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Wednesday 3 August 2022

Reviews: Psycroptic, StormbounD, Vice, Mädhouse, (Reviews By Matt Cook & Matt Bladen)

Psycroptic – Divine Council (Prosthetic Records) [Matt Cook]

Coming up with a unique band name that hasn’t already been claimed must seem like trying to nab a username that’s available in an RPG that’s been around for two decades. To avoid that quandary all together, Psycroptic opted to name themselves after nothing while still sounding like a mental condition that also attacks the eyes. Divine Council, the latest effort from the Australian Tech-Death stalwarts is a furious compilation of aggressively heavy tracks. The guitar riffs and licks garner more airtime than the vocals, but when Jason Peppiatt grips the mic, it’s armour piercing. 

Enslavement and Ashes Of Our Empire separate themselves from the pack in their superb structures. The former is lathered with sultry atmospheric and melodic elements while the latter’s riff plays itself into a frenzied grizzly bear ready to decimate. David Haley pedals maniacally on Rend Asunder and The Shadowed World is an unadulterated bone-cracker. The success of Divine Council should come as no surprise to longtime fans. Psycroptic has delivered the same scorching arrangements since their debut in 2001, with no sign of relenting. 

Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, these nine songs are perfectly portioned and allow for each band member to leave their mark on the record. It’s yet another item in the four-piece’s discography which can stand on its own two feet and go to war with any other technical death metal release out there. Whether it’s your first time stumbling upon Psycroptic, or you’ve been on board since day one, Divine Council emits white-hot rage in tightly packed, well-thought-out bluster. It takes neither prisoners nor breaks. 8/10

StormbounD – December (Self Released) [Matt Cook]

Typically, when bands implement two vocalists, it’s common practice for one voice to be harsh and the other clean, producing an appealing equilibrium. Although that is the case with the vocal tag team of Yael Horwitz and Ofer Friedman, the dynamic goes a bit further and in doing so, elevates the debut album from StormbounD to greater heights. Within the nearly hour long affair that is December, Horwitz delivers the customary angelic singing that has made symphonic death metal such a captivating subgenre. Friedman’s emphatic yelling boosts the grittiness. But to go further, the two use the competing styles to tell stories in the form of quasi-conversations. Therefore, the songs become more story-driven and immersive. 

Take Altar Of Innocence. Horwitz acts as the supposed victim of betrayal and/or corruption with her singing. Friedman contrasts this with unforgiving bombast, especially so when he bellows “There is no god / your faith has forsaken you now.” Away From Here follows the same conversational formula, however it is in the style of a verbal exchange between two (ex?) lovers. The instruments are tamer and the singing from both vocalists is softer but no less effective. The song is strengthened by Horwitz and Friedman singing the same lines over each other, as opposed to call-and-response. 

Musically, the album begins with a cinematic intro and Sacred Lies is rife with heavy riffing and a stronger emphasis on metal, owing to the established ability garnered by Friedman (who also handles guitars), Shani Friedman (guitars), Pavel Kleiman (bass), Yuval Partush (drums) and Rotem Sadia (keyboard). Not to be lost in all of this is the diversity and the mix of arrangements December offers. That very notion aids in quelling any boredom that might arise from a 57-minute album and replaces it with an anticipatory excitement. StormbounD certainly didn’t hold back on their debut, and with the eclectic talent on display, the band excelled at putting Israel on the symphonic death metal map. 8/10

Vice - For The Fallen (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Since forming in 2014, the trio of Tom Atkinson (vocals/guitar), Aiden Lord (bass) and Connor Summers (drums) have comprised Vice. While they are a notable name on the UK live scene, the Manchester band have only released one album prior to this one in 2017. While The First Chapter, hinted at greater things, For The Fallen expands on things a little but not enough to really blow you away. It's on no way the difficult second album, taking risks that don't pay of, rather it's an album that is comfortable with playing a standard style of heavy metal that takes from bands such as Trivium, BFMV et al. 

Classic metal cuts through thrash and modern metal but there's never really anything that seperates it from the countless other bands doing this. The downbeat, lyrical content too doesn't really work in its favour, making every song sound quite similar as these tales of woe unfold. To be fair to them, the performances are pretty good, the band giving their all but the music becomes pretty standard stuff after about 3 songs. Decent but I feel there's a little bit of a wasted opportunity to take a few risks. 6/10

Mädhouse - Down N Dirty (ROAR Rock Of Angels Records) [Matt Bladen]

Mädhouse hail from Austria but if you listen to Down N Dirty and especially songs such as Kiss And Tell and Passionkiller you'd be forgiven for thinking this is the new Def Leppard album or on This Is Horrorwood and the title track possibly a new record from Motley Crue. as they play a very distinct style of sleazy, glammy hair metal that owes much of their sound to these two 80's monoliths. They even go as far as having those silly pseudonyms that were all the rage back then as the band consists of Tommy Lovelace (vocals), Mikky Stixx (guitar), Thommy Black (guitar), Rickey Dee (bass) and Casey Jean Eiszenman (drums), though perhaps that last one isn't s a pseudonym. 

Down N Dirty is their third studio album, with ROAR! behind them and it's got all the glorious melodies and saucy often silly lyrics of the sleaze/glam metal leaders, just listen to Kung Fu Holidays, as the big ballsy rockers are paired with a few saccharine ballads. If the glam metal scene of the 80's past you by or makes your skin crawl then I'd suggest give Mädhouse the swerve however if your cowboy boots and bandanna are calling then pick up and party like it's 1985. 7/10

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