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Friday 26 August 2022

Reviews: Lonely Robot, Hierophant, Lacrimas Profundere, Roots Of The Old Oak (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Lonely Robot - The Model Life (Inside Out Music)

A member of such seminal prog bands as It Bites, Arena and Frost*, while also having his own projects, Lonely Robot was supposed to be just that, a way for him to play pop positive prog rock that would stretch his creativity beyond the other bands he's involved in. After the initial trio of releases this de-facto solo project was supposed to end but due to record label intervention all subsequent solo albums are being brought under the Lonely Robot mantle. 2020 saw Feelings Are Good released to the world at the perfect time, the mix of English melancholy and stargazing optimism telling us it was OK to feel, to be human. The latter being the entire lyrical inspiration of Lonely Robot, Mitchell mulling on what it is to be human. 

The Model Life offers a bit more observational and anxious, recorded during the pandemic, the lyrics are a bit less hopeful and a bit more pessimistic, Mitchell's relationship breakdown, numerous deaths due to Covid and the lies we're fed by social media are all put in the cross hairs and taken down in Mitchell's signature sound. Take Starlit Stardust which is a soaring ballad wringing every ounce of emotion out of songwriting, the title track which hints at those personal issues and how a happily ever after is so often out of reach. Recalibrating too deals with the aftermath of a long running relationship gone wrong. But there's the pulsing Digital God Machine which takes aim at keyboard warriors and the twitching Island Of Misfit Toys which to me is part Peter Gabriel part Duran Duran and gives that arty pop ethos with a distinct loneliness. 

Mitchell says that all the songs here are about being pissed off with someone or something, making a new dawn for this solo project, very much a down to earth and honest record, feet planted firmly on the ground and no head in the starts like the previous four albums. The synths are dialled down for more guitars and drums, along with Mitchell's studio mastery to make for broad sound range. Yet again his vocals are sublime, cynical but hopeful in the same breath and carrying emotional depth. He also plays more solos than ever before re-establishing his place as one of prog premier axemen, but there's virtuosity throughout from this prog polymath, on his most personal album to date, Mitchell shows that music can be an escape from what the world throws at you. 9/10 

Hierophant - Death Siege (Season Of Mist Underground Artists)

Ravena based extreme metal band Hierophant put the extreme in metal with this their fifth album and sees them shifting away from their beginnings as a blackened death sludge band. Death Siege is raw and relentless death metal infused with plenty of riffs, a point that the band themselves wanted to drive home. The grind of their earlier releases give way to groove and savage riffs moving towards the Death N Roll of bands such as Entombed while also having that fuzzy, production style favoured by grindcore, hardcore and D-beat who h is where they come from. It was Mass Grave their first album for Season Of Most that highlighted this change towards more evil sounding music, the speed and violence, now underlined by structures and musicality. 

Death Siege is where they have been aiming to be since Mass Grave, Death Siege again full of songs about war and the apocalypse, apt when you consider it was recorded between March 2020 and May 2021, the point at which we've seemed closest to an extinction level event but as tracks such as Devil Incarnate, In Chaos, In Death and Nemesis Of Thy Mortals all rage past with an impressive veracity, you do get a little bogged down in how similar they are. Sometimes there's a bit of progression or a change in the pace but mostly this is extreme metal riffage from the rhythm guitars of Lorenzo Gulminelli as Fabio Carretti peels off leads, the bottom end of Gianmaria Mustillo link in with session drummer Alessandro Vagnoni for speed and power. Hierophant have arrived but for me this is beginning rather than a destination. 6/10 

Lacrimas Profundere - How To Shroud Yourself With Night (Steamhammer/SPV)

I'm not sure really what to make of this record as when Lacrimas Profundere play the dark Gothic metal that reminds me of Type O Negative they are good, however on this record they do move in to angsty post-hardcore sounds they lose me. Their last album was critically acclaimed and the pressure to follow up was so great that the band felt that they perhaps needed to take a few risks here so as to relieve some of that expectation. Oliver Nikolas Schmid explains that he collaborated with brother Christopher to defy expectations and write the album they wanted to. The album though is a little disjointed soundwise.

You can't fault the passion but this record does seem to be aimed more towards singer Justin's voice than anything else, he seems much more comfortable in the post-hardcore screamy sound than with the gloomy lows. The Curtain Of White Silence is a a great bit of hardcore, the title track meanwhile is evil brooding doom and An Invisible Beginning a traditional goth rocker. That's basically the three styles here that they revolve throughout. I wanted to like this album but after a couple of listens only the Gothic rock stuff clicked I'm afraid but there will be certain fanbase that will love it. 5/10

Roots Of The Old Oak - Blot (Hammerheart Records)

In December 2021 UK extreme metal scene veterans Pete Rowland and Stuart R Brogan (vocals/guitar & drums for Slaughter Of Souls) got back together to create music inspired by their Pagan beliefs and the 'Peacville Three'. Blot (ritual) is the outcome and it's a noisy way of saying goodbye to the anxiety of the last few years, through some kind of loud catharsis. Spending three days crafting their demo with Chris Fielding at Foel Studios, making 4 songs that have all the musical traits of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and early-Anathema. 

Picked up by Hammerheart Records, Blot is the initial release from Roots Of The Old Oak and with an album now on the way, Blot can be seen as a heavy and atmospheric offering that nails that 90's death/doom sound, slow lumbering riffs and growled vocals are part of the bands DNA with a track such as Monolith which closes out the demo but Light In The Pyre brings a more atmospheric feel. Four tracks that cement Roots Of The Old Oak as a name to watch in the death/doom scene, I await their full length with anticipation. 7/10

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