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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

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