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Friday 13 May 2022

Reviews: Upon A Burning Body, Ante Inferno, Ritual, Scitalis (Reviews By Zak Skane, Paul Scoble, David Karpel & Matt Cook)

Upon A Burning Body – Fury (Seek & Strike) [Zak Skane]

Upon A Burning Body have been a well known name in the metal community since the late 2000’s when they first started as a deathcore outfit that wore suits on stage. Throughout the years the band have been sharing stages with modern metal icons like Trivium and As I Lay Dying as well being guests on stages like Download. With five releases under the bands ever sonically evolving belt, Fury shows the band melding all their sounding into one.

As the album opens up with A New Responsibility, traditional deathcore venom oozes with ripping blast beats and groovy chugged verses, combined with Hardcore driven gang vocals. Once the pounding right and left hooks subsides, the sonic assault returns with thrashy vengeance summoning the energy of the big four whilst the pounding rhythms of bands like Hatebreed and Kubala Khan get us bouncing. Shapeshifter takes us back to their classic deathcore sound with a modern twist, with the lead lines soaring and grooving with razor sharp precision. 

The band leads us down the buttrock route with the bluesy guitars and soulful swaggered choruses that the singer Danny is providing on Thunder Heart. The soaring vocals are continued with Kill The Ego with band wearing their Lamb of god patches on their sleeve. Clarity takes us back to the 2010’s…..I can’t believe that’s a thing now…..with the classic chugfest and catchy chorus formula, whilst other highlights on this album such as Who Am I and Code Of Honour provides us with solid beatdowns and sing-along choruses.

I did enjoy listening to this album as it turns to shuffle mode on the modern metal and rock playlist, each sub genre they explored was executed well, but it doesn’t re-define the wheel 7/10.

Ante Inferno - Antediluvian Dreamscapes (Vendetta Records) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Scarborough, Ante Inferno have been making nasty music together since 2017. Scarborough may not seem like a very Black Metal place to be based, however anyone who has visited one in the winter knows that there is nowhere more Grim and Frostbitten than a British seaside resort town offseason, and Scarborough is on the North Yorkshire coast, so that Grim and Frostbitten squared.

In the 5 years the band have been together they have made one album before Antediluvian Dreamscapes, in 2020’s Fane, and they released a single called On The Precipice Of Life And Death one year before in 2019. The band is made up of G.S. on Drums, K.B. on Vocals and Guitar, N.L. on Bass and Ben Gladstone on Guitar. Ben joined the band this year, and has clearly not had time to remove the superfluous letters from his name. 

Ante Inferno’s sound is rooted in Tremolo Picked Black Metal, it’s melodic and modern except for when it’s blasting, savage and Second Wave influenced. The album is made up of seven tracks, two of which are short instrumental interludes, and the other five are long songs. The album opens with A Lullaby To A Dying World, which is one of the short tracks that acts as an intro, the track features clean guitar that is nicely brooding, and draws the audience into the album. Next comes the first of the long songs, Transcendence, which drops us strait into fast blasting Black Metal, that has a slight second wave style to it, and also reminds me a little of the band Mare Cognitum. Next comes a mid-paced section that is pleasingly heavy, before the song takes a turn towards very melodic tremolo picked riffs, that are wonderfully tuneful. The track then drops us back into the maelstrom of the fast and savage riffs that opened the song. The track then repeats the slow and heavy, the fast and very tuneful, before bringing the track to an end with very nasty blasting.
The next song is Celestial Mirage, which vacillates between savage second wave blast beats, and a very dissonant slow section that is just as nasty as the blast beats, and has a relentless and unstoppable feel to it. Up next is the second of the short instrumentals, Shadowed Waters; a beautifully dissonant guitar, which then has a tremolo picked riff over the top and takes the audience into the most interesting track on the album, Two Score And Ten Souls. Two Score And Ten Souls opens with softly strummed guitar, the guitar has a nice dissonant distortion on it, but the playing style is very soft. The track has harsh vocals on it, but they are low in the mix, and not intrusive, so this track has a very smooth, drifting feel to it. The style of guitar playing reminds me of one specific band; Pink Floyd in the early to mid Seventies, Wish You Were Here era Pink Floyd. 

Imagine Pink Floyd making a Black Metal track, that is what it sounds like to me. The track then builds in intensity, getting more driven and bringing the vocals higher up in the mix. We are then dropped into a maelstrom of blasting Tremolo picked riff, before the track returns to the Pink Floyd feel from the beginning of the song. The track then blasts for a while before a slow and dissonant section bridges the gap to one final blast beat, which takes the song to its end. The parts that I felt were reminiscent of Pink Floyd don’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard in Black Metal before, it’s a lovely piece of very original songwriting that I would love to see the band expand on. Beyond The Immemorial Veil is a mix of simple and direct tremolo picked, blasting Black Metal, and slower melodic and very tuneful Black Metal, which again is a little reminiscent of Mare Cognitum. 

Final track Nightmares Of The Eschaton opens with some very riffy Black Metal that reminds me a little of Immortal, before going into savagely fast tremolo picked Black Metal, until we return to the very riffy feel for the end of the song. Antediluvian Dreamscapes is a fantastic album. Without Two Score And Ten Souls, this would still be a very good, and very enjoyable album, but the inclusion of a song that is beautiful and beautifully original makes this album something very special, its a track that makes Ante Inferno stand a little bit taller than the bands around them. This album deserves to be a massive hit, I have a feeling that in a few months Ante Inferno are going to be a very big deal in British Black Metal. 9/10

Ritual - Enigma (Self Released) [David Karpel]

Ritual’s latest, Enigma, is the eclectic sequel to the narrative saga the band began on their first EP, Cococabana And The Punchdrunk Blues. This time the 5-piece bring with them a deadly coterie of elite guests: Devin Townsend, Anneke Van Giersbergen (The Gathering and Devin Townsend Project), Jørgen Munkeby (Shining), and Dianne van Giersbergen (Ex Libris, formerly of Xandria, and no relation to Anneke). The result is a wild mix of genre-blended songs that grab from funk, opera, groove metal, symphonic metal, power metal, punk, jazz, and straight up rock to execute a really dynamic listening experience. 

In As Above So Below, dark melodic harmonies open up like curtains to reveal a tremendous stage, which the next tune, Seven Gates, will use in its entirety in just over three and a half minutes. Chugging riffs lead to dramatic, operatic vocals that build to a crescendo. Rough vocals ride the grooving riffage, but soon give way to rapped lyrics that also then fall away to open up into a symphonic metal transition. The rapping comes back, as does those incessant crunchy guitars. How many genres of music can you fit in three and a half minutes and still make it sound like an actual song? Apparently a bunch. Murderous Operandi sounds like a straightforward ripper of power metal braggadocio until a mellow, jazzy sax breakdown makes me think otherwise. After the horsepower guitars pick up again, it’s great to hear them dragging the horn kicking and screaming with them, blaring out front again momentarily, and then fading out with the song. 

Rapcore returns in Pandemonium, spiced with chanting and impressive vocals, and Walk Of Shame, where we enter the vestibule of Satan’s palace with guest Devin Townsend, shows us through the last door with a jazzy set that feels absolutely necessary and appropriate. The loop of terrified screaming in the end fades out to let the horn sing its last sad notes, which seems to close the album with utter finality. Dramatic, genre-blending, perhaps even genre-bending, and well-performed, Enigma shows Ritual destroying boundaries and redefining the possibilities of what they can do next. 8/10

Scitalis – Doomed Before Time (Vendetta Records) [Matt Cook]

I’m not entirely sure why, but for me, black metal has always been an archaic genre, not exclusively in terms of its often primitive production value. The idea of “new” black metal bands for whatever reasons feels oxymoronic. This is all to say I am a misguided and/or misinformed fool, and 21st-century black metal is alive (mostly) and well (less often, I suppose). Scitalis have laid down their full-length debut, Doomed Before Time, a dissonant, atmospheric, abrasive cacophony of mayhem (no pun intended).In keeping with the black metal way, Scitalis are comprised of A (vocals, bass), S (guitars) and J (drums). 

Whether to contribute to the mystique or to keep the focus entirely on the music as a whole is up for interpretation. But what can’t be debated is A’s captivating vocal style. Equal parts echoey and faded, it’s delivered in a way that both haunts and grabs, scares and attracts. Serpent pierces with its dissonant shouts and driving guitar work. It impressively incorporates an atmospheric/doomy hook which results in a remarkably imposing vibe. S again displays serviceable guitar work on Seen By Blind Eyes, armed with a robust riff continuously throughout the track. J infuses the titular song with a rock-hard snare drum line and a catchy refrain rears its ugly head on Absent.

Scitalis are measured in their attack and Doomed Before Time isn’t bogged down with any unnecessary fat or fluff. The compositions are tight and crisp, to the point. The production is modern while also accentuating the genre’s roots. The three-person team effectively complements one another without stepping on each other’s toes. It’s Black Metal for the harsher enthusiast just as much as for the immersive, atmospheric-prone. 8/10

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