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Tuesday 31 May 2022

Reviews: Sergeant Thunderhoof, Dvne, Moon Tooth, Peine Kapital (Reviews By David Karpel & Matt Bladen)

Sergeant Thunderhoof - The Sceptered Veil (Pale Wizard Records) [David Karpel]

Here’s the thing I have to admit before I start: I’m already a fan. So much so that I have a Ride Of The Hoof zip-up hoodie, a Sergeant Thunderhoof logo wallet, and every release on vinyl but for 2018’s Terra Solus, the Tony Reed split, and the latest, The Sceptered Veil. Furthermore, their glorious acoustic album Delicate Sound of Thunderhoof is a household favorite and gets regular spins. All this just to say that the following is a failed attempt at appearing to strive to achieve some semblance of objectivity.

Sergeant Thunderhoof was busy in 2020. They put out a split with Tony Reed on their eclectically creative Pale Wizard label on which they covered Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting. This was a telling choice that showed singer Dan Flitcroft as resourceful with melody, tone, and power outside of the Hoof’s flavor of grungy psychedelics. The same year, Delicate Sound… was released, a collection of acoustic approaches to their songs in which Flitcroft’s voice attains a fresh, lush clarity. 

That year also saw the release of their Ripple Music Turned To Stone series split with Howling Giant, on which the two bands jammed almost 20-minute narratives, meditative takes on legendary sword makers who lived during feudal Japan. The Hoof’s offering thrilled in the darkness of its somber tale. Looked at together, these releases can be seen as the band exploring opportunities to do something out of the ordinary of their own, self-set trajectory. We now know to where those explorations have taken them thus far.

The Sceptered Veil is Sergeant Thunderhoof at their most accomplished. This is not obvious at the start, though it’s good enough. At first, You’ve Stolen The Words stomps, directly recalling the band’s roots nurtured through their catalogue–a solid confirmation of Hoof rock. A couple of minutes in, though, the vocals veer off into an oddly catchy melody. The bottom lurches onward as the guitars build walls of riffs and the drums fixate on the groove to hold it down. All the while, Flitcroft’s voice takes flight, dips down, finds melodies fit for a pop ballad in the midst of swirling guitars, synth sounds, and the slow roll of toms and the snare. At just over 8 ½ minutes, the song gives you everything you came for and much, much more. This is the perfect way to begin, because each following song will repeat the experience of confirmation and wonderful surprise.

Devil’s Daughter (related to Devil Whore?) is classic Hoof: Mark Sayer grooving Sabbathian riffs, vocals skimming the clouds, and a rumbling bottom with a low center of gravity gets held together by Jim Camp (bass) and Darren Ashman (drums). Absolute Blue follows, a song with a central melody and song structure that recalls the aforementioned Cloudbusting in its layered instrumentation dancing with the vocals like a murmuration of starlings. Foreigner is the longest song on the album at almost 11 minutes. Its driving rhythms, meandering psych jams, anger, and melancholy soon return to melody and head swaying hooks. “I’m just a foreigner wherever I go,” Flitcroft sings, and it’s that sense of fresh possibility the album maintains song to song, evidenced most especially in the dark, haunting, and plodding way the tune concludes.

Woman Call returns the Hoof to form, a nasty, bluesy rocker riding chunky bass lines that cut a lip curling snarl under arena-sized vocals. King Beyond The Gates is another mid-tempo burner with an expansive, lulling refrain. The band smokes deep into this tune, catches its breath to let the layered guitars stretch over a rhythm section in Camp and Ashman that’s as tight as they come. Show Don’t Tell, the shortest song in the collection, is a gruff groover that still makes room to surprise with harmonies and cowbells in the 80s hair-metal chorus, triumphant sonics, and a brief, jazzy psychedelic section that bursts back into the fundamental groove to conclude. 

The two last tracks, Avon and Avalon Pts. 1 & 2, are about 20 minutes taken together, and with their sense of narrative and expansive space, in their grasp of tectonic grooves and the dramatics of myth, they end the album with the sun rising again to a Hoof-marching stomp right up to the shore’s edge. As a band, everything they’ve done so far has led to this ultimate triumph. 10/10

Dvne - Cycles Of Asphodel (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

With two incredible albums behind them progressive post metal band Dvne give an online treat for anyone that has been with the band since their debut full length Asheran or its follow up Etemen Ænka. The Scottish band decided to play tracks from this second album in a live capacity adding violin and vocals from Lissa Robertson and keys from Evelyn May Hedges, to create a new twist and make for a special one off performances that was broadcast through Bandcamp with the help of producer Graeme Young. 

Weighing Of The Heart, starts off traditionally enough the all-encompassing riffs and melodies of what Dvne do so well, drawing you into their progressive, primordial soundscapes which feature melody contrasting with fury, the guitar playing of Victor Vicart and Daniel Barter, constructing heavily layered soundscapes as Dudley Tait’s expressive drumming is met by the precision bass playing of Allan Paterson, the rhythm section following a path set down by bands such as Tool. As both the studio albums are concept albums based around Frank Herbert’s Dune series, they have handpicked some of the songs that have a higher meaning than just the concept dealing with societal issues and relationships. 

The additional keys/vocals and strings are there from Weighing Of The Heart and make an impact on all four tracks. Omega Severer especially using space and quiet effectively at the beginning for Lissa’s vocals to bring a hit of emotion before the atmospheric number starts properly, with an echoed guitar and some synths creating almost a segue into Asphodel, building into the final song Satutya which is a defining moment of this live set, a colossal 9 minute closer that shows not only the technical ability but their ear for fluid melodies and rhythms. Having seen Dvne live, moments like this give you a small glimpse of the band live, with some added elements to make it an experience. 8/10

Moon Tooth - Phototroph (Pure Noise Records) [David Karpel]

Moon Tooth’s Phototroph is an inspired collection of 11 grippingly soulful metal songs. The band, together since 2012, play emotional progressive post-hardcore stoner grooves with the kind of soft/hard approach of Coheed And Cambria combined with the hope, melody, and harmonies of the ever-underrated King’s X. Moon Tooth’s 2019 album Crux made waves in the scene, scoring them tours with Clutch, King Crimson, and Lamb Of God–a good sampling of their appeal across metal and rock genres. 

Meanwhile, a furious faith in purpose, nicked and scarred, drives much of the lyrical content. Often refreshingly hopeful and allegorical, the lyrics are a pleasure to dig into as John Carbone belts them out with Nick Lee (guitar) playing manic leads, Vin Romanele (bass) holding the bottom with the steadiness and agility of a log runner, and drummer Ray Marte’s playful stick work dancing around steady grooves and break neck blast beats. Graced with tremendous riffs and hooks, these songs are revelatory, lyrically deep, and emotionally intense.

I Revere deceptively begins like a bittersweet ballad until a pedal gets smashed and the guitars rip away with the precision driven drums. Sincerity burns throughout, giving depth and credence to even the most saccharine pop-like verses declaring eternal hopes: “Cause my heart’s still beating/ So I won’t stop believing/I’m loud cause I’m here/ I revere.” Back Burner gets bluesy and crunchier. While Deathwish Blues utilizes grinding post-hardcore riffing for a heartbreak song, The I That Never Dies responds with a persistent marriage of groove and melody that matches its resilient lyrical tone. Alpha Howl starts with a charging wall of grindcore riffs that break down for a melodic section where Carbone is such a delight to hear. 

The guitar solo is a perfect 80s power metal piece of greased lightning while the bass and drums here build a foundation for Carbone to fully express the heart of the song. This is true throughout, though it’s in Alpha Howl that we hear so much of the variety of this range in one song. The power of his vocals shall not be underestimated. O My Isle touches with its nostalgia for the sand and sun of a place that will always be home. Or is it about some other kind of island? Singing “Hear, my shores/This proclamation/Now I leave to you/My deeds, I leave this to you/Every glorious occasion/Where I learned how to be free/My hallelujahs/I leave them to you/ O my Isle,” Carbone lends allegorical power to the imagery.

While blast beats come in to O My Isle, they are a feature of The Conduit, a catchy af piece that captures how form and theme collaborate to give meaning to the whole. Industrial-like staccato beats rage electric as Carbone sings at full-power a Frankenstein-like narrative. Some of his vocals here are given a robotic effect, while some of the drumming here reminds me of Genghis Tron’s title track off their last magnificent album, Dream Weapon

Nymphaeaceae is the story of a flowering set to quick grooving tectonic riffs, harmonies, and a catchy chorus, while Grip On The Ridge slows down to a grungy plod and fully returns to the theme of persisting through struggle because “Oh, hard winds will blow/ But we cannot desist.” Carry Me Home has a subversive funk under the metal and melody as Carbone sings about opening to love despite the risks. The final track, Phototroph, appropriately uses light as a symbol for a kind of salvation, fully restoring the theme of hope that survives every twist and turn of the album. “All we who venture,” Carbone sings, “Abandon what's known.” The album ends where you should start when the needle drops: open hearted. 10/10

Peine Kapital – Infraordo (Sludgelord Records) [Matt Bladen]

I’m not sure what pain French band were going through when they recorded Infraordo, but this is the musical equivalent of being an honest person in the UK cabinet, one long tortuous crusade towards nothing. Infraordo is a sludge/doom record that moves a glacial pace, relying heavily on solitary, repeated, heavily distorted riffs and anguished vocals. 

If you were looking for an in to get you interested into sludge/doom, this record would not be it, these French heavies play to the more accomplished, seasoned, misery. One who can stroke their beard and pontificate about the futility of life all while having their eardrums pierced with audio intensity. The drumming is sparse, there’s plenty of feedback, and those drawn out abrasive riffs are designed to keep you in suspense for when something changes, which it does. 

The violent cascades of Infraordo lead into the deafening noise of Thanatocratie, the album is dissonant and volatile, as Fracturer is the kind of song most non-metal listener’s thing metal sounds like. It’s captivating in a horrible way but not for newbies. 6/10

Reviews: Cave In, Shovel, Smoke, The Bateleurs (Reviews By Rich P)

Cave In - Heavy Pendulum (Relapse Records)

When word of a new Cave In record started trickling out, I was super pumped. I have been a huge fan of the band from the early days, but especially after hearing Jupiter, which was a total game changer for me and to this day is still one on my favorite albums released this century. There was just so much to Jupiter, and so much of a stylistic change that it blew the minds of the rabid fans of the uber-heavy, growling vocal material of their first few releases. After Jupiter I was all in, through the ups and downs, the failed major label releases (which I loved), and then back to form on the independent scene, Cave In has never released a bad album and has been a staple in my heavy music listening for over twenty years. Now the prospects of a new record were upon us and knowing what the band has gone though, between growing up and losing a band member and friend, I could only hope that this record would somehow take them to new heights, even with the bar set so high given their catalog.

Well, Heavy Pendulum has done that and even more. This record is everything that Cave In fans could possibly want from a new record in 2022. For the fans of the heavier side of the band, you get the amazing opening ripper, New Reality, and the follow up track, Blood Spiller. Mr. Brodsky brings both vocal styles out mixing them perfectly as a call and response in the opener, while delivering the riffs and the heavy. Floating Skulls is right along Jupiter territory, with the sprawling instrumentation and frantic yet contained song structure that always reminds me of the ad I saw for Jupiter in the punk label No Idea’s catalog: “Sounds like Rush and Pink Floyd. Really.” 

Now we know listening to Cave In is not going to give us that experience, but you see where they were going with that considering the early material compared to Jupiter. The title track is another excellent offering that brings you more towards the later material in the catalog, dialing up some of those psych leanings but never abandoning the heavy. Careless Offerings leans towards more straight-ahead heavy rock until towards the end when Brodsky’s screams bring it home. These are just some of the highlights on this 14 track, 71-minute journey, which for some just starting with Cave In may find the length a bit overwhelming, so be prepared to spend some time with this record. But it is so worth it.

This record is epic. There is something for every Cave In fanatic on Heavy Pendulum. The ultra-heavy early stuff. The Jupiter-esque prog/psych leaning material. The more commercial Antenna era heavy alt-rock. The “return to form” era Cave In when they started to combine more of the Jupiter and early days stuff. You get it all, and you get it all in its best form. But even if you have never heard Cave In before you can start with Heavy Pendulum and work backwards. It’s that good. Album of the year candidate for sure. 9/10

Shovel - Shovel (Argonauta Records)

A band called Shovel sounds like a 90s second tier grunge band. But that is not what this Shovel is. These guys come in and rip your head off immediately. Frantic, swirling heavy guitars with scream/shouted vocals, some cool psych effects, and an overall frantic vibe that is very hard to pin down. Sludge, I guess if I had to give it a label (and they agree in their bio) but there is a lot more going on here. I hear some black metal, some hardcore, and some psych doom vibes to make their debut album an exciting and brutal listen. The Berlin four piece bring the heavy riffs for sure, but there is also an undertone of heavy psych that is always following around the seven tracks on their debut self-titled LP.

Shovel is not for the faint of heart, and the vocals are what will keep some people away. But a song like V. Maere is so damn heavy it cannot be ignored or denied. But there are also layers of sounds going on behind the screams that you must listen closely for. You will hear new things every listen, like the intricate guitar work and killer drumming. You must be in the right frame of mind for this album, or it may overwhelm you. But if you are looking for a soundtrack to smash, here you go. 

The solo on ViScars Of A Dark Past is killer, and the dual vocals sounds like a very metal version of early Hot Water Music (if you don’t know HWM please go listen to one of their first two records). Hardcore vibes shine through on I. The Void. Slow, sludgy hardcore riffs ripping your head clean off. But the guitar work is both heavy and subtle, with some sounds that you may not expect on such a heavy beast, but again, you must really pay attention to the nuance. Fans of Neurosis or ISIS may dig a track like III. The Fall Of The Sun. Heavy stuff for sure.
Shovel is not going to be for everyone. You must be able to handle the vocals. But if you are OK with the scream/howl and can listen to the details of their debut, I think you will hear something unique and enjoyable, especially if your idea of fun is smashing some shit. Lots of good stuff going on here if you are a fan of the very heavy sludge stuff. 7/10

Smoke - The Mighty Delta Of Time (Argonauta Records)

There are a lot of bands called Smoke. There is even a Smoke that put out an album this year (Groupthink, it’s excellent). There are also a lot of bands doing what this Smoke is doing; bluesy stoner rock that claims to be right out of the swamps of the Delta. What there are not as many of are bands who do it well/creatively and even less who claim to be right out of the Delta swamps but are actually from the Netherlands. I have never been, but I am not sure there are a lot of gators in Amsterdam. What there is a lot of is the green stuff from which these guys get their name and has influenced the stoner grooves that Smoke is peddling. But it is not all cush and roses on their debut. 

The first full track, Lineage, has some sweet slide guitar work and does set off those bluesy vibes they are going for. Now if the whole album was like that, I may be on board for their press description of “Psychedelic Swamp Rock’. But what you get next with a track like Bereft is more along the lines of stoner grunge than psych blues. Now it is executed well, but there seems to be a bit of an identity crisis happening here. These guys are all in on the Delta persona stuff, with one of the band members calling himself “CajunKai”. But I think “Seattle Steve” may be more appropriate as the grunge vibes are strong on tracks like RiverbendMotion, and Time. I like it, but it is not swamp rock. It is a stoner grunge album with a song that has some swampy vibes. That is not a harsh criticism of the quality here. 

This is a solid debut offering, but sometimes your press release can be your worst nightmare and trying to pigeonhole yourself into a category and not delivering can be your downfall. I find it interesting that Smoke is so all in on the Delta Blues stuff. I hear way more of bands like Curse The Son and Seattle bands that you know and love. If these guys embrace who they are and try not to put labels on themselves, I think they can take this to the next level. But for now, this was an enjoyable listen for what it is. 6/10

The Bateleurs - The Sun In The Tenth House (Milana Musica Records)

Damn, that voice! That was my first response to when the first track on the debut full length from Lisbon, Portugal’s The Bateleurs blasted out of my system. Vocalist Sandrine Orsini has an amazing, soulful voice that makes you stop and take notice. Her pipes fit perfectly with the blues rock goodness that the ten tracks on The Sun In The Tenth House are bringing. Obviously influenced by US blues rock and American soul, the four-piece sound like they are from Detroit or Nashville, not their (mostly) native Portugal. The first track blew me away, but can they keep this up for the whole forty-five minutes of their debut?

The answer is they sure can. That first track Nine Lives To Waste is a blue rock ripper with that voice up front but an absolute killer band backing her, who really understand how to play the blues rock that we all know and love. Tracks like Rise Above The Storm feature that voice but also brings the funk with some nifty bass and a killer bluesy groove. Revolution Blues has Orsini’s voice go to even different places while the band behind her just blasts their way through some heavy blues rock that will get everyone up and moving. 

You get some obvious White Stripes/Jack White vibes musically, especially on a track like I’ll Go All The Way, especially recent Jack with his live band (that totally rips). I have mentioned the voice a lot, bit the band is super tight as well brings a crunch to the blues rock that takes it to the next level. One issue is there seems to be unnecessary reverb or effects on Orsini’s voice that starts to get a bit too noticeable as the album goes on but does not change the fact that this album is killer.

If you like powerful, soulful female vocals with a killer blues rock backing band, go check out The Bateleurs. The Sun In The Tenth House is an excellent debut full length and I expect big things and to hear a lot lore from them. 8/10

Monday 30 May 2022

Reviews: Silverstein, Norilsk, DVL, Sinsid (Reviews By Zak Skane, Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver & Matt Cook)

Silverstein – Misery Made Me (UNFD) [Zak Skane]

Silverstein have been a big part of the mid 2000 “emo” sound since their debut album When Broken Is Easily Fixed, which contained classic singles like Smashed Into Pieces and Giving Up. It wasn’t until they released their second album Discovering The Waterfront which had the classic single My Heroine, which gained them worldwide success. 

Twenty years later with number of releases under their belt I have landed myself the opportunity of reviewing their recent release Misery Made Me. With all guns blazing, Our Song sets the mark with some stabbing riffage grabbing the audience attention for preparation to what the vocalist Shane Todd had to say. Even over 20 years later Shane Todd still sounds as passionate as he did since the bands famous release When Broken Is Easily Fixed. Die Alone opens with some angry slam poetry styled intro verses that will please fans of Being As An Ocean and La Dispute before the guitarist provide their raw sluggy riffs to complement with the surreal angsts featured in the lyrics. Ultra Violet takes us back to the emo sound that the band contributed to in the mid 2000’s with the clean high pitched vocals met with heavy pedal tone riffs. Whilst I was listening to this track it did make me appreciate the singer and bands diversity in their sound. 

The nostalgia comes in the second wave whilst the band step back from the harshness and the high tempos. It’s Over brings us some rocky videos that will please Beartooth fans with their octave fuzzed riffs mixed with groovy drum beats, in the song we also see the band experimenting with string sounds to spice up their style. Which leads us to their most interesting song The Alter_Mary, in this we get hear the band mix up new sounds with classic Post Hardcore arrangements by adding Trap inspired verse sections to retro synths layered outros whilst lyrics are sung through a vocal coder which will make the listeners mind toss and turn with curiosity. Other highlights on this album is the groove laden Bankrupt and it’s emotional closer Misery, which ties the album to a surreal conclusion to this anxiety journey by it’s message of finding peace with depression. 

From only just having three run through of this album I can safely tell you that this is one of the best Post Hardcore releases that I have heard in years which has played with my heart strings since Holding Absence's debut release. The band have captured both old and new styles with perfection, nothing seems forced or try hard. They sound as passionate as they did in the mid 2000s with their debut album, 10/10.

Norilsk - Beyond The Mountains (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Paul Scoble]

Norilsk are a duo based in Quebec, Canada. The pair have been making music together since 2012 and in that time have made 3 albums; The Idea Of North in 2015, Les Passages Des Glaciers in 2017 and their last album Weepers Of The Land in 2018. The duo is made up of Nick Richer on Drums and Backing Vocals and Nicolas Miquelon on all other instruments and Lead Vocals. 

The EP features 2 tracks, opener Beyond The Horizon is an original Norilsk track, whereas the second track is a cover of an Officium Triste track that was featured on a 2019 covers album to celebrate Officium Triste’s twenty-fifth anniversary as a band. Norilsk have chosen a track called Mountains Of Depressiveness which is featured on Officium Triste’s first EP also called Mountains Of Depressiveness, and on the bands first album Ne Vivam. Beyond The Horizon is a great track, it feels like the early wave of Death/Doom from the early nineties. It reminds me of bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride or Katatonia, probably most like My Dying Bride, there's even a little taste of early Cathedral (back when Lee was still doing harsh vocals, Forest Of Equilibrium Cathedral). The song keeps its slow tempo throughout, and feels sad, despondent and in many ways very sombre. 

The Officium Triste cover Mountain Of Depressiveness has kept it’s intro, which is full of melancholy guitar harmonies, and has a short blast of up-tempo riffs that, due to the harmonies, sound a little bit like a very sad Iron Maiden. The intro fades, to be replaced with the main song which is slow, melancholy and softer than the first track. The feeling is slightly less dark than the preceding track, theres is a smoothness to how the song flows and maybe a little warmth, despite all the sadness. It’s a great song done very well by a band who clearly have a lot of love and respect for the original. Beyond The Mountains is a really enjoyable EP; Beyond The Horizon is a great song to be added to Norilsk’s catalogue, and the Officium Triste cover is sublime, if you are into very heavy Doom you should seek this out, highly recommended. 8/10

DVL - Hush (Wormholedeath) [Rich Oliver]

Hush is the second album from Scottish metal band DVL (formerly known as D3VILMAYCRY) and their first album for WormHoleDeath Records. Hush is a conceptual album made up of short stories that reflect on modern society with each of the ten songs telling a different tale. Musically there is influence from traditional heavy metal but this is mixed with influence from American mainstream hard rock and metal with the bands sound bearing more than a passing resemblance to bands such as Avenged Sevenfold. Songs such as Among Us, Dread, Hallows and Trial By Fire have plenty of swagger and groove mixed in with plenty of melody, hooks and some undeniably good musicianship whilst The Pitch surprised with its dark noir feel complete with saxophone and a good change of pace and tone.

Hush is an album that I struggled with like I do with much latter day hard rock and metal that strays in mainstream leaning sounds as it all sounds a bit disposable and rather unmemorable. The startling resemblance to other bands doesn’t work in its favour as at times it simply sounds like DVL are copying others rather than simply taking influence. Detractions aside Hush is a well written and well performed album by a band that clearly are great musicians (with the guitar work being a real stand out) but I’m afraid it left me rather cold.  I’m sure fans of bands such as Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet For My Valentine will find plenty here to enjoy but aside from appreciation of the musicianship this did very little for me. 5/10

Sinsid – In Victory (Pitch Black Records) [Matt Cook]

Traditional Heavy Metal has become an umbrella term meant to roughly encapsulate bands that don’t fit snugly into a subgenre, but are too heavy to be written off as rock. Oftentimes it’s intended to hit your nostalgia gland and remind you of why you fell in love with this music in the first place. Sinsid fall under this category, however sometimes traditions are best left in the past. The direction (or lack thereof) the Norwegians take on In Victory doesn’t summon fond memories of years past. In fact, it’s an over-exaggerated caricature that does more harm than good.

Sten Roger Knutsen and Even Haavold clearly possess talent as guitarists. But as an esteemed titular video-game boss once (kind of) said: “Not even riffs can save you from this.” Iron Heart is a rusted, dilapidated has-been; the structuring is chaotic and random. The timing and intonations of Terje Singh Sidhu’s vocals is a jumbled hindrance. The record suffers further with introduction transitions that are rough and simply incompatible (Secret Of The Beast). Are you beginning to sense a pattern? Wrath Of Destruction’s time-signature inconsistencies are downright frustrating. It’s not any better with No Fear. Admittedly the only standout song, it’s stunted by an unexpected change in rhythm halfway through, despite a strong riff and suave guitar fill. It comes off as a byproduct of three or four undecided ideas thrown together as one. 

The worst offender is Metalheads. Just the sort of cheesy music your washed-up uncle calls the “heaviest shit” he’s ever heard. It’s more like empty filler, marred further by unnecessary cowbell. Plain and simple, Sidhu’s delivery is better suited fronting an Oi! outfit. Thanks to lazy, low-hanging-fruit remakes of movies nobody asked for, it’s easy to see In Victory as a grab towards a tradition people enjoy, however the journey to get there flopped. Sometimes fond memories are best kept in the past. 5/10

Sunday 29 May 2022

Reviews: Black Void, After Forever, The Heretic Order, Gengis Khan (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Black Void - Antithesis (Nuclear Blast)

Borknagar/Solefald member Lars Are Nedland released Anti in 2021 with his band White Void. It was a proggy, hard rock record that owed much to bands such as Ghost, Witchcraft and Blue Oyster Cult, it seemed to be a shift away from the more extreme style of metal Nedland has been known for in the past, but was a sparkling musical offering driven by Nedlands excellent vocals. But for every Yin their is a Yang and shortly after completing Anti, the recording for Antithesis started White Void, evolving into this new incarnation, Black Void. Melody has been all but sacrificed for furious nihilistic black metal, with punk barbs and a raging against theologies of all kinds. This is music in the Darkthrone and Immortal vein, savage riffs, squawked vocals and hatred to all. 

Drawn from the works of Nietzsche, Antithesis is a rejection of what makes us happy and the embraces of the futility of existence, it's about as nihilistic as you can get no wonder then that the record features guest performances from Hoest from Take and Sakis Tolis from Rotting Christ both of whom bring their Atheist/Nihilist world view to the biting extreme metal assault driven by Nedland, drummer Tobias Solbakk (Ihsahn/White Void) and guitarist Jostein Thomassen (Borknagar/Profane Burial). White Void served as a fun apéritif, Black Void is a gloomy digestif as you mull over your own death. 

From the desolate strains of Void, we are bludgeoned by the audio assault of Reject Everything as Death To Morality and Dadaist Disgust has a touch of Lemmy and the boys as well as Celtic Frost. Despite the veracity of this record, there are moments of melody with Explode Into Nothingness featuring some ringing clean guitars. Antithesis then is darker part of the Nedland psyche, snarling blackened punk with a nihilistic outlook. 8/10  

After Forever - After Forever (Nuclear Blast)

To celebrate the 15 year anniversary of their final and finest album, Nuclear Blast records are re-releasing the self titled album by Dutch symphonic metal superstars After Forever. This is a record that is worth discovering for anyone that may not know what Floor Jansen and Sander Gommans did before they were in Nightwish and Trillium respectively. Jansen especially gives one of her finest performances on this album which although it was their fifth album is pretty much a flawless example of the symphonic metal genre. The operatic stylings of Floor are something she would not really attempt again until joining Nightwish in 2012, here on tracks such as Evoke, her voice is incredibly powerful and broad, using the full operatic range to empart emotion through these songs.

Musically the band are at full flight, Transitory, benefiting from Joost van den Broek's impressive synth playing and the grunts of Sander Gommans, After Forever being one of the first bands to have this clean/grunt dynamic in the vocals. Van den Broek and Gommans composed all the music here so it is very guitar/synth heavy, Bas Mass adding the second guitar for a heavier sound than say contemporaries such as Nightwish, just listen to the blistering Withering Time or De Energized and you'll understand what I mean. 

There are of course similarities between the the Finns and this Dutch act Energize Me still sounding as if it could have come off Once or Endless Forms Most Beautiful as does Equally Destructive. Progressive, powerful and a defining tribute to one of the best bands in the symphonic metal realm, 15 years later After Forever is still a standout of an often maligned genre, it's certainly brought back a lot of happy memories for this writer. 9/10

The Heretic Order - III (Massacre Records)

The horror metal offshoot band of Breed 77 guitarist Danny Felice, aka The Lord Ragnar, The Heretic Order now unleash III, their third album. After two more traditional metal affairs this third record though takes a much more aggressive, heavier record, the occult/theatrical influence of Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate are still there but here the takes on pollution, disease, greed, religion and horrors of history are driven by a new roughness, encapsulated but their cover of Motorhead's Deaf Forever

It's unfortunate then that Deaf Forever is the only time on this albu I actually sat up and paid attention to this record as everything before and after this wasn't particularly interesting musically. It's NWOBHM with an evil filter, but unlike the leading lights in the genre, The Heretic Order feels a bit more like those bands that were overlooked at the time due to being perhaps a little gimmicky. They'll continue to play shows and garner an audience but the first two albums didn't do much for me and this third one hasn't changed my mind. 5/10

Gengis Khan - Possessed By The Moon (Stormspell Records)

Ummm I'm not sure Gengis Khan know what they want to be, it's either that or they want to be Powerwolf, like really badly. The Italian band have signed to Stormspell Records, and this is their third full length record, their second within a year. They play classic speed/heavy metal that's clearly in the European/Germanic sound, with Powerwolf and obvious influence, though probably a bit more than that as many of the songs here feel a little too like bands such as Powerwolf and Grave Digger, I mean they even have a song called Possessed By The Wolf and Possessed By The Moon

It starts out well enough with speedy heavy metal but as the overwrought Eternal Flame ends things change a little more into the dramatic heavier sound. The Wall Of Death upping the gothic. Nothing on this album is a failure, it's music that will get your head nodding along. Band mastermind Frank Leone (vocals/bass) has an ear for classic metal but unfortunately he is playing a style that is very oversubscribed and his voice is quite one dimensional. Gengis Khan will excite some I'm sure but for me this album is less of a Mongol Lord and more of a mongrel horde. 6/10

Friday 27 May 2022

Reviews: James LaBrie, Black Lung, Dust Mice, Ogives Big Band (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich P)

James LaBrie - Beautiful Shade Of Grey (Inside Out Music) [Matt Bladen]

For a long time now James LaBrie's solo albums are influenced by the harder style of metal, often using thrashy riffs and harsh vocals. Much of the music on these solo albums was crafted by guitarist Marco Sfogli and keyboardist Matt Guillory, however while Sfogli returns on this fourth solo album, Guillory doesn't, however LaBrie finds another high profile collaboration who spreads his magic across this album. That man is Paul Logue bassist/guitarist/producer/founder of Eden's Curse whose album Trinity LaBrie guested on in 2011. 

Logue approached LaBrie just before the pandemic about a collab but with the world in lockdown it came to fruition. Beautiful Shade Of Grey is a record that is much different to previous LaBrie solo albums, Dream Theater records and even Eden's Curse albums, this is semi-acoustic record, with Logue playing (6 & 12) acoustic rhythm guitar and acoustic bass, as Sfogli sticking to a acoustic and clean electric guitar style for the leads and solos. 

The remaining band members on this record are Eden's Curse ivory tinkler Christian Pulkkinen and James' son Chance on drums. Much of this record is heavily layered, with the acoustics fluidly driving the up beat rockers such as Devil In Drag which opens and closes the record, while Conscience Calling takes from both The Beatles and Octavarium-era DT. There's drama on the string laden What I Missed, a bit of sunny pop on Supernova Girl, Lation themes on Give And Take while Sunset Ruin is a heart wrenching ballad, delicately strummed by Logue, accompanied by strings as LaBrie sings a dedication to his late brother who died of pancreatic cancer in 2016. 

LaBrie draws from a long list of influences here, but if I was making a comparison it would be Led Zeppelin III which featured the acoustic elements heavily, though the one cover on this album comes from Led Zeppelin II as they take on Ramble On, but then many would say that this is precursor to the more folky style on the following record. I would say it isn't needed but then LaBrie has a history of Zeppelin covers with DT so, he at least gives it the beans, making for a decent rendition. Beautiful Shade Of Grey is an album that has a quite unique soundscape, unlike anything else James LaBrie is involved in, it's rock Jim...but not as we know it. 8/10

Black Lung - Dark Waves (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich P]

We have seen a lot of bands come out of the pandemic with some more introspective and darker material, for obvious reasons. Baltimore’s Black Lung’s newest offering, Dark Waves, is just that (in name and in content); darker than what the four-piece have delivered before without straying too far away from their signature heavy fuzz/blues psychedelic-tinged sounds that I have been digging since I first discovered them through my Ripple Music subscription. Dark Waves, their fourth full length and first for powerhouse Heavy Psych Sounds, as well as their first with their new lineup, is exactly what you want from Black Lung, and a lot more.

Dark Waves opens with an absolute burner, Demons. An awesome way to kick off the eight-track offering with serious riffs and heavy stoner groove. Lyrically I think everyone can relate to “demons will find a way” and “they found me all alone”, especially during these times. The guitar tone is excellent on this track and throughout Dark Waves. The two guitar Dave's (Cavalier and Fullerton) just spit riffs at you for the forty or so minutes that they have you. The title track has some QOTSA vibes to it and with an urgency as Cavalier tells us “We won’t make it to shore”, painting a picture of being afloat in the dark ocean with no way to escape, making the image even stronger with the rolling psych guitar solo. 

Lyrically this is next level writing for the band and that writing has caught up with what Black Lung has been offering musically making this their best record yet. The Cog slows down the pace but turns up the psych, once again putting the twin guitar work on display. The middle of the record slows down significantly, with three tracks at a more plodding tempo, which could have done with a bit of a track listing shuffle as the middle does drag a bit, but not for the lack of excellent songs, because Awaken and Hollow Dreams are both killer tracks. Death Grip has an amazing guest vocal performance from Shawna Potter from fellow Baltimore band War On Women that makes this my favorite track on the album. The emotion she sings with takes it to the next level, I would love a full album from that collaboration. Mad King is a perfect ender, with more of that fuzzy psych guitar that has made Dark Waves such a great listen.

Black Lung has come out of the uncertainty of the world and of the band (with their lineup changes) to bring what may be their best album yet. Amazing guitar work, great lyrical content, and some killer songs makes Dark Waves something I would highly recommend for all of us who loves this genre and is looking for something to get us through the continued crap that constantly surrounds us. 8/10

Dust Mice - Earth III (Wormholedeath Records) [Rich P]

I came across the (self-released) Dust Mice record Earth III last year as a recommendation from the Fuzz Guru Turbo and I was immediately digging what these guys were selling. Super catchy space rock with tinges of kraut and new wave and some killer sax. Now I am not usually one for sax leading the way in my rock (or in many cases even being present, like Riff Master General Mr. Rob In the Hood who will immediately poo-poo anything involving brass). But these guys do it perfect, where it not only doesn’t bother me, but it enhances the space trip Dust Mice are sending you on. Some killer songs are delivered on Dust Mice official debut release, the band now signed to Wormholedeath Records. 

It is a non-stop space rock party, with a constant forward moving rocket ship leading the charge, blasting sax, synths, and garage rock influenced guitars; a soundtrack to whatever a house party in space would be like. The opening track Choom Wagon starts the super catchy space party, with the sax/synth combo pairing perfectly with the tight rhythm section and understated yet effective guitar work. Planet earworm is next stop on this party ship, just try to not have Choom Wagon stuck in your head. Hawkwind vibes are strong throughout, but like if Hawkwind and A Flock Of Seagulls did a split single (this is a compliment). 

Eye Make You Eye turns up the space vibes and pairs the sax with a ripper guitar solo. Hepatitis X combines the sax and synths perfectly and even adds some cowbell, while once again creating a catchy-as-hell vibe that you can’t shake throughout the eight tracks on Earth III. Solitude is quite the sax and keys led ripper that will get you shaking in your spacesuit and continues that new wavy/Hawkwind vibe until a total sax/synth psych out brings you back to the surface of the planet. Sky King may be my favorite track, with the spacey synths and is just so damn catchy. At this point I think you can see the trend…This is such a great record. Super fun, unique, and amazingly catchy. If you can hang with sax being up front jump on the spaceship and join the party. You will not regret catching a rocket ride to Earth III with Dust Mice. 9/10

Ogives Big Band - Harm Redux (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Harm Redux is exactly what the title says it is. It's a Redux, i.e re-mixed, re-mastered version of their previous EP Harm. The re-mix was undertaken by Nathan Long, while the re-master is by Dave Draper. The reason for it is to introduce vocalist Steve Roberts to this wild, frenzied, experimental band from Bristol. Well I say band Ogives Big Band is a fleshed out version of Øgïvęš who I believe is just guitarist Ben Harris playing cinematic drone/psych soundscapes, he added the ex Lambhorn rhythm section of  drummer Oli Cocup and bassist Ben Holyoake to make the Big Band writing music that was more in the band format, the trio shifted the sound into a much heavier, sludge, doom sound with touches of mathcore and hardcore too. 

Now they move into their next chapter with vocalist Steve Roberts adding a new element to these tracks, his ragged, abrasive shouts bring about a more rounded style, without destroying the power of the original tracks, clearly they were written with a singer in mind but this Bristol band had to find the right one. The wild eyed delivery makes the chunky, glitchy Tethra similar to the oddness of Dillinger Escape Plan, as Harfynn Teuport brings a bit more of the psychedelics, searing lead guitars put to a throbbing rhythm section as the crushing heaviness kicks in after about 1 minute 30. Harm Redux closes out with the percussive Etna, bubbling like molten lava, there's lots of modern djent breakdowns here giving you something to mosh too as the EP comes to an end. This is sound of Ogives Big Band today and christ it's vicious! 8/10  

Reviews: Decapitated, Desert Near The End, IATT, Electrified (Reviews By Zach Scott & Matt Bladen)

Decapitated – Cancer Culture (Nuclear Blast Records) [Zach Scott]

Being one of the most prolific and well-respected groups in the realm of death metal, Decapitated is a band that needs no introduction. Since 2000, and with a short hiatus between 2007 and 2009, the band has been consistently putting out death metal albums of a very high standard, and their latest release Cancer Culture is no different. As always, guitarist Vogg is performing to an exceptional standard here, with some absolutely crushing riffs such as the opening of the title track, as well as plenty of the technicality he became known for, such as in Just A Cigarette. There is also plenty of influence taken from outside of standard death metal, with some groove metal flavours in Last Supper, deathcore and black metal in Just A Cigarette, and even hardcore in the short and frenetic Locked

It is of no surprise that Vogg is delivering high quality guitar work, and the rhythm section of Pawel Pasek on bass and James Stewart behind the kit support the riffs with a massive rhythmic base. There could’ve been more focus on the rhythm section in terms of having more interesting parts to emphasise their roots in technical death metal, but they still perform their role well. Speaking of which, it is hard to compare an album like this to others in the Polish death metallers’ discography, especially the earlier albums like Winds Of Creation and Nihility, which oozed of technicality and speed. It is much more comparable to Decapitated’s offerings since 2006’s Organic Hallucinosis, which is where the band started to slow down and introduce more groove-oriented elements to the sound. 

For this reason, this album lacks much of the relentless aggression and machine-gun blast beats for which they originally became so infamous, but this doesn’t completely detract from the album. There are still moments of ferocity, such as the intro of No Cure as well as the classic heavy Decapitated chugging riff found in the midsection of Suicidal Space Programme. Rasta’s vocals here are excellent as always, if not lacking a bit of range. All in all, this is an excellent offering from Decapitated, and stands well amongst their late career post-2009 output, but fails to provide much of a challenge to the pre-2006 era being the band’s strongest, though this might be too much to ask of a band who have been together for nearly 30 years. 8/10

Desert Near The End – The Dawning Of The Son (Boersma Records) [Matt Bladen]

Have you ever thought that Iced Earth lost their edge after The Dark Saga? (well until Jan 6th 2021, where the edge lord was very strong) Or that Matt Barlow needed to front Kreator? Well wonder know more as Desert Near The End roll in like an artillery division on their fifth album The Dawning Of The Son. Based upon “The Red Rising Saga” a dystopian sci-fi series of novels by Pierce Brown, the album is lyrically based on the first trilogy of books and puts the dystopian futurescapes against the heaviest power metal this side of Biomechanical (if you remember them). 

Often shifting into thrash/death style riffages the bludgeoning drumming is relentless much like the galloping bass of Akis Prasinikas, his low end grind laying caterpillar tracks down on freshly scorched earth, the riffs of Panos Kalompratsos craving through flesh and bone with distorted violence on Break The Chains especially, but equally changing into soaring melodies that hark to bands such as Priest and Maiden. It’s all very early Iced Earth, vocalist Alexandros Papandreou snarling, wailing and crooning like Mr Matt Barlow, with that aggression of the Burnt Offerings/The Dark Saga years, Iron Rain, feels like the IE track The Hunter. Vocally he has the range to fuse well with these technical songs. On Wound In My Way, Alexandros changes his voice into a bit of Hansi Kursch, doing the same on Obsidian Angel

Using the same studio as their previous record, The Dawning Of The Son sounds huge! Rise For Dominion especially is more in line with fellow Greeks Septicflesh moving from chanting to blasting extreme metal and those clean voice croons. It doesn't hang around each track hitting you like a concussion grenade, the heavy metal augmented with strings. As you move through the record the final four offerings get a bit longer and more progressive, time shifts throughout but it's still full force heavy metal from the opening to closing chord. It's only natural that I like Desert Near The End as both Matt Barlow and Hansi Kursch are two of my favourite singers of all time and musically the traits of Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Nevermore etc are again high on my love list. Having been following the band since their second album, this fifth release is their heaviest and most destructive yet! 9/10 

IATT – Magnum Opus (Black Lion Records) [Zach Scott] 

The arcane is always an excellent well of inspiration for extreme and progressive metal, and this is what Philadelphia’s IATT drew from for their latest release, a concept album named Magnum Opus. The band is no stranger to intricately conceptual lyricism and music, and this album shows a development on that front. Much of the guitar work draws significant influence from modern atmospheric black metal such as Harakiri From The Sky with the use of open strings, tremolo picking, and arpeggiated riffs. 

An interesting influence is that of music outside of metal, with a saxophone present in several songs, such as the solo in Ouroboros (reminiscent of Rivers Of Nihil’s use of the same instrument) and pad synths in Prima Materia. Despite these unusual influences, some of the more straight black metal songs such as Elixir Of Immortality suffer from a common pitfall in that sections drag on and don’t have much to separate them in terms of sound. The more relaxed passages, such as the introduction of Exculpate, Exonerate do, however, provide a nice dynamic with the more standard black metal parts. There are even some Spanish-influenced parts, such as the interesting drum part in the midsection of the album’s closer Chrysopoeia. Some ideas could’ve been expanded on to greater create a variety of sound, such as the breakdown-esque parts of Planes Of Existence; this could’ve helped to counter the way many sections blend into one another without much to break them apart. 

Overall, the album is solid, with good songwriting and instrumental performances from all members; again, the more interesting sections (particularly the saxophone parts which are incorporated well into the songs) do provide variety, but this is ultimately detracted from by the largely generic black metal passages that frequent this album. Despite this, this is still a good offering by IATT and provides a great foundation for further honing of their sound, which there is no doubt they will do with future releases.7/10

Electrified – My World On Fire (Valve Studio Records) [Matt Bladen]

Essentially a Greek band with a German singer Electrified are a band that play a radio friendly style of melodic rock, coming from bands such as Ratt, Journey, Dokken and even Autograph, especially in the solos. Started by Constantine Markou (guitar) and Anthimos Manti (guitar/keys), what were demos during the Covid lockdown became fully fledged songs with heavy reliance on keys and fretboard melting guitar solos. In all of their PR Electrified mention the word radio, a lot, the songs are melodic ‘radio’, the keys are ‘radio’ but that is very much what you get here. 

Spiro Martinovits (bass) and drummer Chris Siafakas, play pretty simple rhythms but enough to get the feet tapping along as Felipe Del Valle gives some hooky choruses with his rough and ready vocals. My World On Fire is a decent enough melodic rock record but it’s not as incendiary as it should be, only the guitar solos being really impressive. Not bad by any means just a little too similar to a myriad of other bands. 6/10

Thursday 26 May 2022

Reviews: Michael Schenker Group, TARLD, Besvarjelsen, Sisyphean (Reviews By Simon Black, Zak Skane, David Karpel & Zach Scott)

Michael Schenker Group – Universal (Atomic Fire Records) [Simon Black]

I’ve gone into writing before challenging Michael Schenker’s status in the hard rock world, as in general I’ve often felt his reputation to be disproportionate to his actual contribution, but he genuinely surprised and impressed me with last year’s Immortal release, which saw that reputation genuinely reinforced. Universal picks up where that record left off, with once again an ensemble approach of guest vocalists peppered throughout, but the rising Ronnie Romero (who is being kept very busy these days, and seems to crop up on one in every three records from the Frontiers stable) is the main vocalist for this release. Schenker is wise to hang on to him, as he’s liable to become the cornerstone of something bigger than MSG or Vandenburg before too long, and from then on his availability for every other Hard Rock collaboration project is liable to become limited, so enjoy the variety while you can.

Joining Romero are some other notaries, including the return of Primal Fear’s Ralf Scheepers, but things really life up a notch with the inclusion of Michael Kiske from Helloween. That said, Kiske’s contribution on the catchy A King Has Gone whilst distinctive, seems a lot more restrained than we might have expected, which is a shame, as to underuse a talent like this is a shame – especially as the track is a tribute to that and great Ronnie Dio. That said, it’s still one of the better tracks on the record, as it still tugs the heart for its lyrical content, even if the delivery doesn’t quite match. I’m slightly disappointed with this release despite the guest turns unfortunately, as it lacks the song-writing punch of its predecessor and production wise feels also a little too flat, with the guitar a little lost in the mix, apart from the admittedly fluid and enjoyable lead work from Schenker. Nevertheless, anyone who worships at the altar of MSG is unlikely to be disappointed, but you can’t score on every attempt at the goal. 7/10

Besvarjelsen - Atlas (Magnetic Eye Records) [David Karpel]

A distinctive sound is formed in the Swedish three river confluence of Greenleaf, Lowrider, and Dozer. Since their inception, Besvarjelsen hasn’t shied away from cutting their own stream out of those waters. Comprised of a couple of former members of two of those seminal groove generators and utilizing the talents of shared studio guru, Karl Daniel Lidén, the band form their own currents laced with primal guitars (Staffan Winroth and Andreas Baier) and a bass/drum combo (Johan Rockner/Eric Backwall) crushing tidal grooves that carve a tributary toward a new sea. Atlas is a masterstroke of an album coming out of this scene. Like Greenleaf’s Echoes From A Mass, a 2021 favorite, the album is accessible, full of hooks, and swells with passion. Ultimately, though, this recording distinguishes Besvarjelsen’s sound as their own. Much of that is due to Lea Amling Alazam’s vocal chops.

We kick off with a ripper, The Cardinal Ride, that includes a succinct and strikingly cynical summary of life described as “a race that no one’s going to win, a roller coaster of the 7 deadly sins” tied into a driving, addictive groove that sets the tone for what follows. In the harder rocking songs–the opener, Acheron, House Of Burning Light, Digerliden, Obscured By Darkness, and Divided Ends–Alazam affects a tone of being the knower, the voice of experience finding beauty in accepting the ugly reality of lessons learned. 

Immediately we’re reminded of Amy Winehouse in her tone, range, and depth. This is true throughout. Her phrasing and exploration of hooks and melodies also indicates 90s alt-rock influences, most especially Layne Staley. There’s something haunted in how she uses her voice for story telling that pulls and won’t let go. She needs to sing these words. She needs you to hear her even if it hurts to tell or hurts to hear. And you will oblige. This is clarified ever more so in the more soulful pieces, Clouds, Paradise, and Descent, where Alazam’s voice is our guide in the darkness, the jaded mourning of a survivor pushing onward.

Things have changed for these desert rock conjurers. Vallmo’s raw, Windhand-doom vibe in 2018 showed a lot of metal prowess and promise for a band of scene veterans and a mysterious unicorn at the mic. Vastly more psychedelic and experimental, 2019’s Frost, mastered by the wunderkind, Liden, reveled in an expansive new direction. While their previous efforts garnered some deserved attention, Besvarjelsen have stepped up to a whole nother level with Atlas. I’d venture to say they’ve leapt to a distinct pedestal. The first two hook-laden singles, Clouds and Digerliden, will tell you that much at least. The mix is fuller, deeper, and more encompassing, and the songs are downright infectious. They feel more found, the musicianship is tighter, and they now express a realized depth of emotion in songs that demand repeated listening. 

More surprising: there are enough mainstream pop elements shaping the album that many of these songs could be smash hits on the famed 120 Minutes way back when or on college radio today. These are memorable tunes. The band is energized, electrified even at their most soulful, and altogether better than ever with Alazam’s vocals way up front in the mix. She sounds hella more confident here, her powers on full display. This album is startlingly good, a killer piece of soulful desert grooved rock and roll artistry at its finest. 10/10

TARLD – Trapped (Bloodblast) [Zak Skane]

Formed in 2005 from Lyon, TARLD (The Amsterdam Red Light District) formed with the passion and influences of bands like The Refused in mind. Since the bands formation they have released three LPs Dear Dairy, Gone For A While and Saphere Aude and have made appearances on festivals lineups like Hellfest and Resurrection festival, they have also made an appearance on French National Television. Now after a few years the bands have came back with their fourth album Trapped.

Kicking off with Threatened Generation introducing us to the bands experimental sound, the song builds up with kid group chants that reminisce on the 2000’s when Marilyn Manson made it popular with his song Mobscene before we are greeted with the many riffs that this band executes well. When the band kicks off with some groovy Wes Borland style nu-metal riffage provided by Mixime Comby it gets my head bobbing especially with it’s accompanied by some groovy drumming from Julien Chanel. Good Intentions which features Drew York carries the Nu Metal momentum forward with some bouncy riffs but mixing it up with some clean sung vocals provided by Elio Sxone. 

Drew York still sounds as ferocious as ever, even when it comes to delivering lyrics that have a positive message to it. Not the Only One turns up the tempo showing off the bands classic hardcore roots, continued with Happy Endings that mixes with some metalcore influences due to importing double kick grooves and some djent style guitar playing. Born To Be Great takes the band down the mainstream post hardcore root by backing off with harsh vocals and replacing it with melody and vocal hooks, same goes with Not So Innocent with the band featuring some classic energetic leadlines that would please any old school pop punk fan, especially if they listen to the Offspring and Meloncollin. Other highlights on this album are the bass driven Freedom Is A Movement and the groovy riffage of Trapped and the energetic No Place Like Home.

Overall I really enjoyed this album, it has everything you want from a hardcore LP, It’s energic, heavy and most importantly catchy. The production on this is stellar, Guitars sound full, balanced but still pulverises the listener, Julien’s drums parts keep you moving and head bobbing and Elio’s vocal takes sound passionate and well performed. The only flaw…if you call it flaw is there style is quite copied and pasted straight out of While She Sleeps song book personally speaking if they kept to the Nu-Metal sound like they did with their opener Threatened Generation they would have had something sounding more unique. 8/10.

Sisyphean – Colours Of Faith (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Zach Scott]

Thick textures and soaring melodies intertwine in this effort from Sisyphean, a black metal band hailing from Vilnius, Lithuania. Formerly on the German Drakkar roster, but now a Transcending Obscurity Records artist, Colours Of Faith is their second full-length, after 2017’s Illusions Of Eternity, and steps up the music in terms of musicianship, production, and songwriting skill.

Where their previous work chose dissonance and chaos, Colours Of Faith opts for a much more melodic and atmospheric approach to black metal while still remaining true to the dissonance inherent to the style. Haunting lead work peppers the album, such as in the single Hearts Of Mercury and Exiles. There is also influence from the crust punk-influenced 90s output of bands like Darkthrone, showcased in the groovier and more riff-centric songs such as Open Wounds and Sovereigns Of Livid Hope, although again these are still distinctly rooted in the chaotic black metal style; that is, tremolo picking, blast beats, and screeches galore. The riffs are good, the leads are great, and Dainius’ vocals are a bit more interesting than your typical black metal howl, and the clean interludes add a level of atmosphere and dynamics to maintain interest. Additional elements such as the orchestral synths in Exiles also serve to diversify the record’s timbre, although perhaps used too sparingly to have as great an impact as it could’ve done. Despite this, it is still largely an interesting and diverse work of black metal.

However, a trap many atmospheric-influenced projects are prone to falling victim to is that of over-engineering a song. Several of these songs drag on for a good two minutes longer than they need to, and would greatly benefit from some trimming of the fat. There’s no doubt that Sisyphean can write long songs well – the epic ten-minute closer Conqueror strangely doesn’t feel as long as some of the other tracks, and ends the album on a strong note – but they don’t necessarily show that to the best of their abilities here. As well as this, the electronic intro Before The Light and interlude track The Descent feel out of place and don’t gel well with the overall sound, and seem as if they were an afterthought in an otherwise stylistically cohesive album.

Overall, Colours Of Faith is a strong work in the field of black metal with its sprawling textures and oppressive riffing, but the pitfalls that many bands of the same style fall into unfortunately prevents this from becoming a jaw-dropping release. 8/10

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: The Shunkos (Heat #8 28.05.22)

Interviews With The Shunkos By Matt Bladen

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

The Shunkos: We are the shunkos. A five piece garage/punk band from Port Talbot, South Wales. Our guitarist: Lewys Van Graham, drummer: Ollie Ryan, bassist: Keilan Colossus Ryan, vocals: Mal Thomas and Rhys Bloodstone

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

The Shunkos: We started in lockdown because we couldn’t go to karaoke. We wrote our first original song within the first week, and have been writing since. We’ve recently recorded a 5 song EP which is set to be released very soon. Plenty to look forward to!

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

The Shunkos: Our good mates, harbour way have played a few heats and we wanted a piece of the action!

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

The Shunkos: If we couldn’t play in front of a crowd, we wouldn’t play at all! That’s what it’s all about

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

The Shunkos: It would mean as much as a lump of cheese to a starving mouse!
MoM: Tell us two truths and a lie about the band?

The Shunkos: 

1. We derived our name from a local term which means ‘Scruff’ or ‘bogan’. 

2. Our guitarist is a relative of the legendary Eddie Van Halen. 

3. The grandfather of our bassist and drummer was a member of iconic Welsh psych-rock group, MAN

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

The Shunkos: Beer, noise, mullets, moustaches

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Z Machine (Heat #8 28.05.22)

Interview With Z Machine By Matt Bladen

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

Z Machine: We're Z Machine. Named after a type of nuclear reactor and potential source of clean energy, we're a 5 piece prog rock/jazz fusion band with the twin guitars of Gareth Piper and Owen Rosser, Kristian Rees on bass, Lester Greenhalgh on drums, and Rob Harrison on alto saxophone.
From a diverse range of esoteric influences like King Crimson, Rush, Gentle Giant, Gong, Meshuggah and Mahavishnu Orchestra, we're trying to make fun and interesting music which pushes the envelope, that hopefully other people enjoy too.

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

Z Machine: In March 2020 we were right on the cusp of booking gigs before the whole world ground to a halt. What followed was 18 months of practicing and writing at home, waiting to be able to get back in the rehearsal room together and pick up where we left off.
Thankfully it didn't take us long to get back to the standard we left the last time we rehearsed and were able to finally start gigging in December 2021.

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

Z Machine: Myself (Owen), Gareth and Rob have all entered M2TM in previous bands back in 2010 when it was in (the now closed) Vice in Swansea. Gareth's and my bands progressed to the final, with my band Burn The Hive winning and playing at Bloodstock 2010. It was a pretty surreal experience as a 21 year old who to have just been given a slot at a major UK festival!

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

Z Machine: From what we've read the format seems as fair as it possibly could be, not just a contest of "who can bring the most friends", which is always a risk with battles of the bands. That being said we're mostly looking forward to playing in front of a crowd that would have otherwise never have come to see us. As a metal fan myself with fairly diverse tastes, there's bound to be more of us out there who like weird music as much as we like fast and heavy.

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

Z Machine: Same as the above really. Playing a major UK festival would be great as it would give us the opportunity to play to so many more ears. Which is what it's all about really isn't it? Playing whenever and wherever they'll let you, to as many people as you can. Hopefully some of them will actually like you. Gareth and I have been going to Bloodstock every year more or less since about 2012, we've always had a great time there. We've seen other friends bands play the New Blood Stage over the years (including Gareth seeing my band in 2010), it would be really exciting to join their ranks and probably bring the first saxophone to Bloodstock.

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

Z Machine: 

1. Gareth has represented Wales at the Commonwealth Judo Championships.

2. Rob has a podcast called "Gamma Radio" that is set in a post apocalyptic wasteland.

3. We're banned from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre in Llanelli after Rob's saxophone caused confusion to some nearby geese at hearing the opening bars to Donna Lee.

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

Z Machine: Jazz rock seventh chords

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Reviews: The Pineapple Thief, Visions Of Atlantis, Christian Death, Coreleoni (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

The Pineapple Thief - Give It Back (Kscope)

It's Gavin Harrison who we have to thank for this album. The Pineapple Thief/King Crimson/Porcupine Tree drummer hand picked the music featured on this album from three of the bands early albums: Little Man, All The Wars, Tightly Unwound, he approached these songs in the same way he does in King Crimson, which is to play it as if it's a totally new song. After subsequent tours with the band since joining for Your Wilderness, his approach to the older material has seen these tracks take on new life, so inspired by Harrison's idea to rework some of these tracks band leader took things even further and re-wrote, re-recorded and re-worked these songs into tracks that were the same but different. 

What you get from Give It Back, then is a 12 track record that will delight longtime fans, as they will spent hours comparing these to the originals, listening out for the impressive percussion playing of Harrison, but also the additions to the rest of the music from Soord. All the songs here feel like they have been chosen by a drummer, many of them are very rhythmically led, Shoot First and Warm Seas with even the stripped back ones such as Build A World feature glockenspiel and other percussive nuances. So not a best of, but a collection of old songs hand picked by the drummer that have warranted rewiring as the band put. 

We start out with the thrusting Wretched Soul, where the drums are particularly potent giving the track a bit more of a angst about it. Dead In The Water goes more into the modern style of jazzy drum patterns with shimmering post rock guitars, Soord's vocal cutting through with introspective lyricism, 137 gives us some industrial drive. However it's the title track that gives you the perfect idea about what this record is about. The first track chosen by Gavin Harrison it's been revamped into a stage ready heavy rocker, in opposition to the acoustic beauty of Start Your Descent, the Radiohead vibes of Little Man and also Boxing Day which in both forms is one of my favourite The Pineapple Thief songs. 

As I said for fans this will be a great record to pick out the new parts and obsess over, however it also sets down a set of songs newer fans may not know, ready for future tours and back catalogue deep dives. 8/10

Visions Of Atlantis – Pirates (Napalm Records)

Climb aboard, hoist the mizzenmast and set sail for tails of buccaneers on the open seas with Austrian symphonic metal band Visions Of Atlantis. Following their 2019 studio release Wanderers and live record A Symphonic Journey To Remember in 2020, the band have now unleashed their latest studio record Pirates, which surprisingly is about Privateers on the open ocean. It’s a well sailed metal influence, the most famous Pirate metal bands being Running Wild and Alestorm, (however less said about them the better). 

Pirates is cinematic in its scope with huge waves of orchestras and choirs on Master The Hurricane, that are all very Hans Zimmer. Wanderers saw the band trying to redefine themselves, searching for meaning but on Pirates, according to singer Clémentine Delauney they are now "confident in their identity" their upbeat symphonics dipping into heavier riffs and darker orchestrations, the folky Freedom, building drama as Delauney and co-vocalists Michele Guaitoli share a moody ballad, backed by harp and restrained instrumentation, though it builds into a cracking track. It feels like you're bearing witness to this confidence in VOA as a band. 

The tempestuous nautical soundscapes continue on Legion Of The Seas, producer Felix Heldt flexing his muscle on this multifaceted number where everything is at 11. Both Delauney and Guiaitoli are perfect foils for each other Clémentine's wide operatic style perfectly matched by Michele's more traditional power metal delivery. Together they weave the tales on this album brilliantly backed by the most eclectic musicals style yet, even adding flutes and bagpipes to a number of songs including Darkness Inside and In My World, these are provided by Ben Metzner of Feuerschwanz and give the album another dimension. Pirates is a superior symphonic metal offering from Visions Of Atlantis, establishing their identity properly as a band with impressive results. 8/10

Christian Death - Evil Becomes Rule (Season Of Mist)

The apparent founders of American Goth Rock, they have weathered many a storm, from the transition from a post punk band to a more metallic unit in the 1980's, this was necessitated by a split int he band with 2 Christian Deaths doing the rounds (it's not just Batushka). Evil Becomes Rule is the 17th album from the longest lasting version of the band featuring Valor on vocals/guitar/violin/cello/piano and keys, Maitri on vocals/bass and Pao on drums, together this three piece continue the legacy of Death Rock that Christian Death forged many years ago, that has influenced bands such as Danzig, Type O Negative and more recently Unto Others. 

Now it's here I'll address the issue I have with this album, it's only 11 tracks in length but feels much, much longer, that is a problem when a lot of the material sounds very similar, low fuzzy basslines, set to wild dual vocals Valor with the lows and Maitri the wailing highs. The bill this as an 'artistic expression' unfortunately it's one that so often feels a little too much like expression than a coherent album. There are some moments to savour but they are few and far between. Evil Becomes Rule will excite loyal fans but for me, there's too much that drags. 5/10

Coreleoni - III (Atomic Fire Records)

Formed as a tribute to the band guitarist Leo Leoni founded all those years ago, Gotthard, they are now on the 3 studio album of music. The first album was re-recording of some early, possibly forgotten songs from the Gotthard catalogue, but on III they have recorded a lot of new tracks forged in those same fires. This record features Albanian vocalist Eugent Bushpepa, who has represented his country at Eurovision, but here has the perfect, sleazy 80's rock vocal for these hard rock cuts. The 10 originals here are pretty much what you'd expect from Leoni's songwriting, part Ratt, part Bon Jovi, with big choruses and a hard rock swagger it's classic Gotthard in all but name. 

There are of course some re-recorded Gotthard songs as well so you can play spot difference between the originals and these covers, though as they are all written by the same person there's not a lot of variation really. The only jump out moment of this record is the cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, which isn't great if I'm honest. However the originals and re-recordings more than enough make up for the price of admission. Classic hard rock sounds that will appeal to any Gotthard or radio rock lovers. 7/10

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: That Which Ate The Moon (Heat #8 28.05.22)

Interview With That Which Ate The Moon By Matt Bladen

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

That Which Ate The Moon: We are That Which Ate The Moon. A four-piece, Newport based stoner metal band. We have Alex on vocals and bass, Teagan and Lewis on guitars and Ben on the drums.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: Since the start of the pandemic we have put mostly everything on hold to keep ourselves and our fans safe. We’ve only played a handful of shows when we felt it was right to return to gigging. We’ve been focusing all of our energy on recording the rest of our album and writing and putting together demos for what comes after our first album.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: Our last experience with M2TM was last year's competition. We recorded one of our newer songs from Pirate Studios in Cardiff and our feedback was pretty good. Even though we didn’t make it through to Bloodstock we were really happy with how everything went for us.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: We're feeling really good about it. We love playing to a crowd as we bounce off the energy in the room. We’re always conscious of putting on a well rehearsed and planned out show. We take a lot of pride in it.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: It would mean the world to us to finally be able to play our songs on a big stage at a festival. That’s been the dream for us since the beginning.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: 

1. We played in front of Benji from Skindred at one of our shows.

2. Ben is a grade 8 tuba player.

3. Teagan started playing the cornet before he started learning the guitar.

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

That Which Ate The Moon: Sexy Boys Making Noise

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: I Fight Bears (Heat #8 28.05.22)

Interviews With I Fight Bears By Matt Bladen

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

I Fight Bears: We are I Fight Bears. Our members:

Dan Blackmore - Vocals
Chris Treharne - Guitars
Marc James - Guitars
Drew Hamley - Bass/vocals
Scott Preece - Drums

Coming at you from Bridgend, home to Funeral For A Friend, Those Damn Crows and Bullet For My Valentine, South Wales metal beasts I FIGHT BEARS hurl out juggernaut riffage, imposing vocals, and thunderous beats, that suck you in and spit you out. 

In 2018, the Welsh heavyweights dropped their self-titled debut album, sparking glowing comparisons to Lamb Of God, Parkway Drive, and Killswitch Engage. The record piqued the interest of Metal Hammer, who placed the band on their cover CD, exclusively streamed the album, and backed the band with a feature in the magazine. The album was also widely praised from many acclaimed websites and online sources. The band followed this up with the release of their shredding cover of the classic Spandau Ballet song ‘Gold’ I FIGHT BEARS’ live stock is on the rise too, with support slots with the likes of Bleed From Within, The Word Alive, Continents, Perpetua and Skies In Motion have only furthered their growth.

I FIGHT BEARS are currently working hard on brand new material for an EP to follow up from their debut album. Stay tuned to their socials for updates.

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

I Fight Bears: The Covid years were difficult for us as they were for most people. But we did manage to start pulling new material together and making headway on getting it recorded and produced.

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

I Fight Bears: We’ve attended many heats in the past number of years to support fellow bands but this will be our first time playing as part of M2TM. It’s exciting!

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

I Fight Bears: The best way for anyone to experience a band is to see them live. We’re thrilled that we can do this again. We love creating records but our real power is in the live setting.

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

I Fight Bears: Bloodstock is a truly great festival. Lots of bands we love play it every year. It would be a huge accomplishment for us to be a part of a festival that houses such great acts.

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

I Fight Bears: 

1. We were once at a recording studio in North Wales and a body was tragically discovered about 300 metres from our studio in a river.

2. Our guitarist Marc James is a power lifter and competes regularly

3. Dan our vocalist often competes in large eating competitions and often wins.

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

I Fight Bears: Bears Will Be Fought

Tuesday 24 May 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Fury & Rites To Ruin (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Fury & Rites To Ruin, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

A Friday night in Fuel Rock Club is usually one that's filled with noise, bit on this particular Friday it was filled with the noise of some old friends.

Hitting the venue late I missed the opening band but I arrived just in time for my first viewing (the last one scuppered by the Rona) of Rites To Ruin (7). The band made up of ex-Triaxis singer Krissie Kirby and guitarist Matt Chambers along with drummer Tom Ross, bassist Paul Boschen and guitarist Lee Cartner. Having enjoyed their EP it was great to catch the band on the live stage. 

They play a shreddy/progressive style of metal which has some pumping riffs, paired with Krissie's vocals which become more like Ann Wilson of Heart with every viewing. Playing all the songs on their EP Fire plus a new song based around Dungeons & Dragons, they stormed through their set, though the mix left much to be desired as the vocals seemed to be much higher than everything else rendering the music a little mute.

After a warm applause from the local audience, a very quick change around led to Midlands based band Fury (9) who are no strangers to these pages. Now fleshed out to a five piece with Nyah Ifill added as a full time vocalist, she adds a great counterpoint to frontman Julian Jenkins, giving the newer songs from Born To Sin and The Grand Prize much more oomph vocally as Becky Baldwin too gives her voice on certain songs, Hell Of A Night especially with its "Monster Movies" refrain is a guaranteed song along. With a set drawn mainly from Born To Sin, The Grand Prize and Lost In Space, it was the current iteration of Fury that loomed large over the show, cementing them as possibly the most powerful version yet. 

The tongue twisting If You Get To Hell First shifted into the previously mentioned Hell Of A Night, blowing away the cobwebs, while Galactic Rock and This World Is Mine both kept up the rocking. As per usual JJ is a great frontman, though he has a little verbal diarrhea occasionally, Burnout got the fists moving while The Dragons Song was warmly welcomed in the land of the dragon. Tom Fenn beats the snot out of his kit, while decked out in a fetching Hawaiian shirts as Jake Elwell shreds and solos like a wildman, stepping onto the front of stage as he does.

However Rock Lives In My Soul (originally a duet with Kim Jennet) was done just as well with JJ and Nyah sharing the mic. Upon A Lonesome Tide I thought would split the crowd but if anything it unified them more, lighters aloft throughout. Bringing back the riffs with the filthy Embrace The Demons and a great medley of Its Rock N Roll/Road Warrior which had a drum solo, bass solo and guitar solo in it to split the two, the packed house in Fuel were grooving to every song by this point, those of us who know the lyrics singing along. 

As thing we're brought to a close there was the obligatory false ending before the skat singing started our closer Casino Soleil, the funkiest song the band have done leaving Fuel rocking to the last chord. Fury are always the most fun you can have with your clothes on! This Friday being proof positive!

Reviews: Cites Of Mars, Drift Into Black, Geezer, Datcha Mandala (Reviews By Rich P)

Cities Of Mars - Cities Of Mars (Ripple Music)

Ripple Music has been on absolute fire the past two plus years releasing the best in stoner/doom/heavy or whatever you want to call it, with zero clunkers in the bunch. This streak will be tough to continue given the sheer volume of the amazing stuff Todd and team put out. I can say with certainty the new Cities Of Mars record continues this trend. The third full length from, as their bio reads perfectly, the “cosmonauts of doom”, continues the epic, doomy soundscapes they create that makes the Swedish band so unique. The self-titled third record takes their trip to the next level, creating a doom epic that is a must listen.

Spacey doom: what a wonderful combination that Cities Of Mars pulls off perfectly and you get this right off the bat with the first full track, Towering Graves (Osmos). Epic and huge are two words that I will always use when talking about this album. It just seems really big, in the best possible way. The production in excellent and seems a step up from their first two offerings. The heaviness is right up front with the rhythm section taking center stage complimented by the haunting, dreamy vocals and guitars, outlined perfectly on the track The Prophet (Methusalem), which may be my favorite track on an album full of great ones. I love the floating background vocals on this track and throughout Cities Of Mars. 

A Dawn Of No Light is a banger that outlines the urgency of our protagonist that COM have been singing about since their first record. Heavy, melodic, and mid-way through brings the doomy breakdown that just works perfectly. The Dreaming Sky (Anur) dual harmonies work perfectly within the context of the song and make you feel you are floating in space with the cosmonauts COM have got you so invested in. The Black Shard (Bahb-Elon) is the perfect closer, giving you eleven minutes plus of all the greatness that Cities Of Mars brought to you thus far, wrapping up this chapter of the story in perfect fashion.

Another Ripple classic. Cities Of Mars have upped their game to produce their best album yet. All that you want from a band that has steadily put out some really strong material but have now taken it to the next level. Highly recommended and will be somewhere on my end of year list. Go listen. 9/10

Drift Into Black - Earthtorn (Black Lion Records)

Time for some heavy doom goodness from New Jersey’s Drift Into Black. With their fourth album, Earthtorn, the trio has produced a concept record outlining what ultimately results in the extinction of mankind, which is a pretty timely topic given the shit show we are currently existing in. Let’s see if this can be the soundtrack to the end times or just another attempt to be heavy for the sake of being heavy while attempting to tell a half-baked story.

Well, this one is not for the faint of heart. Yeah, we got some doom here, but we cross over into all sorts of heavy territory, and even bring some keyboards and ambient landscapes to the table making this an exciting listen with many twists and turns on the journey. I am not going to give away the story that the album tells, but it is a unique and well told tale that you may need the lyric sheet to follow, mostly due to the on and off clean and not so clean vocals. 

 A highlight of this album is the track The March To Oblivion, which brings all of these contrasting styles to the table. You have the clean vocals playing off the heavy growls, you have keys and strings, you have doomy parts, and you have some serious crunch, all with some excellent background vocals. Really breathtaking stuff. At this point in my music listening, I much prefer clean singing, but when you have the back and forth that really is my sweet spot, and Drift Into Black hit that spot perfectly. Angel Of Doom is another standout with some female vocals included into the storyline which is a perfect contrast to the two other vocal styles you get throughout. I also love the keys in this track and would include it in my doom tracks of 2022 playlist (if I had one). 

The tracks are laid out perfectly on Earthtorn both musically and from a storytelling standpoint. You even get a gothic feel (some Paradise Lost love maybe) with the track Weight Of Two Worlds. But while there is a lot of genre-bending musically on Earthhorn, never does it seem disjointed, keeping both the music and the story moving forward. There is a bit of a lull in the middle, but what surrounds it is outstanding.

This album is heavy, extremely emotional, and an exciting journey. I love a good concept album. Good being the key. A strong story to go along with some heavy doom that goes in all sorts of directions. I can see a tour with Fires In The Distance making a ton of sense. Highly recommended for fans of heavy doom with both clean and dirty vocals and something that will make you pay attention to all aspects of Drift Into Black’s latest offering. 8/10

Geezer - Stoned Blues Machine (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Geezer is back, and right on time to bring us some of the stoner grooves that we all continuously crave and expect from the New York trio. Stoned Blues Machine was conceived during the pandemic, but not to wallow in all the crap we were/are wading through, but to give us something to groove to, to shake our ass to, to have fun with while also confronting the pain we are all going through together. What more can you ask from a band who has continually given us this joy for the past decade or so.

The ass shaking commences on the groovy/riffy opener, Atomic Moronic. The trippy guitars, the riffs, but now an even more pronounced groove makes this the perfect opening track, and I am right there with the boys as they want to “burn it down”. Relevant but in no way preachy, it reminds me a bit of the Borracho record from last year but with the politics toned down a bit. The groove continues on with the tracks Logan’s Run and A Cold Black Heart, bringing you more riffage and butt wiggling while the world crumbles around us, which is exactly what I am looking for during some of these crazy times. The latter track gives you the trippy vibes that you expect from these guys and that they provide so well. The title track, another banger that brings some stoner blues riffs with a “Fuck You” attitude that works perfectly throughout this record. 

The Monster Magnet vibes are strong on Broken Glass. I love the riff that is constant throughout the track, and this may be my favorite jam of the bunch. Eleven asks you to “break out the weed and a riff” and to “go to eleven” to escape the hellscape we are currently in. Enough said, this speaks for itself, as does the great trippy guitar work. Party anthem of 2022? Well at least it makes the stoner part of the playlist and it’s a shindig I want to be invited to. Saviours goes lyrically deep, exploring aging and asking that eternal question, “where do we go from here”. A nice contrast to the spliff and turntables on the last track. The closing track, The Diamond Rain Of Saturn, is an absolute banger that is the most trippy jam on the record (more Monster Magnet vibes) and wraps up the eight track record perfectly.

Geezer is not going to suddenly produce a prog metal epic; that is not what you want from these guys. The provide us with a service: stoner grooves and trippy desert riffage, and they do it well. In fact, this is their best record in their discography, showing the growth in their playing, songwriting, and production that was required to take them to the next level. If you dig what they are selling this is a strong recommend. 8/10

Datcha Mandala - The Last Drop (Mrs Red Sky)

Sometimes your press release can be your worst nightmare. Something calling out blues rock, heavy rock, and psychedelic rock seems like something I should eat up and have in heavy rotation at Rich P’s global HQ. This is what the bio for French trio Datcha Mandala’s EP, The Last Drop, calls out, as well as the lead singer’s Robert Plant-esque vocals. Uh oh, I have a bad feeling about this. Let’s see where this goes.

There is nothing psychedelic about this band. They play nice and neat straight-ahead rock. Mentioning Mr. Plant is a stretch to say the least. The opening track of the EP, Janis, an ode to guess who, sounded like it was about to be a cover of T. Rex’s glorious The Slider, but instead of that it veered into a bubbly straight ahead poppy rock tune that did nothing for me. The second track, L.A. Hippie, is kind of a description of what these guys wish they were but could not quite pull it off. Another straight ahead, happy, poppy rock tune that breaks no ground and while initially catchy is ultimately forgettable. I feel like these guys have a bunch of Greta Van Fleet merch in their apartments. 

According to their press release, this EP was supposed to be a tribute to 70s rock, but I feel like they really missed the mark. If that is what they were going for it is way too overproduced and slick for that kind of call back to arguably the greatest era in music. The track I & You kind of sounds like a Steely Dan deep cut, but I am not sure that is what they were going for. When you call a song Carry On, then try to sound like CSNY, but don’t actually cover the song, it is a huge miss. The final track, Hit & Roll, is the best track, an up-tempo rocker that out of all the five tracks on the EP captures at least part of the spirit I think they were going for.

I guess my feedback here is to be careful what you reference in your press, because when you mention words like “blues”,” psychedelic” and “Robert Plant” you are setting up certain expectations that are very difficult to live up to. A high-pitched scream at the end of a song does not make you the next Zeppelin and thus while these guys can obviously play, there is nothing here that I feel I ever need to go back to or can recommend. 4/10

Metal To The Masses 2022 Interviews: Black Pyre (Heat #7 27.05.22)

Interview With Black Pyre By Matt Bladen

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

Black Pyre: We are Black Pyre, 4 piece black metal outfit local to south Wales. We create black metal inspired by the old school sounds of Greece and Norway. They utilize all of the trademark features in black metal such as blast beats and trem-picking and combine it with melodic riffs and an evil presence. 

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

Black Pyre: We have been gigging and touring our debut album Winter Solstice, as well as working on new music. 

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

Black Pyre: We played the heats in 2019 and had a fantastic time, and will enjoy participating again. 

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

Black Pyre: Playing in front of a crowd again? We feel fairly confident. A little knocked by the logistics and road closures, but we anticipate a great show. We relish the idea of having a crowd, and aim to please. 

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

Black Pyre: For us playing Bloodstock would be a great honour, and we feel it would make a great string to our bow, and hopefully broadcast us to wider audiences and help to cement us as a staple of UK black metal. We hope if we do play that it will yield fruitful opportunities for us going forwards. 

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

Black Pyre: 

1. Asbjorn’s favourite food is mayonnaise, 
2. Kjottflate once had a dream that instead of going to Banbury we decided to play the Gryphon last minute 
3. We are playing a festival in Norway in September. 

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

Black Pyre: Black Pyre smell good