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Wednesday 10 August 2022

Reviews: Dub War, The Ever Living, Exilium Noctis, Praetorian (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Dub War - Westgate Under Fire (Earache Records)

Ragga/Dub/Punk/Rap Metal originators Dub War return with their seventh studio release, their first since 2010, but their first album of new material since 1996. Obviously the long gap between albums come mainly from frontman Benji Webbe also being the vocalist of the much more recognisable Skindred, and that from 1999 until 2014 Dub War were on hiatus. With a few reunion shows behind them this record was supposed to be a series of singles culminating in an album on an independent label. However this changed when Earache Records approached them to release it as an album, establishing Dub War's comeback as a fully fledged act. 

With Webbe still on vocals combining fun and ferocity, his unique vocals style the focal point of the songs, while his lyrics are inspired by all manner of things from the Newport Rising and the Chartist Revolution, through to inspiring a party (Vibes In The Place), the murder of George Floyd, rise of Black Lives Matter on Blackkk Man as well as quite a lot of horror themes with both Mary Shelley and the Sabbath sounding Coffin Lid having these themes. Lyrically dense, at times acerbic and clever, it's the sort of political edge Skindred used to have, but here it makes more sense as Dub War were born in that defiant early 90's time. Musically the use of dub/punk/reggae/ska/hip hop is done brilliantly, guitarist Jeff Rose and bassist Richie Glover both as versatile as they've ever been. 

While the record does feature drums from founding member Mikee Gregory but there's a load of guests to, Memoriam's Spike T. Smith blasting on the punky Art Of War as Ray Mayorga gives an industrial kick to Reveal It. Other guests include Ska/Two-Tone legend Ranking Roger on the raging cover of Max Romeo And The Upsetters' War Inna Babylon, there's also a great, slightly trippy version of The Rev Al Green's Stay Together near the end of the album  A warm welcome back for Dub War as they firmly re-establish themselves as one of the most innovative bands to come out of Wales. 8/10

*My only regret is that I have to review this and not Mr Neil Lewis who's review I'm sure would have much more eloquent, informed and excitable than mine could ever be. This ones for you mate!*

The Ever Living - Artificial Devices (Self Released)

Alternative metal is an odd beast, often it's a catch all term for music that bends boundries, collecting numerous styles together under the same umbrella for a more 'experimental' sound. It's prog Jim but not as we know it. The Ever Living are an experimental band at heart, Andrei Alan (guitars, bass, programming) and Chris Bevan Lee (keyboards, vocals, programming) are the only members of the band but the scope of their music is far wider than many other duos. Their second album Artificial Devices evolves the sound they created on Herephemine into a much more progressive affair a track like De-Emulate really creating a soundscape that effortlessly merges the oscillating synths, with crushing riffs and swelling orchestrations with brutal screams. 

Reminding me of bands such as Deftones, Cult Of Luna (whose Magnus Lindberg mix/mastered) and Amenra, there's a post-metal heart that beats at this bands core but one that is encased with a discourse on existential dread. The two men collaborating over the internet to make this record their best so far. Circadian March is the sort of theme you'd expect on a Blade Runner soundtrack, it bleeds into the powerful Ruminace, a song with a lush synth led build that's more Vangelis or NIN than any metal band. The dark atmosphere really hitting home as Total Impasse distils exactly what the band are about into 4 minutes, which according to Andrei was the point. 

The album itself deals with Andrei's writer's block, our continuing reliance technology and the general breakdown in our ability to communicate as a species. It's harsh, brutal and cold in the main but there are flashes of wonder throughout that mean The Ever Living are a band with their own impressive niche. 8/10

Exilium Noctis - Fragments Of Apocalypse (Sleaszy Rider Records)

The Greeks do blackened metal better than anyone and Volos based Exilium Noctis are the latest band to enter their name into the ring of bands such as Rotting Christ, Varathon etc. They play blackened death metal with an anti-Religious, pro-Satanic message. Created in 2021 the core of the band is Alpha on vocals/guitar and Omega on just guitar, the two of them have been joined by Kayra on violin to bring classical elements to this blackened/death style. 

A tolling of a bell opens up Desecrators and from there it's blasting extreme metal with a dual guitar assault that shifts between the outright blasts to death grooves and squawked vocals, giving Fragments Of Apocalypse a straight ahead opening that evolves into Night Witches (Die Nachthexen) the first use of the violin which creates a more rounded, ghostly sound adding to the blackened death style. The duo unleash some fully formed death battery on The Coming Of Abaddon while Celestial Onslaught begins with a solitary piano and that longing violin again creating one of the best tracks on the album for me. 

Their bio talks of making a brand new genre with this album and while that isn't true, as there are plenty of bands that incorporate strings with black/death metal. Exilium Noctis do so very well, a worthy addition to the Greek extreme metal scene, due to this strong debut. 7/10

Praetorian - A Deluge Of Bad Faith (Self Released)

Just three tracks of filthy, sludgy, organ shifting riffage from North Hertfordshire. A Deluge Of Bad Faith is the the latest EP from Praetorian. The reverb drenched opening Self Denied Fear slowly drags it's knuckles into a fuzzy doom crawl that explodes into some overly aggressive hardcore shrieking. Similarly to South Wales noisemakers Tides Of Sulphur there's a level of sheer aggression that comes through on these songs, as Self Denied Fear ends with a continuous cry of "Bitch". 

Orgone Conclusion is the sort of track that sounds how a organ removal feels, just a mass of anger and aggression. Finally this trio of pure violence ends with possibly the most 'melodic' opening on the record, though it's not long before the toxic sludge viciousness comes back on Ode To A Drunk Driver. At only 14 minutes A Deluge Of Bad Faith leaves your ears ringing for a long time after, as Praetorian pour out raging bile from minute 1 to minute 14. 7/10

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