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Friday 29 July 2022

Reviews: Ryo Okumoto, My Sleeping Karma, Steel Mage, The Rusty Nutz (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Ryo Okumoto - Myth Of The Mostrophus (Inside Out Records)

20 years since the release of his last solo record, Spock's Beard keyboard maestro returns with his fifth solo album Myth Of The Mostrophus, a 6 song progressive rock wonder book ended by Mirror Mirror and the title track which are the two longest songs on the album at 9:27 and 22:14 respectively. According to Okumoto, who collaborates with I Am The Manic Whale singer/bassist Michael Whiteman on this album, they are the two songs that best represent the idea of Ryo's Beard, as they both feature Spock's Beard members Nick D'Virgilio, Dave Metros, Alan Morse and Ted Leonard. The vocals on both shared between Nick and Ted for those lush SB harmonies. These two songs are the ideal intro and outro for this album as they as close to SB as they can be, enticing fans of that band into this solo album. This duo really entrenched in that virtuoso prog sound the band have been a part of for so many years. 

Away from Spock's Beard the remaining four songs are star studded affairs that stay in the progsphere but bring in AOR on the melodic rocker The Watchmaker (Time On His Hands), blues on the soulful Turning Point, a bit of Bowie meets Yes on the quirky Maximum Velocity, deviating from Spock's Beard style but still coming from the prog rock heart while also adding plenty of other stylistic elements to keep you guessing as to what comes next. Joining Okumoto and Whiteman as the core trio on these other tracks is drummer Johnathan Mover. For the guitars he brings in Lyle Workman and Steve Hackett along with Mike Keneally and Marc Bonilla. Elsewhere the folk whimsy of Chrysalis features Living Colours' Doug Wimbish, while behind the mic on these other four tracks is Whiteman, Randy McStine and Michael Sadler (Saga), all bring their own style. 

It's a who's who of talent making for a record that bristles with high quality progressive rock music. Recorded and engineered by Rich Mouser who also did the same for all the SB records, Myth Of The Mostrophus is monster of prog rock album from one of the most experienced men in the business. Come for the Spock's Beard epics such as the gigantic, Kaiju inspired title track but stay for some impressive prog rock pomp. A must buy for progressive rock fans. 9/10

My Sleeping Karma - Atma (Napalm Records)

It's been a long seven years since the purveyors of intergalactic, psychedelic, instrumental music released any new explorations. Atma though is not a follow up to Moshka (2015), it's a continuation of this bands evolution as they come closer to a 20 year career, the line up remains Matthias Vandeven (bass), Norman Mehren (keys), Seppi (guitar) and Steffen Weigand (drums) the four men closer than many brothers, weathering storms together and playing all across the world. It's these experiences that are brought forth on Atma as the band have experienced their toughest years ever (as so much of the music industry has) this means that this album in particular is their most personal yet, inspired by tragic events and filtered through their exploratory music, it's their deepest, darkest recording to date. 

Across 8 sprawling soundscapes they tell a story of tragedy. Maya Shakti builds from a single hypnotic repeating riff into more astral, percussive realms but keeps the same motif as it has at the beginning. It's a slow burning opener that segues into Prema which is shorter but features some driving post-rock, twinkling synths and ambient moments, Avatara comes from a place of post rock ambience as it builds into some epic riffing across a near 10 minutes run time. Atma is a sound of our times, dark, brooding and despondent but with elements of wonder. More than just a fifth album from this German band but a fresh start from a bad place. 8/10

Steel Mage - As The Chapel Falls (Self Released)

As The Chapel Falls is the debut album from Sheffield band Steel Mage. Surprisingly they aren't a swords in the air cheesy power metal band. Instead they play melodic hardcore but they use fantasy/satanic imagery in their album cover. Still enclosed within is melodic hardcore bristling with sharp, distorted riffs, grooves galore, shouted vocals and a lot of melodic elements that are such a prime part of the American metalcore sound, with some Killswitch Engage, Trivium (This Is The Day) and Pantera all clear influences. The Betrayed gets us going with groove driven riffage and growls from Joshua Watson that come straight from the Cowboys From Hell. Unspoken Words is a showcase of the dual guitars from Oliver Parker and Chloe Cartwright, while Jealousy brings us some clean vocals. 

A Beautiful Confession takes us down a EDM intro before Petrified and Disfigured bring back the heavy, the former the one with the most hardcore while the grooves of Jack Haigh and Thomas O'Malley on the latter one of the heaviest here. This Is The Day is also crushing. Steel Mage bring more electronics on Bitter Truth as well as a knuckle dragging breakdown that shifts into sludge. It's the final track Lost In Ambivalence that really displays how good Steel Mage can be, an a atmospheric, anthemic track which hints at where they may go from here. As The Chapel Falls is 36 minutes of melodic hardcore that will excite genre fans as well as the wider metal community. 7/10

The Rusty Nutz - We Tried To Make It Big But Something Somewhere Went Wrong, We Can't Work Out What That Something Is (Lavender Sweep Records)

If you've had any exposure to the West Wales stoner/doom/punk/noise scene then you'll know it's as eclectic as it can get, many of the bands involved with Lavender Sweep Records, which recently released a compilation of many of the active and defunct bands from that diverse scene. If you've have any contact with the Welsh you'll know on the whole we don't take ourselves seriously and that we are a land of tall tales and whimsical flights of fancy often juxtaposed with historical hardships and poverty due to being the main country ignored by those in power in Westminster. 

This has always been reflected in our music which is often written as an outlet for humour (The Hennessy's being one of the most well known for those of us in the capital) and nostalgia to outweigh the trouble and strife affecting the country. The latest entry into both the Lavender Sweep Cannon and that tradition of writing escapist music, with locally drawn inspiration are The Rusty Nutz who draw influences from bands such as Pixies, Super Furry Animals and the Manic Street Preachers (the strings are in full force) but with a punk/stoner/prog edge and acerbic, often tongue in cheek lyrics that reflect the West Walian outlook inspired by miles of endless coastline and plenty of quirky characters. From the surf rock styling of Man On A Surfboard, complete with Wurlitzer, to the shouty, clothes stealing legend of Jonny Siwmper, through an ode Hyper Value (a store founded in Wales dontcha know?). 

Musically The Rusty Nutz experiment with all manner of styles and sounds making for an intriguing listen for anyone that loves the stoner/punk/alt rock sound, as the emotional Where The Vetch Used To Be leads into the punk fury of Sniper, an ode to Swansea City Football Club, Who Needs The Thames (When We've Got The Tawe) is darkly romantic track with a touch of Nick Cave while the atmospheric title track feels like modern Marillion. The album will be released on every format imaginable, literally every single format (21 in total) you can record music on to, retro and modern they have put this album on. Possibly to annoy completists I don't know but if I were you I would try to get it on as many formats as you can as We Tried To Make It Big... is a superior example of Welsh rock music. 9/10

Reviews: Belphegor, God Is An Astronaut, Palace, Defected Decay (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Rich Piva, Matt Bladen & Erick Willand)

Belphegor - The Devils (Nuclear Blast) [Richard Oliver]

After thirty diabolical years of blasphemy and perversion, blackened death metal stalwarts Belphegor return with their twelfth album The Devils. The Austrian extreme metallers are down to a core two piece of Helmuth (vocals and guitars) and Serpenth (bass) but are joined by drummer David Diepold (Obscura) in a guest capacity for the album. The core Belphegor sound of fiery black and death metal is still very much there and as intense and bloodied as ever with songs such as Totentanz - Dance Macabre and Damnation - Hoellensturz delivering evil tremolo riffs, relentless blast-beats and the unholy shrieks and roars of Helmuth but a lot of the album is made up of songs which expand the Belphegor sound. 

You get the shifting tempos and complex song structure of the title track whilst Glorifizierung Des Teufels and Virtus Asinaria - Prayer are far more melodic and mid-paced with emphasis placed on the use of choirs, chants and a sense of grandeur. You also get songs like Kingdom Of Cold Flesh and Ritus Incendium Diabolus which try to merge the best of both worlds being fast, violent and extreme mixed with mid-paced and melodic moments. The Devils provides a familiar side of Belphegor along with a new melodic and grandiose side. 

Whilst I applaud the progressive mindedness of the album it also left me yearning for the sonic depravity of the Belphegor of old with only Totentanz - Dance Macabre coming close to scratching that itch though for old school fans there is a bonus track Blackest Sabbath 1997 which is a medley of Blackest Ecstasy and Blutsabbath from the 1997 Blutsabbath album. I can’t fault a more melodic and grandiose Belphegor with songs such as Glorifizierung Des Teufels and Virtus Asinaria - Prayer being really effective but personally this is not what I want from a Belphegor album. A good experiment but one which doesn’t wholly land with me. I still enjoyed the album but by the end I wanted blast-beats. 7/10

God Is An Astronaut - The Beginning Of The End (Revive Records) [Rich Piva]

The pandemic has brought a wave of productivity and creativity from bands. You see a lot of content being delivered and some projects that may not have come to light if the bands were not looking for an outlet or revenue stream without the ability to play out. The Irish instrumental post rock band God Is An Astronaut took some of this time to revisit their twenty year old debut record The End Of The Beginning and record it live in the studio in a re-imagined form. The result is The Beginning Of The End, containing evolved and re-imagined versions, track by track, from their debut leveraging ideas of how these songs have been played live throughout their twenty year career. 

A cool idea, but is it a necessary one? For fans of God Is An Astronaut this will be some exciting content. Re-imagined, live in the studio versions of their classic debut like the epic From Dust To The Beyond, the amazing, spacey Ascend To Oblivion, and the atmospheric goodness of Remembrance are all here in their new live and reinvigorated glory. The recording sounds amazing and these guys have not lost a step given how long they have been playing together. Though it is debatable how necessary this whole endeavour is for anyone outside of their current fanbase. 

This may not be where I would start with God Is An Astronaut, but The Beginning Of The End is a nice treat for fans of the band rabid for some new content. If you enjoyed the first album and what these guys have brought to the table for the last couple of decades this one is for you. If you are looking for any groundbreaking stuff, we will have to wait for their next album.7/10

Palace - One 4 The Road (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

The slickest of the slick, One 4 The Road is the fourth album from Michael Palace. He first debuted on Frontiers with the band First Signal but from there he has become one of the go to songwriter/guitarist/producer for so many of the Frontiers releases his discogs site must be 5 pages long. As well as these frequent collaborations he has been releasing a solo album every two years since 2016. On this fourth album the style stays the same, Palace a worshipper of that shiny, poppy, 80's AOR developed by bands such as Journey. There's an element of self reflection on this album as both Too Old For This and Time Crisis (not an homage to the seminal First Person Shooter) both feature lyrics about whether things are moving too fast in this day and age. 

The rest of the record though is a unabashed celebration of girls, cars and the good life with WestboundFifteen Minutes and Money Can Kill all in that style of open top sports cars cruising down the highway, I will say that lyrically Palace is a little hit and miss for me as some of the tracks feature homages to the Sunset Strip, Westbound especially singing about being back in the old home town skateboarding, I knew this was popular in California but not in Sweden. So yeah there's a lack of authenticity in the lyrics and some of the ballads such as The Driver edge too much into the country pop for me however all in all One More 4 The Road is another trip into music history where the riffs were bigger but the hair was bigger. 7/10 

Defected Decay - Troops Of Abomination (Silent Watcher Records) [Erick Willand]

From the opening notes you know what’s going on, there is no question. This is Bolt-Throwerian war metal at its finest. Hailing from the Ruhr region in Germany and consisting of core members Daniel Funke and Dirk Padtberg, Troops Of Abomination is their second full length album and was mastered by the living legend, Dan Swano. Learning this fact after 5 full listens explains completely why it sounds so damn good, blasted loud or with headphones everything is crisp. I do recommend headphones of course, and not earbuds either, those are for amateurs. Anyway…

As I said, the opening of Commit To The Fire begins the battle clearly and with no fanfare whatsoever. It’s a rumbling mechanised advance and when the chorus comes in Commit To The Fire with that echo effect, a cannon blast on the last “Fire!”. It’s perfect. Resist leads in with a slower riff but the power doesn’t give ground at all and is marked by an epic haunting solo that sticks in the air like the bullet you know has your name on it. The Last Farewell is a dirty little song which I interpreted as from the view of a sniper forgotten behind enemy lines, it’s hard to tell as the lyrics are a bit vague, it’s also one of the only songs here that sound a little bit phoned in. However the vocals are top of the game and save the song in my opinion. This leads into the meaty crunchy riff that begins Troops Of Abomination and my word, this is prime war metal. Are they breaking new ground, no. Are they redefining the sub-genre, no. Are they absolutely crushing it, fuck yes. You can’t help but howl along with the smoke choked growl of “Trooooooopssss offff Abomination!!!”

Bitter Reminders is the album's midpoint and easily the most powerful lyrics so far, clearly dealing with the kind of PTSD that comes from continued exposure to the horrors of war. The song starts with a bass riff before everything else comes rumbling in like a cavalry charge. It's a haunting, powerful song and my favorite track here next to the title track. Siege Of Death is the next track and has the wickedest riff on the whole album, and the whispered Siege Of Death is a cool touch, adding a haunting quality to the song. Beyond All Comprehension is another heavy lyrical song dealing with the Holocaust and it’s undeniable horrors. Its chugging main riff is led by a more whaling, mournful riff that in my opinion fits the song perfectly. This is followed by Redemption Acquired about the western front and though it doesn’t hold any surprises is a solid song and gives out probably some of the strongest Bolt Thrower vibes yet, especially these solos.

The Raid and Death March close out the battle like a final barrage. The Raid is an intense song with a clear sense of urgency. I’m not sure what The Raid is about but I think it’s definitely referencing a historical event. I love the lead riff in the early half of the song, at about 1:10, its keening edge is sonically menacing and it’s a nice touch. Death March again goes to WWII and the abject cruelty of the Reich as they forced “undesirables” into camps or death. It’s the longest track overall and carries some of the best guitar work of the album. Defected Decay play war metal as passed down by the masters, and as stated they aren’t breaking new ground here and to be honest that’s ok by me. 

The rumbling chug and thunder, the lyrics and cover art all check the right war metal boxes. My only quibble is that so many war bands are stuck in this era and I’d love to hear them dig into something like the Punic Wars, or the War of 1812, I mean history is really interesting my dudes, dig deeper please. Ok then, since I put this on my “get physical copy” list I’m giving it a solid 8/10    

Thursday 28 July 2022

Reviews: Powerwolf, Silent Monolith, Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts, The Elder Flame (Reviews By Zak Skane, David Karpel, Matt Bladen & Matt Cook)

Powerwolf – The Monumental Mass (Napalm Records) [Zak Skane]

Powerwolf have made a name for being one of the most accredited European acts of the current era, tackling festival stages like Wacken and Bloodstock with their powerful and immersive stage set ups and energetic crowd participation. This year the band has release their visual effort the The Monumental Mass which takes their music to a more visual medium. 

Through out the 22 tracks that are split into 2 CDs I assume acts 1 and 2, the band takes us on this immersive set list throughout orchestral cinematic soundscapes of the title track Monumental Mass and Confession that helps the listener transcend to each chapter of the setlist to the next whilst throwing some of the bands most catchy and uplifting choruses featured within fan favourites such as Demons Are A Girls Best Friend, Dancing With The Dead and We Drink Your Blood. The energy and bravado of the band is captured perfectly whilst being complemented with a stellar production. 

Even though this review was quite short and to the point don’t let that fool you, this band do power metal extremely well; the vocals are clear and powerful whilst delivering some in depth story telling on songs like Fire And Forgive, those triplet feel driven drum grooves accompanied with rhythm guitars and soaring melody lines provide a tribal like feel that will inspire any army of cowards into battle. The only criticism that I would mention is that even though the audio production on this album is brilliant it doesn’t capture the image of the stage that is accompanied with the setlist 8/10

Silent Monolith - Empty Kingdom (I'll Get Ya Drunk) [David Karpel]

A silent monolith, a la 2001: Space Odyssey, is a dark and imposing thing of foreboding mystery often foreshadowing epic change. Nashville’s Silent Monolith can be dark and imposing, but they’re no mystery. What you hear is who they are: at once a raging slab of crunchy riffs that smoothly transition into soulful stoner blues with undeniable grooves, bourbon soaked vocals, and thoughtful lyrics. And while Empty Kingdom may not signify an epic change in the direction of the Southern-smoked genre, it does stand out for its passion, skill, and power– and it will change your listening habits by insinuating itself into your regular listening rotation.

There’s a main guy, Kenneth Johnson (guitar/vox/keys/lyric writer/producer), and many other collaborators who’ve made up Silent Monolith, and it seems this album’s been a long time coming (since 2015). Currently a trio, they’ve put some songs together that you need to hear. The recording captures their scorched raw power, especially on the bottom end, which gives the album a live, in-your-face feel. Terrible Day Of The Lord starts with a slow and surly groove over which Johnson narrates a fire and brimstone sermon in a brutish, prison-cell-recording tone. When Burn rips a driving riff and the crunchy groove sinks in, I’m hooked. Almost immediately their sound reminds me in the best possible ways of Corrosion Of Conformity and Clutch. The title track gets me turning the volume dangerously high. Add Sasquatch to those comparisons. 

Johnson menaces on the mic and the band kicks into high gear. After the first three songs, I feel like I know what to expect next: more high octane riffing and grooving. This is a good thing. While I’m right, I’m also wrong. The Sin-Eater, perhaps predictably one of my favourite tracks on the album, starts with a solo bass line that sets a foundation for the melody, all coming through in a slow burn with keys under there holding the mood to a sizzle. Johnson’s clean singing is soulful and seductive here, giving life to the lyrics. This builds, crescendos into some more of that high volume riffing and grooving, the band making the quiet-loud formula work for them, and work well. It’s a ripper of a song and I lose it every time it comes on, especially of course when they jam through to the bass driven conclusion. 

While A Million Miles Away is a mid tempo redemption song with a cool, addictive riff, and a sweet melody, All The Same solidifies how premature my early (and dumb) assumptions were. Bluesy, anthemic, cynical, and soulful, the song allows us to hear Johnson at his most disheartened. Given this misanthropic perspective to consider, sequencing the cool Karma To Burn-like instrumental Qui Decipitur before the concluding Sabbath-y banger Lost Hope was a stroke of genius. The social commentary and beliefs weaved into some of these songs lend them weight and give Johnson’s vocals a sense of passion and urgency. With all of its riffs and grooves and raw power, Empty Kingdom has been on repeat in my playlist for days, where it will remain for the foreseeable future. 8/10

Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts - Mission (Earache Distribution) [Matt Bladen]

The second studio album from Matt Mitchell & The Coldhearts is drawn from the same place of catchy, melodic hard rock as the first Coldhearts album in 2019. Matt Mitchell has often been referred to as one of the best modern classic rock singers around having fronted bands such as Furyon, Colour Of Noise and Pride. His vocal style can fit many genres so it's no wonder that Mission brings inspiration from a multitude of genres. Holed up at home as the pandemic hit the new album stalled a little but the worldwide stop in touring made Mitchell refocus a little. Mulling over the journeys and missions we face on our own lives after being inspired by the migration of the Arctic Tern (not many albums can claim to be inspired by bird migration). 

This refocus also meant that Mitchell looked back on his early days bringing in guitarist Mark Alberici who co-produces the record with Adrian Hall engineering, the three putting in long hours to get this album to be as good if not better than the debut. Mitchell has also tapped former Colour Of Noise bandmate Bruce Dickinson (the other side one) and keyboard player Jimmy Dickinson on second track Razor Tongue. I may of said this in my previous Coldhearts review but to me the band sounds like a any project Slash has been involved in outside of Guns N Roses, this is mainly due to Mitchell having a voice that is pitched between Scott Weiland and Myles Kennedy and while G'N'R do their thing bands such as Velvet Revolver and his solo project spread their wings a little. 

Just Like I Knew You Would has that driving VR style from their debut album, as Sending Out My Love is very Zeppelin though the opener and the closer are both big radio rockers in the vein of Kennedy's two bands. On Mission Mitchell has returned with another quality heavy rock album, with Steelhouse on the horizon, it'll be on Planet Rock's heavy rotation list for a long time. 8/10

The Elder Flame – Undead Tales (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

Everything about the one-person Atmospheric Black Metal project The Elder Flame is par for the course. The band is unsigned, the lineup consists of an entity known only as Hero Of The Black Marsh. What isn’t par for the course is the measured approach taken on Undead Tales, The Elder Flame’s debut full-length and third release since 2019. Unlike other acts of the sub genre that rely heavily on rocket-charged, super fast programmed drums or an intensity and speed that masks inadequate performances, Hero Of The Black Marsh challenges listeners to dispose of any preconceived notions. There are the requisite sounds of nature, be it birds chirping, thunderstorms or someone (or something) wading through a swamp or a bog. 

The record starts with droney reverberation to set the mood. But HOTBM implements a drum sound more akin to rock than metal, and does so with grace and confidence. There is even a marching snare drum which mimics the approach of a bloodthirsty army. Vocally, the notes escape HOTBM’s mouth with cheese-grating gruff and muffled growls. Wander Of Saburac (Pt. 2) is their strongest performance and most appealing of the six-pack of tracks. But When Good Men Die gives that title a run for its money, creating a formidable rhythm and flow. The pacing overall is worth mentioning, because as previously touched upon, Undead Tales doesn’t hit the ground running. It instead keeps steady and relies on poised tactics. Ruined City Of A Forgotten Time, however, ends rather anti-climatically considering how satisfying it began with a towering melody and choral overtone. A dramatic tale instead festers into a wispy memory. 

Undead King Of Endma additionally fails to find its footing or stand out. But Hero Of The Black Marsh redeems himself on closer When Good Men Die. An inspiring piano composition moulds nicely into a sturdy melody which returns to end the song, a fantastic choice which ties up not only the song but also the album, an album that wields sophisticated arrangements delivered in a modern way from a mysteriously cloaked entity. 7/10

Reviews: Imperial Triumphant, Sick N Beautiful, Nebala, Oath SC (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Imperial Triumphant - Spirit Of Ecstasy (Century Media Records)

Following on the heels of their 2021 live album An Evening With... masked, robed and experimental metal band Imperial Triumphant return with their third full length Spirit Of Ecstasy an album that distils everything Imperial Triumphant are about into 8 mind bending tracks that bring various types of musical styles together, throw them into a blender and add a dose of weirdness just for good measure. The overarching sound here is jazz, the quirky time signatures, off time drumming and blasts of explosive instrumentals are all shared with modern/improvisational jazz bands. They even go as far as to add the soprano sax of Kenny G on Merikus Guilded for that additional jazz flair to what is a black metal track otherwise. 

If Mr Bungle went all in on the theatrics and the extreme metal then Imperial Triumphant would be the outcome, hey even Trey Spruance from Mr Bungle appears on the record. The core trio of the band are Zachary Ilya Ezrin (vocals, guitars), Steve Blanco (bass, vocals, keys, theremin) and Kenny Grohowski (drums) are augmented by special guests, repeating how they made previous albums, this time along with Kenny G and Spruance we have Snake of Voivod, Alex Skolnick of Testament, multiple choral guests, a tonne of brass and string guests to bring the cinematic sound to sounds such as Tower Of Glory, City Of Shame, probably the most straightforward extreme metal track on the album, cut with some apocalyptic news reports and progressive death metal barrages. 

All Imperial Triumphant albums are ones you have to play a multitude of times before you can really understand everything that's going on but that's where the magic is with these albums, you can feel the virtuosity of those involved but it is never detrimental to the songs themselves which all have unique identities. If you've yet to enter the maximalist world of Imperial Triumphant I suggest you begin with their live album then this one as it seems that they have carved their niche as one of the most forward thinking acts in the metal sphere. 8/10

Sick N Beautiful - Starstruck (Frontiers Music Srl)

Thumping industrial electronics, radio friendly choruses, theatrical staging and bags of attitude are what influence Sick N Beautiful's sound. The Rome based band, (though the PR says they crash landed there). Since they are stuck here they have been putting together music that fuses different styles to make something that isn't 100% unique but certainly will intrigue if nothing else. The band are known for their outlandish stage shows and cinematic videos, where the props, outfits and effects are all down in house much like fellow space travelling Scumdogs GWAR. Their entire ethos is doing things by themselves, all homemade but by no means amateur, the story line of the band continued on every album, each telling a tale. 

Their music too is fully D.I.Y which is why it brings so many different genres together, but mostly Starstruck, like their previous two efforts, it's very much geared to be anthemic and get a crowd going, this album especially bringing the sleaze of the Sunset Strip, with the title of Starstruck feeling as if this is Sick N Beautiful going 'Hollywood' both the highs and the lows that that entails. A track such as Angels Be Fallin' highlights this American Dream gone wrong concept well the vocals on the record especially good while the electronics are utilised well throughout being one of the key elements of Sick N Beautiful's music. Metal for the masses expect to see them on a stage near you soon, pumping out big industrial riffs and bigger showmanship. 7/10

Nebala - Lustuz Laþu Wōþuz Alu (By Norse Music)

For anyone who has watched the film The Northman or has listened to masters of primordial Nordic folk Heilung, the name Jonas Lorentzen will be known. He was the singer of Heilung for two year and had a role in The Northman, so his music is of the same traditional cultural background as his former band, utilising traditional instruments such as lyre, tagelharpa, singing bowls and of course throat singing, to create evocative soundscapes that are cinematic and affecting, bringing out the very soul of his ancestral home through music. 

Starting with the brooding Alagabia, which builds with throbbing percussion were taken on a journey through the link between sexuality and sacredness. The album is built on Old Norse Mythology where both things were interchangeable, the album title itself alludes to the 3 stages of sexuality, fertility and love. While the band name translates to The Void, which is where all life comes from according to the Proto-Germanic tradition. 

It's such a niche concept that means that Lorentzen has garnered the help of musical and non musical guests to bring musical and cultural authenticity. Musically he's aided by Sebastian Gainsborough who composed the music for The Northman, while Kjell Braaten from Wardruna brings his musical expertise. To make sure that the rituals and history was understood as much as possible Jonas Alps collaborated with Dr Mathias Nordvig and Naina Gupta both at the top of their fields in Pre-Christian religion and philosophy, they insure that the ideas used in the lyrics are accurate. 

Still unless you can understand the Old Norse language you may struggle with what the album is about but musically it's certainly a spiritual journey through the Pre-Christian times that will grab your attention and not let you go. Not strictly a metal album but if you're a fan of Heilung, Wardruna or soundscapes etc then you'll be bewitched by Nebala. 7/10

Oath SC - Hallowed Illusions (Self Released)

Steven Waddell is the UK's answer to Trevor William Church, both are multi-instrumentalists thay play everything on their respective albums and both love traditional heavy metal done with a D.I.Y spirit. Church of course is the man behind Haunt (and Beastmaker) while Waddell's project is Oath SC, they have been featured here before with an album produced by Mr Church but this time it's Seven Sister's Kyle McNeil that handles the mastering, leaving the rest to Waddell who prefers a very retro sound, drenched in reverb, lashings of fuzz and that echoed sound you get on old NWOBHM cassettes.

It's the third album from Waddell and he lives up to the stereotype of being a dour Scotsman as Hallowed Illusions is an angry record inspired by the past few years as songs of isolation such as Bedsit Symphonies and Stockholm Syndrome both feature some more imaginative lyrics than many of the NWOTHM bands. Musically Steven has encapsulated the entire NWOBHM genre with punky, proto-thrash on Disposable, galloping bounce of Hearsay and some tasty dual leads on Stockholm Syndrome, there's even some breezy American sounds and synth on Looking Back and Standing On The Edge Of The World to counteract all the denim and leather. 

Is he the best singer in the world? No he isn't but it really doesn't matter as his voice fits with the style of his influences being bands such as Angel Witch, Raven etc. Hallowed Illusions is a decent NWOTHM album from this one man show, very much built on the D.I.Y attitude which must be commended. Grab it on cassette and pretend it's 1981. 7/10

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Reviews: Ithaca (Review By GC)

Ithaca - They Fear Us (Hassle Records) 

Its time! Ithaca have returned to remind us that they are one of the most important bands in the UK hardcore/metal scene right now and they have come to break free of the restraints that this tiny doomed, backwards thinking island holds and take over the world. With a beautiful mix of influences, ranging from savage hardcore, technical mathcore, straight ahead metal, dreamy soundscapes they even throw in some pop influences for good measure, this album right here is the sound of a band who know they are destined for massive things and that their time is now. 

It all kicks off with In The Way which has a groove infested riff that jostles alongside a jagged and jarring riff and leads you into the first chorus that sees the vocals take you to another place entirely, it’s a beautiful start and it just keeps the same relentless pace and mixes both heavy and melodic to amazing effect before fading out into a dreamy end sequence which catches you off guard as the start of next song, The Future Says Thank You absolutely smashes you against the ground and commences to keep you pinned down and batter you for the next 3 minutes with total disdain and disregard to how you may feel about this. 

Then we get to my personal favourite track the punishing title track They Fear Us, which undoubtedly features one of the biggest choruses you are ever likely to hear and the here the clean vocals of Djamila Boden Azzouz, are an absolute delight and are perfect for massive audiences to be signing them right back to her, which mark my words will be happening very soon! The breakdown in this song is one on the most violent and heavy things ever to be recorded and will take your breath away and it includes the most vicious call to arms that will make you want to stand up and destroy everything within a 5-mile radius.

Following on from that isn’t an easy task but Camera Eats First stand up to the task well, with Sam Chetan-Welsh & Will Sweet almost assaulting us with a barrage of chugging riffs battling against Djamila’s enraged lyrics all kept in check by the Dom Moss/James Lewis rhythm section in a perfect fashion, as the longest song on the album you may expect it to offer you some respite from the brutality, wrong! It just keeps on going and gets heavier and heavier and when the pace does slow down the music is just so huge it’s equally as heavy as the heaviest parts! To be clear THIS IS HEAVY!

Cremation Party is probably the most straightforward hardcore song on offer here and that is not a slight in anyway, it’s exactly how you want a 2-minute hardcore song to sound, its fast, heavy and of course there is no let up and it leads into another full steam ahead monster in Number Five, this is a great mid-section to the album and the line, Why would I stab you in the back when you have so many faces to choose from? is hands down one of the best I have heard this year which leads into a slow burn riff that then explodes into a murderous end beatdown. 

Perfect. We then enter the closing phase and are treated to the pleasure of Fluorescent which highlights that it doesn’t all have to be total heads down brutality to make you pay attention, it starts off with an uplifting dream like prog riff that is holding onto and complimenting the light and airy verses that take hold of you and almost put you at ease until a crushing mid-section drops in for a few bars the and adds in grooves displayed earlier which then mixes with the prog riff and floaty vocals and leads you out of another song with a soft touch which is just stunning! 

The prog like dream sequence then starts You Should Have Gone Back and for couple of minutes it is just a pure unadulterated musical soundscape of bliss abruptly interrupted by a jigsaw riff with piercing drums and heart bursting screams which before you know it is back into the previously mentioned soundscape and yet another massive chorus to close this out, I cannot emphasise how much this song takes any listener on a journey from start to finish it’s a truly beautiful song, which is equally as relevant on closing track Hold, Be Held which sound like a big bold, unashamed 80’s style ballad with a modern twist and it grabs at your heart strings and keeps hold of them for the entirety of its time you are blessed to spend time with it. 

As you may have guessed I like this album and I like it a lot! I know its July, but this is already up there as an album of the year contender, from the very start to the very last dying ember of this album Ithaca do not put one foot wrong and the journey they take you on is breath-taking, cathartic, upsetting, emotional, angry but most of all rewarding. Make no mistake Ithaca are going to the very top of this game and the quicker everybody gets on board with that the better. This album really is a truly remarkable piece of work and its utterly flawless in every way. 10/10

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Reviews: Kirsiun, Funeral Chic, Lessmann/Voss, The Lord (Reviews By GC, Matt Cook, Matt Bladen & Quinn Mattfeld)

Krisiun - Mortem Solis (Century Media Records) [GC]

After a couple of years of inactivity because of a certain worldwide pandemic that had forced them to put their career on hold Krisiun are back with their TWELFTH album! Now, this really is a testament to them that they can keep a career in extreme music alive for 32 years and still sound as aggressive, angry, and determined as they did at the start of their journey. Kicking off with Sworn Enemies you should be under no illusion at all about what is going to happen for the next 11 songs, here you are listening to death metal played with an unrelenting intensity and anger, it’s all blast beats, uncompromising guitars, and guttural vocals, but don’t think that this is all there is on offer here as Krisiun can throw is some crushing mid-tempo grooves within all this insanity as we hear on Necronomical, the groove here is a beast and the first real ‘slow moment’ on offer until the trademark violence is re-unleashed upon us on next track Tomb Of The Nameless which is a brutal and non-stop slab of ferocious death metal. 

We are treated to a small break in the pummelling with the short instrumental Dawn Sun Carriage and the eerie and slowly menacing beginning of Temple Of The Abattoir before its right back into the barrage which reaches peak brutality on As Angels Burn and then continues right up until the end of album closer Death To The Sun. You can tell that the enforced break has really laser focused them in terms of how they want to put their message across musically and lyrically because there is no letup in the sheer force of brutality here and I did enjoy what was on this record but my issue with some ‘old school’ death metal is it can’t really go off in many unknown directions as it’s all or nothing and sometimes you need to let songs expand and surprise you with what is coming round the corner but here you 100% know what is coming but, on the whole this is a solid offering for a band putting out their 12th album and will definitely please fans of death metal and at the end of the day that’s the point!! 6/10

Funeral Chic – Roman Candle (Prosthetic Records) [Matt Cook]

There are times when a band will take the very notion of genre specification and dump it in the toilet. In fact, it can be reassuring when a musical group dares you to categorise their work by using a single, simple label. For those who desire simplification, Funeral Chic are considered blackened punk according to Prosthetic Records. But the musical output the North Carolinian foursome present with third full-length Roman Candle nearly creates its own sub-genre, if it even desires to do so. It starts with Ryan Lockhart, who has a uniquely authoritative vocal delivery. It’s gruff and groovy, coarse and confident. To call it blackened punk is in fact fitting, however the slower tempo allows for a more approachable style. 

An inherent cavernous production value gives Carpenter leeway to project his burly voice without limiting the musical accompaniment. Spit And Crawl is a firm example of such technique before a groovy section bops to life while Lockhart poses the question “God dammit why the fuck am I still alive?” Don’t let the passivity of some parts of Roman Candle dissuade you, though. Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere carries a ferocious punch while Satisfaction and Last Line Blues unveil a saxophone of all instruments, the former doing so in a chilling dichotomy with unnerving noises and a bell tolling in the background. The saxophone melts and droops like Dali’s clocks in the iconic painting The Persistence Of Memory. Not quite avant-garde, Funeral Chic are uncompromising in their style and at the same time garner a sturdy listenability that is undeniable. 

There is something about the borderline arrogance of Lockhart’s hoarseness that drives the entire record home. It might be difficult to fit the band’s sound into a crisp genre because Funeral Chic go their own way. But that merely allows them to push the nonexistent boundaries further, experimenting and concocting never-before-heard elements that fit both into the metal zeitgeist and its own high-ceiling cathedral of cacophonous venom. 8/10

Lessmann/Voss - Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records) [Matt Bladen]

Consisting of renowned vocalists/multi instrumentalists Claus Lessmann and Michael Voss (who also produces) this is surprisingly not a Frontiers Music crossover but a new band on the Atomic Fire Records label. It has all the hallmarks of a that other label's project though, two renowned but perhaps overlooked artists, combining their talents with a trio of drummers for some radio friendly melodic rock/AOR that draws from the 90's era of the melodic rock sound with a blues influence and perhaps a grittier sound than the fluffier 80's style. Both men are great vocalists, complimenting each other well, making me think a little of bands such as Night Ranger or Def Leppard (the title track for instance) where the multiple vocal approach as Voss handles nearly all of the instrumentation, Lessmann contributes some acoustics ala Jon Bon Jovi. 

It's evident from the strutting opener Medicine Man to melodic Take My Heart And Run, that this songwriting duo know each other well as both men have been writing together since the 90's. It's slick, but not too slick, bluesy but not too bluesy and with a lot of Bon Jovi-isms, taking you to early 90's New Jersey on Runaway Days, Fight For Our Love and Slow Dance, though the latter has a lot Michael Bolton/Journey style as well (Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'). Not content with their own songs, they also throw in a cover of Sister Golden Hair from the band America for a bit of difference as we head back to the 70's. Rock Is Our Religion is a great hard rock record and if you enjoy any of the bands mentioned earlier you'll be nodding your head along with in no time. 7/10

The Lord - Forest Nocturne (Southern Lord) [Quinn Mattfeld]

Oh no… No, no, no. What is this? I thought that first track was just an ambient synth intro and I was good with that possibility because it was kind of ominous and the title was just the word THEME in all caps but now I’m listening to the second track and it’s also ambient synth. There couldn’t be two ambient synth intros, could there? The third track is called Lefthand Lullaby I and—oh, shit… It sounds like an actual lullaby that’s supposed to be… creepy? I think? Wait, now this next track is Lefthand Lullaby too? Oh, no. It’s Lefthand Lullaby Two. I guess the “I” was a Roman Numeral… How do I get out of this? Can I tell my editor the rest of the album didn’t download? DAMMIT IN ALL CAPS!! 

Think, Quinn- think! Wait, Forest Wake is the fifth song and—is that a guitar? Is this song actually going somewher—Op, no. Nowhere… again… for the fifth time. You know what? There’s only three tracks left. You can make it: Deciduous let’s do this! Light this candle! Did I skip back on accident? Another ambient synth track?! Why are you doing this to me, The Lord? What do you want? I have to write about this album and I have no idea if this is even music! It’s like asking me to review a dial tone… Song eight: Old Growth… Okay, trees- trees- trees. Maybe I can say something like “The Lord really branches out on their new album”? …That is fucking awful. Branching out from what? 

It’s one note for 40 minutes. Are they branching out from abject silence? I’m a bad writer... THIS SONG IS EIGHT MINUTES LONG?! …End. Just please end. Okay, last track Triumph Of The Oak… A riff. Oh my God. I think I just heard a riff. And now there are lyrics. And they are going… nowhere… It’s over. Oh, thank you, Cheez-Its, it’s over. Time to write the review: The Lord really branches out on their new album Forest Nocturne… IN ALL CAPS! 1/10

Friday 22 July 2022

Reviews: Witchery, Priest, Ewigkeit, Forsaken Eternity (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Erick Williand, Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Witchery - Nightside (Century Media Records) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from Linköping in Sweden, Witchery have been an important noise in the black thrash scene since 1997. The band is made up of Patrik Jensen on Guitar, Richard Rimfält on Guitar, Chris Barkensjō on Drums, Angus Norder on Vocals and new bassist Victor Brandt. 

Witchery have made 7 albums before Nightside, starting with Restless And Dead in 1998, followed by Dead, Hot And Ready (1999), Symphony For The Devil (2001), Don’t Fear The Reaper (2006), Witchkrieg (2010), In His Majesty’s Service (2016) and I Am Legion in 2017. As I mentioned before Witchery are a black thrash band, so fast, nasty riffs, blasting drums, and horrific vocals; if you are thinking Aura Noir, Nifelheim, Bathory or more recently Hellripper then you are in the right area. 

The album sounds great, really good instrument and vocal sounds that have been perfectly mixed, but is the material as good? Yes, it’s very good, so i should elaborate. The album has 11 songs most of which are between 3 and 4 minutes long. As this is black thrash you’d expect some rippingly fast songs, and Nightside does not disappoint. Opening track Witching Hour gets things off to a fantastic start, with fast tight riffing that reminds me of early mid eighties thrash, it’s fast, simple and direct, with a cracking solo and is an adrenaline packed way so start the album.

Popecrusher is a short blast of savagery that boarders on Old School Death Metal, the song also boasts a great solo and a very melodic section with some lush guitar harmonies. Churchburner is another blast of a song that verges on Old School Death Metal, it is very rapid, features a totally deranged vocal performance and is a massively good fun. Another standout fast song is A Forest Of Burning Coffins, which has a fantastic chorus, a very pleasing melodic middle section and in a strange way it reminds me of Cannibalistic American Thrashers Ghoul. 

It’s not all about the speed on Nightside; there are a couple of mid-paced tracks that have a very nice stomp to them. Don't Burn The Witch is a really great track that stomps along at a fast walking pace, punching the air and having a great time. The song has a chorus that will worm its way into your psyche until you hum it to distraction, and a great solo. 

Witchery are no stranger to slow and heavy, and that comes out on Nightside. Left Hand March is exactly that; a March, it pounds along in a relentless and unstoppable way like some huge lurching machine. Crucifix And Candle has the same relentless quality that Left Hand March has, a perfect tempo to nod your head too. The song builds in intensity as it gets closer to its big and expansive end. 

The albums title track Nightside is another slow and unstoppable song, but this time it’s a little bit more minimal and introverted. The track builds to feeling huge, heavy and unrelenting, before a clean guitar is added for the final third of the song. It’s a great song, and a perfect ending for this album. Nightside is a fantastic album. The material is varied and takes you to many different places, whilst always feeling like a coherent whole. 

The thing that stands out about this album is the quality of the songwriting and the quality of the performances, everything just works incredibly well, it’s an album that you will keep on wanting to go back to and listen to again. I love how much energy Nightside has, and how much fun this is, it’s a blast from beginning to end and i have loved listening to it. 9/10

Priest - Body Machines (Cleopatra Records) [Erick Willand]

Body Machines is Priest’s third studio effort since 2017 and the experience clearly shows as the mystery trio deliver a smooth heavy synthwave album that is drenched in 80’s cyberpunk love. The three members are actually ex Ghost members and now go by Mercury, Salt, and Sulfur. Both Salt and Sulfur wear matching shiny black skullish crow masks and leather jackets. Mercury is the vocalist and is decked out from head and face to toe in leather and spikes like a gang biker from some lost 80’s dystopian anime. The mask even has a red light Borg eye and honestly it’s a great touch. I admit that I’m a sucker for this kind of theatrics, the costumes and stage presence all add to the overall effect. 

Album opener A Signal In The Noise is a fantastic driving slab of classic industrial pop and it’s so damn catchy I’ve caught myself humming it long after I’ve listened to it. Second track Ghost Writer starts with a sick deep synth beat that carries right into the song proper and never lets up, this and the whispered chorus make for a fun driving song, throw this on, crank it and hit the highway. This plays fantastically into track three, Hell Awaits which opens with a speech clip from one of those over-the-top televangelists that plagued TV screens in the early 90’s. These clips show up throughout the song and tie it all together nicely. 

Phantom Pain then comes pounding in with another nice solid beat and probably my favourite vocals of the album, makes me think of walking around a cyberpunk city in the rain. A solid vibe to be sure. Blacklisted is the album centerpiece with its tight, dirty beat and sinister vocal delivery, every time Mercury belts out Blacklisted you feel it. Gets a spot in my personal playlist for sure. Perfect Body Machine struts in right after and I can smell the cloud of hairspray as this is an 80’s synth pop master work, I swear I can see the leg warmers and neon spandex from here. Coming to an aerobics class near you. 

Techno Girl is a fun song despite feeling a little phoned in as it hits all the right cyberpunk spots you want it to. The video gives me huge late night, low budget Sy-Fy channel vibes in all the right ways, it’s hilarious. However track 8, Crystalline Lace changes that, coming in slower with the creepiest synth vibe yet. A bit repetitive lyrically but not an unlistenable song, saved (in my opinion) by its crisp 3 minute run time. That brings us to the last 2 tracks, Nightcrawler and Keep On Burning which are arguably the 2 dance tracks of the album. 

The second the opening beats of Nightcrawler hit your brain you know it’s a club song, I can see a Nightcrawler deep club mix EP in the future. For all that, it’s a fun song, upbeat, fast and doesn’t lose any of the album's cyberpunk vibe. Final track Keep On Burning carries that vibe forward and is the largest, most radio friendly song on the whole album. This track would have been everywhere in the late 80’s, this vocal performance would have cemented that. It’s a great up-lifting closing track to a fun, synth-pop neon love letter to 80’s cyberpunk influenced music and imagery, from the cover art to the last note. 7/10

Ewigkeit - Out Of The Woods (Death To Music Records) [Richard Oliver]

Out Of The Woods is the new E.P. from Ewigkeit the solo project of musician James Fogarty. From 2015-2021 James was a member of the Norwegian black/progressive metal band In The Woods… The fantastic 2016 album Pure was released and shortly after that the band began a disintegration from within with the founding Botteri brothers departing. James remained for the next album Cease The Day and the subsequent touring to ensure the label recouped monies that were unaccounted for but decided in late 2021 to depart the band as well. 

Several demos were completed by James for what was to be the next In The Woods… album which were taken back by him upon his departure from the band. Three of those demos have now been recorded under his Ewigkeit banner and are lyrically inspired by the chaotic behind the scenes events of the last few years. The three songs are in the progressive/doom/black metal style that encompassed the two In The Woods… albums that James was a part of.

The Wolf Returns opens the E.P. and is a somber affair with James’ baritone clean vocals dominating along with some strong riffing and a tight rhythm as well as a slightly prog leaning mid section. The highlight for me is the second song Evergreen which has a very doomy feel with some absolutely gorgeous melodies both in the vocals and the guitars. 

There is a strong melancholic atmosphere throughout though some blackened moments creep into this song and are most welcome. The third and final song on Out Of The Woods is Namestealer and is the most aggressive sounding song on the release with a strong feel of outrage especially in the harsh vocal style employed by James though there is also a strong melodic and melancholic feel to this song. 

Out Of The Woods is a great little E.P. from Ewigkeit. I am a big fan of the two In The Woods.. albums that James appeared on and the style of those albums is very much continued on this release. This is some closure for James on a tumultuous period in his career though whether we will get to hear any of the other songs he composed along with these three songs remains to be seen. 

Rather than dwelling on the past the future is now looking very exciting as James has teamed back up with the Botteri brothers for a new black metal project Nattehimmel which sounds extremely promising. 8/10

Forsaken Eternity - A Kingdom Of Ice (Rottweiler Records) [Matt Bladen]

Forsaken Eternity are an American band playing a very Scandinavian style of metal. A Kingdom Of Ice evokes the frozen tundras of Sweden, Finland, Norway etc, you can almost feel the chilling winds and desolate icy wastes. Not bad for a band from the forest dense state of Oregon! If none of that makes sense then a clearer picture is that Forsaken Eternity play symphonic blackened metal, rich in orchestral and cinematic swathes from keyboardist Brian Rush, blistering blastbeats from Jason 'The Machine's Borton, with plenty of neo-classical guitar playing from Vladimore all set against the scarred vocals from Nathan Mote. This record is a must for those that love bands such as Dimmu Borgir and Wintersun as the black metal elements balance well with the power/symphony metal ones. 

The keyboard/guitar interplay is top level with 
both men duelling throughout as the pace is kept at a gallop by the hailstorm drum patterns. Across seven of their own songs and one cover (more on that later) this band crank out a debut album that still has a few rough edges to it but you can pick out the glistening diamonds. Virtuoso playing is paramount from the opening blasts of Skywards and A Dark Divinity, both of which fully explore the extreme metal side. It's Shadow Fortress and Endless Light that bring the power metal side. 

Now I mentioned the neo-classical guitar style too and this is shown on the insteumental Sonatata Concertata In Cm a track that by rights should lead into the closing cover which is Rising Force from the Yngwie Malmsteen album of the same name, though with the harsh vocals rather than Jeff Scott Soto's original croon. See what I mean about having a European influence? It's ballsy for a band to cover Malmsteen, even more so if they are from the more extreme side of the metal sphere, however Forsaken Identity do the cover justice as well as bringing their own virtuoso style to this debut album. Exciting things lay ahead. 8/10

Thursday 21 July 2022

Reviews: Black Capricorn, Ashenspire, Tombs, Voluntary Motrification (Reviews By Finn O'Dell, Rick Eaglestone, Matt Bladen & Matt Cook)

Black Capricorn - Cult Of Blood (Majestic Mountain Records) [Finn O'Dell]

This band hails from Sardinia, Italy and started in 2008. They have released 4 previous full length albums and a handful of EPs. This new album fits nicely into the genre of psychedelic doom metal. A couple of sisters (Rachela on drums and Virginia on bass) handle the rhythm section while Fabrizio Monni dominates the vocals and guitar work (also produced and engineered the album). The album opens with Secret Society Of Seven and what I am hearing is pure Sabbath worship riffs, with a bit more fuzz to amplify things. The title to the next track, Worshipping The Bizarre Reverend, is the band paying homage the the great doom act Reverend Bizarre as they incorporate song titles from the legends into their lyrics. 

The guitar tone here can't be overstated - fuzz paradise. Giants Of Prama takes its time getting going and eventually sees Fabrizio taming things down with some lower range singing in this longer plodding track. Godsnake Djamballah is a shorter instrumental piece that goes full on psychedelic with choppy reverb riffs. Snake Of The Wizard bounces back with your regularly scheduled doom. Witch Of Endor proceeds to pummel with that infectious doom and the closing track, Uddadhaddar, brings an eastern type sound with song vocals that are more akin to chant. All in all, a doom masterpiece. You gotta get this for sure. 9/10

Ashenspire – Hostile Architecture (Aural Music) [Rick Eaglestone]

For an album entitled Hostile Architecture I wasn’t expected the smooth jazz start of it akin to something from the Howard The Duck soundtrack but this track is eight and a half minute in length which once the violins take hold it takes an ominous turn leading into all out chaos which is something my brain wasn’t ready to digest and then we black metal beats with saxophones for the start of Beton Brut which also has a Irish Folk feel at times and I am intrigued to and compelled to deep dive into the complexity of this album and were only at track 2. 

Fortunately, Plattenbau Persephone Praxis does give the listener and bit of breathing space, but the narration style of vocal is something you really need to stay on top as I feel if you don’t you can almost lose your way, the is the very moment that a curveball is served in the form of How The Mighty Have Vision which is then followed by the furiously short Tragic Heroin. It was quite tricky to pin down a highlight track but after a few listens I felt the same with Apathy As Arsenic Lethargy As Lead, vocally it just seemed to connect with me the most.

The album finishes off with the soothing instrumental Palimpsest before utter annihilation ensues with final track Cable Street Again which given the albums aesthetic is just as extreme as much of the album. It’s certainly an album that really need a good couple of listens to appreciate it. Complex and compelling 6/10

Tombs - Ex Oblivion (Season Of Mist) [Matt Bladen]

Mike Hill and his New York/New Jersey collective Tombs have released a digital only EP in support of their new single Ex Oblivion, it's based around the H.P Lovecraft story of the same name and features a few covers and a remix thrown in that are inspired by death and suicide. Ex Oblivion itself is a brooding post-metal assault that Hill has been delivering with Tombs for a while now but the EP is a showcase for new member Todd Stern (Psycroptic) who brings additional guitar to Hill and Justin Spaeth's multi instrumentalist ways fleshing out the band with bassist Drew Murphy. He shows his mettle on the thrusting punk of Commit Suicide originally by GG Allin. 

Frenzied guitars are also the order of the day on Motorhead cover Killed By Death which had Dan Higgins of Hammerfight peeling off those Phil Campbell/Würzel leads, it's a song that has been covered a lot but Tombs give it some venom (both metaphorically and actually) with the song transformed into something of Black Metal. Sombre Ruins Nothing Remains gets a dark synth remix with bleeps an drum loops from Hill and Spaeth, while Murder Legendre ends the record with a noise/ambient offering that has Dwid Hellion giving piano and noise. It's a bit of mixed bag but then it is essentially a stopgap release until the next album. Still there's a mix of music here that will display the full range of what Tombs do. 7/10

Voluntary Mortification – Suffer To Rise (Rottweiler Records) [Matt Cook]

The recent unveiling of the stunning in-color images captured from the James Webb Space Telescope depicts mesmerising, alien-like features millions of light years away from us. In other words, the possibility and likelihood of finding extra-terrestrial life is only further strengthened. It’s only a matter of time before the JWST locates Conner, the frontman that heads Voluntary Mortification, because the vocals on Suffer To Rise are downright out of this world, something conjured up from a distant, as-yet-discovered planetary body. 

It makes perfect sense that the five-piece deathcore troupe felt inclined to push the envelope and stand out in 2022. As has been chronicled ad nauseam, the metal music that’s been released since the pandemic has been utterly needle-moving. Suffer To Rise is HIIT-inspired in its musical cacophonies, and the record becomes heavier with each playthrough over the 44-minute duration. But back to Conner, because a lot of this album stands out thanks to the certified-brutal vocal range. Vindicator is a fucking ripper that should be charged with attempted murder (oh, and Johnny’s drum blasts could trigger a tsunami). 

Valley Of Slaughter slows the tempo instrumentally but still wields guttural inhumanity. Demoncratic Society opens with a fuzzy production before putrid bubbling and gurgling takes over. To put it plainly, it’s a frog being blasted by an industrial water hose. As for Abomination, it might warrant a trigger warning. Its build-up of temp is anxiety-inducing. Fret not, though, because if it really scratches the chalkboard inside your chemically imbalanced brain, Conner is here with words of encouragement:

“Now shut your filthy mouth!”

So jack up the volume, warn the neighbours and lock up the children and pets. Suffer To Rise can only be properly consumed with a vitriol and vengeance that has been bottled up your whole life. Give it a minute or two and you’ll soon be bashing your skull against your rickety cabinet that barely works in the first place because your cruel-and-unusual rent payments don’t actually lead to maintenance being done on the walls-closing-in apartment you actually can’t even afford to live in despite signing the lease five months ago. 8/10

Reviews: Wormrot, Sinner, Ambrius, Vanquisher (Reviews By Matt Cook, Finn O'Dell, Rick Eaglestone & Matt Bladen)

Wormrot – Hiss (Earache Records) [Matt Cook]

Nearly everything about Wormrot is ironic. To start, the name. Furthermore, their first album in six years is called Hiss and the grindcore effort is under Earache Records. This all sounds right and well. Except the trio hails from Singapore, a place that is routinely voted the cleanest in the world. How’s that for a juxtaposition? Getting to the music, Hiss is an explosive 21 tracks condensed into a 33-minute window. 

More appealing is the plethora of hardcore elements, owing to how the subgenre was first formed. This can be heard most pointedly on the hardcore/punk style background chanting on When Talking Fails, It’s Time For Violence! and the chugger that is Voiceless Choir. The grind is omnipresent – as it should be. The album jump scares to life and descends into marble-mouth growls. Your Dystopian Hell showcases drumming akin to a head chef working every station alone during Friday dinner service. The pumice-laced record doesn’t shy away from flat-out abrasive sounds and noises. Weeping Willow screeches, scratches and squeaks its way to a migraine-inducing flurry. 

All Will Wither takes charge shortly after by injecting vocals which are whispered yet still hoarse. Wormrot capped off the performance with closer Glass Shards, not only the longest track on Hiss (4:29), but also a song with a violin/string solo. It works in tandem with the subtle but effective melodicism that escaped earlier on Desolate Landscapes. Singapore might pride itself on its spotless global reputation. Luckily that doesn’t translate into its music scene. Besides, how else could grindcore be created? 8/10

Sinner - Brotherhood (Atomic Fire Records) [Finn O'Dell]

For those, like myself, unfamiliar with the name of this band, Sinner has been for 40 years and this is their 18th album. The front man, for whom the band is named (Mat Sinner), may be more familiar to some (me again) as a member of Primal Fear. For this album, they wrangled some special guests - Erik Martensson, Ralf Scheepers, Ronnie Romero and Tom Englund among them. All that said, I am really looking forward to this. The album takes off with some heavy killer riffs with Bulletproof. 

Sometimes outside sounds fit in a song, but I am not a fan of the gun action sounds at the beginning and end of the song - corny and doesn't sound like it belongs. We Came To Rock, well rocks. Personally I am generally not a fan of songs like this lyrically - kind of like movies breaking "the 4th wall" and acknowledging the audience. Do what you do, don't tell the obvious of what your doing. That said, Sinner does it with metal flare. The title track, Brotherhood, serves as a good reminder of not being alone. The Last Generation slows things down a little but delivers the passion. 

My Scars is probably my personal favourite with a groove filled riff throughout. There is a bonus track here that is a cover of an older song by The Killers, When You Were Young. Overall, this album is an adrenaline pumping machine that just doesn't stop. This is a slightly lighter version of Primal Fear for sure. So glad Sinner exists and looking forward to checking out their whole discography. Highly recommend. 9/10

Ambrius – Effigies Of Time (Symphonic Sabotage Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

The start to this debut EP by Ambrius has already given me goosebumps, the short piano laden title track Effigies Of Time it’s a prefect build up full on atmosphere and intrigue before the seven and a half minute Self Reflection break through with an onslaught of riffs, pounding drums and interchangeable vocal arrangements. Breathe is hands down my highlight track it’s absolutely littered with everything the previous track has but the melodies in the track are just fabulous as are the guitar solos. 

The tracks all are all over the minute mark, but all still manage to keep hold of the listeners enthusiasm take for example the Spanish guitar parts on The Unavoidable Path – they only add another dynamic that blends in fantastically well. I must admit I has spent a lot of this year listening to death and black metal, but this has just some divine good old heavy metal elements that my body seems to crave as much as it feels the need to stay hydrated right now. 

Red takes my previous statement and sandwiches it with a modern twist, there are some great growls embedded in the subtle nevermore sounding vocals, big fan of this track too. Lastly The Pulse And Purpose ends this particular journey but I’ve got a feeling it wont be long before I on the same path again. Ambrius is most likely a new heavy metal band you've yet to discover 7/10

Vanquisher - An Age Undreamed Of (Stormspell Records) [Matt Bladen]

Swedish, epic metal based around Robert E. Howard's stories about Conan and Hyborian Age? Yeah count me in! An Age Undreamed is this Swedish hordes debut album and they have come out of the blocks with an absolute battle cry of a record. Drawing lyrical inspiration from the swords and sorcery epics of Howard's works and putting them with muscular, warpaint daubed, works of epic heavy metal that is so macho it makes Manowar look like a bunch of whining old men (I bet Vanquisher don't fall out with festival promoters as frequently either). No Vanquisher is much more akin to bands such as Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and Virgin Steele. Bands who haven't sullied their name by being divas just playing the music for the love of heavy metal. 

It's one of those albums that will fulfil the question of "what is metal?" you can safely put down your war axe and give them a copy of this record. The band use pseudonyms linked to their Norse heritage they have Niord of Nordheim (vocals), Heimdal the Warlord and Horsa the Untamed (guitar), Wulfhere the Executioner (bass) and finally Gorm of the Pounding Hooves (drums), together this warrior horde from the frozen North spread the tales of Conan Of Cimmeria across the world. Horses loaded, weapons sharpened we go into battle. A spoken word intoro to welcome us into the Hyborian Age as The Pride Of Aquilonia gets the album going proper with as marching pace Manowar stomper, fists in the air anthemic choruses and lyrics about raising banners, it's followed by thrashing Storming Venarium, Gorm's pounding hooves taking it full pelt towards the solos. 

I can't get over how similar Niord's vocals sound like Eric Adams, but he also adds some harsher strains for Ode To The Slain. Recorded and produced in Stronghold Studios and Studio Tvåtakt by the band with help from Cederick Forsberg, An Age Undreamed Of was mix and master by Niklas Johansson at Harm Studios, and it's one of the epic heavy metal albums of this year. In this recent heat what better way to listen to music than in your finest loincloth body glistening with sweat and Vanquisher on as loud as hell!! 9/10

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Reviews: Oceans Of Slumber, Behold The Monolith, Onyria, Nicholas Cage Fighter (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, Zak Skane & GC)

Oceans Of Slumber - Starlight And Ash (Century Media) [Matt Bladen]

Texan masters of beautifully seductive, emotionally resonant, progressive music; Oceans Of Slumber come back with their fifth album and carrying on from the journey they started on 2020's Oceans Of Slumber (and to be honest before that) they all but do away with the extreme metal style their first albums, the blast beats and heaviness coming in waves behind a strong surge towards a Southern Gothic/gospel sounds that, as the PR puts it, transports you to a evocative fusion of Nick Cave and Type O Negative but with nods to the Denver dark country groups such as The Handsome Family and of course the political and ideological imagery of fellow Texan Gary Clarke Jr, the shapeshifting witchery of Chelsea Wolfe and musical magicians Zeal & Ardor. Drummer/pianist and band leader Dobber Beverly confirms Cave, Cohen and Waits as his inspiration behind Starlight And Ash. The pandemic allowing him and the band to truly experiment with this more expressive, less metallic style which still has an emotional gut punch. 

Built around the yearning vocals of Cammie Beverly, Oceans Of Slumber drain every ounce of emotion they can out their music, her soulful croon is both defenceless and defiant evoking her history and the darker realms of American history to tell these tales of sorrow and despair. Her vocals are used to their full potential here, carrying a beauty that is often not full realised in the heavier genres. Every note she hits be it a soaring cinematic top or a despondent, depressive bottom is driven by extreme talent and conviction to giving the best performance possible. The pathway of Oceans Of Slumber can be defined by their chosen covers, each of their albums features one and this record is no exception as they take on the old standard House Of The Rising Sun, imbuing it with a sadness not heard on previous iterations, it's a good way to showcase what to expect on the rest of the album as the style of Oceans Of Slumber is truly defined here. 

The argument about whether this is a 'metal' record or not is redundant, it's the truest form of expression the band have created since their inception, an album that is very much their own individualistic statement. The husband and wife team are joined by Mat V. Aleman (keyboards), Semir Özerkan (bass), Jessie Santos (guitars), and Alexander Lucian (guitars), to weave a mystical, cinematic spell over the listener, embracing quiet and more stripped back compositions to hammer home their Southern roots through the medium of a conceptual storyline set in a fictitious coastal town. The duo of the percussive gospel The Lighthouse and it's companion piece, the cathartic doom of The Ship Builders Son, wash over you with a poignant, dramatism which keeps its grasp around you. 

Cammie gives tracks such as the harrowing, throbbing The Hanging Tree, the alt country meets blastbeats of Red Forest Roads and the spiritual Salvation an emotional depth, though all three are different in their composition, they retain the mystery and melancholic attitude of the entire album, it's Cammie that brings them each a sense of individuality, her voice is insistent on the opener The Waters Rising, while Hearts Of Stone brings some shimmering jazz met with anthemic rocking, while Star Altar is built on soul and cascading riffs. Her crowning achievement here though is Just A Day which actually brought a tear to my eye, reminding me of my youth listening to the first Evanescence album after heartbreak, it's one of the most powerful pieces here, crashing piano, strings and doom riffs into brilliance. 

I'd say that Starlight And Ash is my favourite Oceans Of Slumber album so far (and I'm a fanboy for sure). Like a masterfully painted piece of art, it gives more with each experience. Magnificent. 10/10

Behold! The Monolith - From The Fathomless Deep (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Behold! The Monolith have unleashed an ungodly beast upon the world with their latest record From The Fathomless Deep. The Los Angeles trio have always been skull crushingly heavy, but on the band’s fourth full length, and their first for Ripple Music, Behold! The Monolith maintains their heaviness but has refined it to create a more sophisticated and elegant record that still absolutely rips your head off and destroys your city and all the surrounding metropolitan areas. I said it about earlier this year’s Mother Iron Horse album, but now I think From The Fathomless Deep may be Ripple’s heaviest release.

Who am I joking? it very much is. Some of my stoner/doom fans who are off put from not so clean vocals may shy away but I suggest hanging in to experience the elegant brutality that these guys bring. sludgy doom at it’s absolute finest. We have some aspects of more of the extreme metal genres too, which is why I say this record is above and beyond the heaviness that we have seen from Ripple and for those extreme metal fans who usually don’t venture into the stoner/doom pool of the usual Ripple roster may want to check this out as well. Right off the bat we have a slow burn doom/sludge ripper with Crown/The Immeasurable Void, which sets the stage for the destruction that Behold! The Monolith is about to turn lose upon the world. It’s like you can see the creature lumbering across the landscape destroying everything in its wake. But the difference here is that the production and the attention to detail makes this different from these types of bands and honestly what we have heard from the band before. 

Matt Price’s guitar work and riffs shine through all over From The Fathomless Deep, but nowhere more than on Psychlopean Dread. Heavy and breathtaking axe work, absolute next level stuff. Spirit Talker reminds me a bit of what some of the “death n’ roll” bands are doing, think Nite or Midnight. The Wailing Blade will be the song that the not so clean vocal detractors will dig the most with some Mastodon/Early Baroness vibes. The album concludes with the back-to-back ten-minute epic doom sloggers The Seams Of Pangaea and Stormbreaker Suite which are not for the faint of heart or those of you who have a three minute only song attention span, but the payoff for those who hang in is so worth it. The heavy doom/sludge of these songs outlines perfectly as to why Behold! The Monolith are above and beyond what a lot of similar style bands are doing today. 

Behold! The Monolith have been though a lot since starting the band in 2007 (look it up, it is a lot). Seven years after their last record they have now created their best album yet. Through it all, they have persevered and have delivered a sludgy/doom masterpiece that is something to truly Behold! 9/10

Onyria – Feed The Monster (Onriya Records) [Zak Skane]

Born in 2012 Italy, Onyria was founded by producer/guitarist Simon J. Gilman and singer Elena Pinna. Since their formation the bands sounds has been consistently changing from their Goth Rock tinged debut single Revenge which was released from the album Break The Silence to their stand alone dynamic story telling single Father. Now with the band recently releasing their single Living The Lie, they have a new album coming out this year. 

The album opens up with Denial performing ambient clean guitar passages whilst Elena provided haunting intro verses before it comes into groove laden riffs whilst Helena elevates her range from soft spoken poeticisms to power house soaring choruses demonstrating the vast scope of dynamics that this song writing duo are capable of. After their bombastic introduction the band take it up a gear with their albums debut single Living A Lie packing old and modern school rock with it pentatonic riffs and high energy drumming. The anti authoritarian anthem No Obedience contains soaring vocals and melodic leaded guitar lines that would get stadiums singing back. 

Along with producing fist pumping anthems the band know how take down a notch but yet still keep the listener feeling moved with the self assuring ballad Be Yourself that makes you feel empowered whilst listening to the waltz rhymed melodies, another great ballad featured on this album is Little Man with the lyrics helping us look back on leaving toxic relationships with pride reminding us on how little those people were. The heavy highlight on this album which is the politically driven Blind Man provides a great reminder to their old school fans they still haven’t lost their metallic flames. 

When is comes to rock music these days it’s either hit or miss for me, it’s either sounds too dated and less authentic or too polished and staged but the duo have pulled it out of the bag. The guitars are produced to perfection by still containing that rock and roll bite but with a modern edge, drums sound punchy and well performed…and speaking of well performed Elena’s vocals sound amazing, the way she channels her emotion into every line and tells a story in her lyrics take us on a journey. 

I’ve got to add that her vocals are powerful, wide and most importantly authentic every note she sings is perfectly performed with no sign auto tune any where. The only critique I would put out is that the structure pattern in each song is quite persistent through out the album which is good if you were releasing each one as a single but in an album concept I did find it quite repetitive and as a result it made me miss remember some of the other songs featured on this album. Nevertheless this a great modern rock master piece 8/10

Nicolas Cage Fighter - The Bones That Grew From Pain (Metal Blade Records/Blacklight Media Records) [GC]

Let’s get straight to is and address the obvious elephant in the room right off the bat, that name! Yes, Nicolas Cage Fighter is an awful name for a band and with that we rightly expect the music to take center stage and distract from that, unfortunately the music doesn’t really make up for it either! Its all just very uninspiring for what clams to be ‘ruthless hardcore that infuses late 90’s metal and death metal influences’ what we really get is one paced groove metal that at best and I am pushing it here sounds like Pissing Razors mixed with Slipknot. 

It’s all very tame really there are a couple of songs that got my foot tapping like opener Grey Eye and the short and sharp Coughing Nails but there is nothing here that makes me want to destroy everything around me which is the sort of thing I look for in this style of music, I want breakdowns so heavy it makes me feel I can headbutt holes in walls alas there are none on offer for the listener here! There isn’t one single track that grabs you by the neck and drags you along for the ride, every track just blends into the next without you really noticing. Musically the riffs are fine, all very standard metalcore fare and the rhythm sections offers up exactly what you would expect fast double bass that keeps the songs ticking along but without the bludgeoning heaviness that is required to make you pay attention and the vocals are just ok and certainly don’t offer dynamic, wide ranging vocal techniques as claimed! 

They have said that they are expanding their music and taking it in new directions on this album? I really can’t see where on this that anything could be classed as expanding a sound and I’m also not sure what their old stuff sounded like but if this is expansion then I think it will stay that way! Unfortunately for Nicolas Cage Fighter, this formula has been done a thousand times over and has been done a lot better, a lot more times and if they keep this standard of output going, they aren’t really going to inspire much and are destined to be that 2nd band on a 4-band bill that people just sort of watch and shrug at then go back to the bar before the headliner. 5/10

Tuesday 19 July 2022

The Spotlight: Interview With Vomit Forth By Zach Scott

Interview With Vomit Forth By Zach Scott

As part of my review of their new album Seething Malevolence, I spoke to Vomit Forth’s drummer, Nick Herrmann, about the record and the future of the band.

MoM: How would you best describe Vomit Forth’s sound with this new record?

Nick: Holding together THAT Northeastern sound. It’s abrasive but still has that underlying groove to it. We wanted to continue to make music that has high replay value. I always felt like that was something that tends to get lost in a lot of music like this.

MoM: How do you think your sound has developed with Seething Malevolence when compared to your earlier demos?

Nick: The record’s sound is just built off of what we have established through those earlier releases. The demos were more of us showing you what we wanted to hear and putting our influences fully out in the open, where now with Seething all of those influences are still there but we’re using them to develop something that’s ours.

MoM: Was this a conscious choice, or did your style kind of develop itself as you wrote more and more?

Nick: Our number one goal every time we get the next release ready is to outdo ourselves. We’re not looking at other bands as much as we’re looking at ourselves and what can WE do to expand on the sound and push it further.

MoM: If you had to choose one band that influenced your sound most - as a band or as an individual - who would it be?

Nick: It’s really impossible to narrow it down to one band. What I can say is we are a Northeast band influenced by other NORTHEAST bands. Whether it’s metal or hardcore, the Northeast has always had it’s own identity. We grew up listening to everything so you’re going to get all of that when listening to this record.

MoM: What is your writing process - do you all write together as a band, or is it more individualistic?

Nick: Everyone has their own ideas that they work out on their own but it all gets brought together in a group setting. Some ideas work, some don’t. The band is composed of people from two different states, so it’s not uncommon for videos / demos to get sent back and forth before we get in the same room.

MoM: You’ve got some upcoming tours with some of the US’ biggest and best new death metal bands - what do you see coming out of these tours for you?

Nick: Again, further solidifying and representing that Northeast sound. Bringing that to as many people as we possibly can.

MoM: In this vein of new death metal that’s coming out, there’s a big crossover in fanbase between old school death metal fans and hardcore fans - do you think this is a good thing for the genre?

Nick: Absolutely. I never understood the people that want to put restrictions on themselves as to what they listen to. When I was growing up I didn’t care what it was, if I like something then I like it. The “anti-hardcore” crowd is corny to me. If you really want to take THAT literally then a lot of the metal bands you like wouldn’t exist without hardcore and THAT’S something you can trace all the way back to bands like GBH. People continuing to check both scenes out is only going to bring more heads out to shows and expose bands to an audience they might not have had playing the same shows they normally do.

MoM: You’ve spoken before about wanting to make your music unique and memorable - what do you think is the number one thing a band can do to stand out amongst similar bands?

Nick: Stop making music for the sake of appealing to a certain crowd and make music you would want to listen to.

MoM: Lastly, what are your short and long term goals for both this record and the band in general?

Nick: Again, just to bring this record to as many people as we possibly can and push ourselves as far as we possibly can go.

Cheers to Vomit Forth for doing this interview – check out their new album, Seething Malevolence on all streaming platforms!

Reviews: Wake, Ernia, Anticreation, Spektrvm (Reviews By GC & Matt Bladen)

Wake - Thought Form Descent (Metal Blade Records) [GC]

It’s safe to say that Wake don’t want to be pigeonholed as four minutes into album opener Infinite Inward I have already heard death metal, black metal, and some doomy atmospheric metal, giving this album the potential to be very interesting. Everything on offer here is urgent, savage and filled with genuine heart wrenching emotion that can often be lost in music that is as extreme as this, at times the vocals really stop you in your tracks and just make you listen to the pain that is being poured into every second. It’s almost an insult to try and describe what Wake are doing as they really take everything to another level.

It is almost as if they create soundscapes and not actual songs, none of the actual music here clocks in at under 5 minutes aside Pareidolia which allows you a minute’s rest to regroup before the onslaught continues and The Translation Of Death which fades the album out with a much-needed dose of serenity. Everything hits you like a ton of bricks it’s all intense riffs, impassioned vocals, dense rhythms, and pounding drums one minute then out of nowhere comes a passage so beautiful you need to look and check your still listening to the same album?! The perfect example of this is Venerate (The Undoing Of All) which is like an 8-minute sledgehammer to the chest, a beautiful, unrelenting, and savage beast in the truly the best possible ways.

I Think Wake may have found a new way to be describe brutality as when you listen to them you notice all the extreme elements are seemingly so effortless and then when mixed with some truly beautiful more serene parts all the music on Thought Form Descent is ruthless and savagely heavy but also offers some genuine shining moments of beauty with textures and dense layers, that guarantee there will always be new bits that you discover with each listen and trust me, you will keep coming back for more as this is a fantastic album. 8/10

Ernia - How to Deal With Life And Fail (Transcending Obscurity Records) [GC]

The second release from Spanish grindcore nutcases Ernia really is, for want of a better word mental! From the very beginning of opener Farewell, Sputnik this album is a delightful and savage non-stop attack on all your available human senses, and I couldn’t be happier about that!!

Every single part of the sound is always full on & intense and never gives you a chance to relax or take a breath. To listen to its definitely grindcore at its purest but, also manages to mix in some mind boggling mathcore sections that wouldn’t be out of place on early Dillinger albums and brutal slamming death metal parts there is also a lot to remind me of The Locust in places but it’s not that they are just cut and paste copycat type stuff they really have created a truly unique sound with some of the highest technical excellence you will hear for a long time to come. 

You really, really need to be on your toes when you’re listening to this or you will miss something as all the songs blast by at an unrelenting and unpredictable pace with vocals that could peel paint, 1000mphdrumming, sonic boom bass drops and incredible guitar work, this really does deserve your attention!

For me, Ernia really have created something utterly unique and savagely beautiful here and they really could be one of the bands to watch in the future because if their output continues to be this good then I can’t see how they can fail as this album is unreal. 8/10

Anticreation - From The Dust Of Embers (Sentient Ruin) [Matt Bladen]

On their debut album From The Dust Of Embers black/death duo Anticreation, craft a devilish, devastating 34 minute destruction of your ear canals. Comprised of two extreme metal veterans; Necro (guitars, vocals) and Noctus (bass, vocals) with guest musicians being drummer Krzysztof Klingbein and some ambient/noise by Slanderer From The Dust Of Embers revels in its blasphemous, contemptuous, evil, tremolo picking, scorched vocals and grinding rhythms doing exactly what you'd want a black/death band to do, especially a Greek one. There's plenty of Necromantia, Rotting Christ and Varathon influences, but also bands such as Burial Hordes, Enshadowed and Merciless Crucifixion all of which Necro has been a part of. 

It's bleak and uncompromising, the dissonance favoured by the band coming though on each track as the blistering speed so often shifts into a screeching death metal chug. The Beauty Of Lava really encapsulates the flowing of molten magma down a mountainside towards a doomed village, strains of death doom give way to just fuzzing noise as the percussive DM battery returns towards the end. Much of the record starts towards the death metal side but there's enough black metal to satisfy on tracks such as Abomination Reborn. If you've any interest in the Hellenic extreme metal scene you'll recognise, and enjoy the sounds of Anticreation, moreover if you're also a fan of Immolation then you'll also be banging your head hard, however for many this will be just another addition to an over saturated genre. 6/10

Spektrvm - Blood For Heaven (Sliptrick Records) [Matt Bladen]

Remember those Halcyon days of nu-metal fondly? Or are you a dyed in the wool fan of Disturbed or Metallica? If the answer to all of these questions is yes then you'll be ready to go out and pick up Blood For Heaven the new album from Perama, Corfu based metal band Spektrvm. Something of a game of two halves. At the beginning there's some proggy, thrash heavy metal that can be heard on bands such as Nevermore or even Metallica, the classically tinged intro Gift Of Oizys from the former, the doomy title track the latter. 

But as the album gets going they sort of morph into a Disturbed covers band Thanos Zabetakis' vocals very David Draiman-like on War Of Chameleon, Leviathan and Rainfire the like barking out politically motivated lyrics and making reference to societal problems too. The music sticks with the chuggy, groovy metal style of Disturbed as well though it does change with Trying To Breathe giving some more modern metal balladry, drummer Lyo Panagiotopoulos taking a restrained approach here and on Rotten World

Green God has bassist Michael Pouliezos give some Tool rhythms though Without Borders shifts into some folky, proggy thrashing the guitar duo of George Zikas and Nicholas Dhamo showing off their prog chops. It's a little all over the place but the basic selling point of this album is that if you like Disturbed, and even Breed 77 too you'll get your groove on to Spektrvm's debut album. With a bit of refining and the hook laden songs of a band such Disturbed, their second album could be gold dust. 7/10

Monday 18 July 2022

Reviews: Fatso Jetson, Ardours, Crossing Rubicon, Josiah (Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Fatso Jetson - Live At Maximum Festival (Go Down Records) [Rich Piva]

Fatso Jetson are legends. It could be debated that they are the founders of what we all call the desert rock scene today (with some heavy debate of course, but they are for sure in the conversation). Starting out on the classic and way more punk leaning SST records back in the mid-nineties, the band has been a major influence on anything even close to desert/stoner rock and their entire catalogue is must hear material for anyone who loves this style of music and wants to study its origins. 

There is a true punk feel to Fatso Jetson that you don’t get from a lot of their contemporaries which makes them stand out as something truly unique. There is a bit of a FJ resurgence about to happen with the new live split release (with All Souls) that Ripple Music is putting out in August and with the re-release of the classic live show Live At Maximum Festival, originally released in 2014 by Go Down Records who is doing the re-release as well. 

You get a band on all cylinders on Live At Maximum Festival, recorded in Italy in 2013. The recording is not the greatest, but you can feel like you are in the front of the sweaty crowd hearing a career spanning set from the desert rock legends. You get early career tracks like Orgy Porgy off their second album 1997’s Power Of Three. The classics Magma and Too Many Skulls from their amazing 2002 offering ToastedSalt Chunk Mary's from their 1995 SST debut Stinky Little Gods and newer tracks from singles like the awesome Flesh Trap Blues. All of them in their revved up versions that showcase why Fatso Jetson is a must-see live act. 

A great setlist and a perfect starting point for someone looking to get into the band. I am super excited for more Fatso Jetson in 2022 and beyond. As influential as they are I am hoping the get a ton more visibility and respect as one of the creators of the genres. The upcoming Ripple release and this killer re-release of this must hear live record is the perfect start to that re-education of the masses on Fatso Jetson. 8/10

Ardours - Anatomy Of A Moment (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Consisting of Tristiana singer Mariangela Demurtas and multi-instrumentalist Kris Laurent, Ardours are an alternative/symphonic metal band that shift between atmospheric gothic tinged rock and symphonic metal. Anatomy Of A Moment is their second album, (their first came in 2019), and it is still very much set in those tones established on the debut, Tristiana drummer/lyricist Tarald Lie again rounding out the songwriting trio. They want this band to be dark, moody, anthemic and evocative, influenced by the new wave/post rock/synthpop/melodic rock sound of the 80's. What you have on Ardours' Anatomy Of A Moment is a piece of polished pop rock that sometimes moves into the metal world but mostly has glut of emotive choruses similar to the solo records of Anneke Van Giersbergen and also Within Temptation's Sharon Den Adel as Mariangela's voice brings the same kind of expression as the Dutch chanteuses on the bubbling Insomniac especially. 

It's one of the picks of this record with the excellent chorus met with the a great synth-line and some propulsive drumming, Identified meanwhile has a sound similar to Muse, some arena ready electronic rocking, Dead Weight goes into industrial as Unannounced brings a bit of  dark Yacht Rocking while Secret Worlds is the first ballad on the album and really cuts deep in the style of all the best 80's power ballads (even the guitar solo). There's certainly a unique sound to Anatomy Of A Moment, synth driven pop-tinged rock that is delivered with style. Ardours are a band that you can definitely understand why they are signed to Frontiers as their musical style will broadly appeal to those that follow the label. 7/10

Crossing Rubicon - Perfect Storm (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

A new collaboration on the Frontiers comes in the shape of Crossing Rubicon, Turkish guitarist Cenk Eroglu, who has played with Winger, along with The Babys frontman John Bisaha. The idea behind the project is to make classic 80's styled melodic rock with a modern sheen. Cenk added his son Efe to the band on guitars/keys while the record features special guests such as Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Ray Coburn (Honeymoon Suite), and Reb Beach (Winger, Whitesnake). So a lot of melodic rock names featured so you know whats going to come on Perfect Storm. Cenk is not a modern artist reliving the glory days of 80's rock though, he had been recording demos between 1984 and 1998 but never found a singer until he came across Bisaha. 

He has that right sort of voice for this project, coming from the style of bands such as Winger along with Toto and Night Ranger, bands that straddle that cusp between 80's AOR and 90's melodic rock, with touches of hair metal. Check out a strutter like Too Late or the synth-driven On The Run (which features crowd sounds), you get to understand that Cenk is a great songwriter, comfortable with the melodic sound, but this record never really moves away from being comfortable, good guitar solos and vocals can only get you so far, when your musical style is very similar too hundreds of other bands. It must be great for Cenk to get these songs out to a wider audience, so well done to Frontiers but Perfect Storm is a decent enough debut. 6/10  

Josiah - We Lay On Cold Stone (Blues Funeral Records) [Rich Piva]

Josiah is back!!! I could end the review there and a certain segment of readers would go and pre order the new record, We Lay On Cold Stone, from the UK stoner psych legends. Main man Matthew Bethancourt (and now only original member) has revived Josiah after creating some really great stuff with Cherry Choke and The Kings Of Frog Island. Back in the early to mid-2000s Josiah was setting the framework of what so many stoner/psych bands are doing today with their three classic records (that by the way have just been reissued and are all awesome) and their new one more than a decade later is right there in quality, albeit a bit darker and more psych leaning on this outing. 

The opening track, Rats, is an instrumental stoner/psych jam that is a nice lead into Saltwater, which is a super catchy stoner ripper and a perfect reintroduction for what Josiah does so very well. The production on We Lay On Cold Stone is great, especially the drum sound. Dan Lockton’s drum work is top notch and may be an upgrade from those original records. Let The Lambs See The Knife is classic Josiah. Serious Kyuss worship with their own twist and feel. Absolute killer track. Cut Them Free is more of the same (which is excellent) instrumental stoner/psych jams, which is a good thing but at times I am wishing for more songs with vocals on the six-track outing. 

(Realise) We Are Not Real is another excellent track that leads way more on the psych side of Josiah, I hear some of what JIRM is doing on their most recent release. The drumming is on fire the guitar work from Bethancourt is some of this best work. Killer track. The fittingly titled The Bitter End wraps up Josiah’s return nicely, with a kind of best of stoner rock circa early 2000s vibe and outlining what makes them one of the bands to mention when describing who influenced what the scene looks like today.

I was super excited when I saw Josiah was back. I could not pre order it fast enough. This is excellent, but there is something that is making me want a bit more from this release. It may be that I am just greedy, but maybe one or two more tracks would have made this record feel more complete. But hey, I am giving this a high score and it will be on my end of year list, so this may be my issue and not anyone else’s. Check this one out for sure. 8/10