Nebulous (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

MWWB – The Harvest (New Heavy Sounds)

With the demise of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, comes the rise of the more palatable (for some) moniker of MWWB. Everything about this fourth studio record smacks of rebirth, coming off the back of their original trilogy of records, this fourth journey into the cosmic abyss was originally planned for March 2021, recorded the year previously with the master of heavy production himself Chris Fielding, however in January 2021 guitarist Paul Michael ‘Dave’ Davies suffered a stroke caused by the contraction of Covid 19, that left him fighting for his life. Thankfully Dave is a tough bastard and he has been rehabilitating at a much faster pace than expected. Out of respect for their friend and bandmate, they delayed the release of the record until they can all experience it together. A reminder if there was ever one needed that this pandemic has effected so many lives. 

Here it is one year later and The Harvest has unveiled itself on the world, the next phase in MWWB’s cosmic exploration. From a short intro track we are dragged into the title track and there’s the MWWB I know and love, swirling, unsettling synths, twisting and turning over chugging doom riffs. With bassist Stuart Sinclair and drummer Dom McCready (ex-Black Moth), who took over the stool for this record due to the pandemic restrictions, giving a thunderous bottom end that reverberates around your house when played at the correct volume, this is MWWB sounding as heavy as ever, layers of loudness piled on top of one another, Dave’s guitar playing full of fuzz and distortion as the synths and spectral vocals of Jessica Ball again add that other-worldliness. 

You may be reading and thinking ok, same old same old, but there you’d be wrong as The Harvest is the sort of album the band have been threatening to make for a while. Able to work outside the conceptual remit of their first three albums, The Harvest sees them experiment with more prog and art rock themes for a more rounded, at times, stranger listening experience. Anywhere you see this album reviewed you’ll read comparisons to John Carpenter and Pink Floyd, but I hear touches of Van Der Graaf Generator, Can and even Laibach as well, the use of synths being as pronounced as it was on their previous record, fleshing out the ‘cosmic doom’ label a lot more. 

Hawkwind on Quaaludes is what I wrote in my listening notes and, that style of analogue (because it’s Chris Fielding production) heaviness paired with Moogs and mellotron, is prime Dave Brock meets Vangelis/Alan Parsons meets Witchfinder General/Pentagram. The record is carried by cinematic interludes that meld the big riffers together, giving you a listening journey that, much like old LP’s should be devoured in one sitting, much like Dark Side Of The Moon, there’s no time for playlists or single tracks here, just listen to Betrayal and you’ll get the influence immediately. The Harvest has been crafted in a way that it’s one coherent piece of music, with a hint of concept (think dark sci-fi), and like the Pink Floyd epic, the sequencing is a thing of beauty, for an audio nerd like me especially, Chris Fielding again showing why he’s the absolute master of the heavy genres. 

Logic Bomb is almost euphoric Jess’ vocals soaring atop a relentless riff, Altamira is about as foreboding as this record gets, bowel bustingly heavy but with mind bending psych and shoegaze. This record lives for its heaviness right up until the final track Moonrise where everything except guitar and voice is stripped away, a suitably understated yet emotional ending to this spectacular record, almost like a ghostly Kate Bush number. The Harvest is a more than welcome return from MWWB, hopefully it’s a beginning rather than an ending. Album of the year? Probably! 10/10

Agathodaimon – The Seven (Napalm Records)

Having released their last album in 2013, Sathonys, the leader of this German band, put it on hiatus in 2014. However smouldering in the background were the fires of creativity and in 2022, the blackened, Gothic, occult force of Agathodaimon has come back from the shadows with their seventh studio album. If you’ve never heard of the band before then they play a symphonic/Gothic style of black metal that marries the sound of Cradle Of Filth (without the squeals) and Dimmu Borgir (due to the clean vocals). Although they have a multifaceted style that means that they’re a difficult band to nail down, although it makes for an exciting listen. 

Focussed on the idea of seven being a powerful number throughout history and in religion particularly, The Seven opens with La Haine, a track that has furious black metal flourishes and doom metal steadiness, drawing you in for the full symphonic blast of Ain’t Death Grand, a more traditional black metal offering. The massively orchestral Mother Of All Gods features the bands original singer Romanian Vlad Dracul, as nod to the their history. Wolf Within brings more gothic metal sounds, with lots of clean vocals, while In My Dreams (Part 2 – In Bitterness) has a Viking metal edge to it, leading into the enveloping darkness of Kyrie/Gloria one of the best songs on the album in my opinion, featuring Benighted frontman Julien Truchan. 

The duality between Ashtrael (harsh vocals) and Sathonys (clean vocals/guitar) is a strong reason why Agathodaimon are so impressive, add to this the varied extreme metal approach and you can clearly understand why there was expectation around this release. Back from the dead and no hint of rigour mortis, Agathodaimon impress on album number 7. 7/10

Crown Magentar - Alone In Death (Unique Leader Records)

They say nothing gives you an "OO" quite like Typhoo. But if the double o is in BROOTAL, Crown Magentar do a great job of stealing the English Tea brands thunder. This 6 track EP is 19 minutes long but it's the heaviest, nastiest 19 minutes of the year so far. This American tech death crew skillfully balance beatdown filled deathcore with more technical and blackened styles, these coming on The Pain Of Existence where there are ominous breaks in the track for atmospherics and the vocals shift from guttural growls to shrieks as Jamie Hanks of I Declare War brings his intensity. 

Rendering the listener either completely annihilated or ready to destroy everything around them once the final chords of God Is My Enemy blasts through your speakers, Alone In Death is an EP that you'll either love or have no time for at all as it goes full pelt in everything it does. A special mention to drummer Bryon London and singer Nick Burnett who both are mesmerising. I don't know if London is using triggers or not but his drumming is inhuman, at times sounding (and feeling through headphones) like sitting underneath barrage of artillery. Burnett too has one of the most versatile voices in deathcore able to switch between death, core and black metal styles easily, even at times in the same verse. 

As brutal as anything you're likely to hear this year, with a distinct bleakness as well. Fans of Lorna Shore and Thy Art Is Murder will be pitting hard to this EP. Will it win over the deathcore doubters? No but fuck me is it a heavy listen. 8/10

Tyrannosaurus Nebulous – Tyrant Lizard King (Echoed Past Records)

According to the background on this record “Tyrant Lizard King tell stories of a dystopian universe where a battle rages between man and extra-terrestrial forces of evil. Man’s only hope is to resurrect its greatest killing machine, the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, modified with the best of modern killing and time travel technology.” OK. Radical. 

With sci-fi, UFO’s and dinosaurs all dealt with on these tracks, thought the three part title track is the major part of the concept. You may not think Tyrannosaurus Nebulous take their craft too seriously, but you’d be wrong as they are trying to bring about the future of rock music by delving into the past. Tyrant Lizard King is unashamedly retro and influenced by some of the best bands ever to do it. Deal With My Evil brings the twin axes of Thin Lizzy, there’s a bit of proto-metal on Underdog, Lead Foot and Raw Deal are all about the riffage of AC/DC. 

This is music for escapism, lyrics that deal in fantasy, music that throws back hard to the past, the Stourbridge foursome, relying on the power of the riff to pull through these current dark times. At 12 tracks I think there’s a bit of culling that can be done to make this record feel a bit more vital and vibrant as by Auto Pilot and Magnetar, I felt a little like I was in NWOCR 101. However the length aside, Tyrant Lizard King is an enjoyable record that brings a lot of retro hard rocking ready for sunny days with beer in hand. 7/10

Tuesday 22 March 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Unto Others, Zetra & Eulogy (Live Review By Richard Oliver)

Unto Others, Zetra & Eulogy - Live at Fuel, Cardiff - 17th March 2022

After a raft of tour cancellations at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 it is very heartening to see international acts starting to tour the country once again. Hitting U.K. shores for an extensive tour were Portland, Oregon gothic metallers Unto Others. Originally this show was meant to be at Hobo’s in Bridgend but unfortunately the venue has been extensively damaged during the recent storms and this is one of many shows scheduled at Hobo’s which has had to be moved to other venues in the South Wales area.

Opening the show were Cardiff based hard rock outfit Eulogy (7). With the other bands on the bill leaning on the gothic side of things Eulogy did stand out a bit but this did not seem to bother them in the slightest and they got up on stage and rocked the hell out. Eulogy plays a very workmanlike style of hard rock which has nods from classic rock, classic metal as well as some more contemporary hard rock bands. It is honest hard rocking music and despite playing to a sparse crowd the band played like they were performing to a massive crowd. A nice way to open up the evening with some good old hard rocking music.

The main tour support was London “synth-gaze” two-piece Zetra (6). Zetra are a very unique outfit blending synthwave and shoegaze with elements of doom and gothic metal. It is a very dense keyboard driven sound with a drum machine providing the rhythm section as well as dense, doomy riffs that brought to mind Type O Negative. The room had filled up a fair bit before Zetra hit the stage but it was clear that most of the crowd did not know what to make of them. There were elements of their sound I loved with the mix of dense, distorted guitars and retro synths being an effective combination but I didn’t like the use of a drum machine and I found the vocals a bit on the weak side. Maybe this is a band I need to give a chance to on record.

Headlining the evening were the mighty Unto Others (9). The band had traveled a long way to do this tour and were determined to give us all a very overdue rocking for the bands first ever Welsh show. If you’ve never heard Unto Others they are the perfect union of 80’s gothic rock, post-punk and traditional heavy metal with a perfect marriage between the three styles. The band immediately got brownie points from some in the crowd by using the Rush classic Subdivisions as an intro tape but things were only set to get better as in the live environment the band are far heavier and fierce than on record. They delivered a fantastic set with material drawn from their two albums and E.P.’s with gothic metal belters such as Heroin, Give Me To The Night, No Children Laughing Now, Nightfall, Downtown And Dragon, Why Do You Cry getting flawless renditions and rapturous applause from the crowd. 

 The band mix up their setlists every night to keep them on their toes and included a couple of brilliant cover versions in the form of London Dungeon (Misfits) and Cold Sweat (Thin Lizzy) which gave lead guitarist Sebastian Silva the opportunity to go into full shred mode. This is a band well worth seeing should they hit your town or city in the near future and the hope is that Unto Others will be gracing the stage at festivals this summer. Unto Others are certainly a band destined for great things and this show was definitely proof of it.