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Monday 31 October 2022

Reviews: Deathsiege, Sabaton, Voak, Devenial Verdict (Reviews By Erick Willand, Matt Bladen, Paul Scoble & Matt Cook)

Deathsiege: Throne Of Heresy (Everlasting Spew Records) [Erick Willand]

Upon first listen I did not know that Deathsiege is a three piece outfit. This much blasting ferocity coming from just 3 humans boggles the mind, it’s inhuman. Brought to blasphemous life in 2019 by a dude simply going by A.M. and joined quickly by another dude only known as J.S. The two demon spawn dropped a demo titled Cannibalistic Patricide which was followed quickly by a second blistering demo titled Unworthy Adversary. This demo caught the attention of Everlasting Spew Records and the duo then added third member T.D. for additional guitars and got to work on their first full length, Throne Of Heresy.

There is no mercy on this album. From the seconds of the initial attack to the final fading guitar peels you are hammered on for Satan with short ripping songs that rage like a torrent from a broken dam. Seriously if you’ve never seen footage of a massive flood as it happens, that is what listening to this album feels like. Track 1, All Roads Spiral Downwards kicks your door open and smacks you right in the face, repeatedly for 3:34. Relentless drumming like a team of machine guns elevated with slashing almost dissonant guitar work. A proper opening for an album of this kind. Dehumanized In Darkness follows right in after the smacking with equal urgent sonic rage aimed at your ears. Boom…boom…boom… ripping, just like that. No mercy whatsoever, no waiting either as you are immediately slammed into Harbingers Of Finality like a one-two punch from a boxer much meaner than you are. These songs blaze with demanding speed and visceral blasphemy, just the way I like it.

This raging trilogy of rippers brings us to the album title track, Throne Of Heresy. Opening with a proper build up before proceeding with the expected attack and it works. This song is full speed ahead and relentless and the guitar work is top tier, peeling off a few times throughout the track for extra infernal atmosphere. It's solid and one of my favourites of the album and bleeds cleaning into the only pause in the assault, kind of. Satanic Tyranny is a short instrumental piece that feels and sounds like an army on the march, complete with clash metal sound effects. I dig it but I’m not sure of its placement, it feels like a closing track.

To be fair, on my first listen I thought that was it, they broke the flow. And, track 6: At The Ruins Of Legacy did not, on first listen, re-establish my hopes for the rest of Throne Of Heresy. I was mistaken however and surprised to find the last six tracks, Revelations Of Wretched Men, Smear Campaign Triumph Eternal, Drowned By Murderous Force, Poisonous Worlds, Unworthy Adversary and Death Siege all come in under three minutes! Track 8, Smear Campaign is the longest here at 2:27 with the shortest being Poisonous worlds at 1:30. In short, what I thought was going to be a slow spiral down for this album turned into a face ripping death race to the finish line and I got happily dragged along the whole way, twice. This second half resurgence, especially tracks 10 and 11, breathed fire right into my brain. This is where Deathsiege excels, short, blasting, hook riffing full throttle rage!

Aside from the oddly placed instrumental and the lazy cover art, this album slays pretty hard. Hoping for more memorable lyrics and more short ragers on the next one, for now Throne Of Heresy lands at 7/10

Sabaton - Weapons Of The Modern Age EP (Nuclear Blast) [Matt Bladen]

Not to sound like an errant schoolboy but this review got stuck in the annals of my hard drive and never saw the light of day at the time. So here it is:

Everyone's favourite arena size metal history buffs return with the first of three EP's entitled Echoes Of The Great War following from the themes of their previous releases The Great War (2019) and The War To End All Wars (2022). Probably the most fertile and harrowing parts of European history it's a timeframe that has been used as influence for many bands, movies, films, plays, poems and much more. 

So the Swedish metal band have dedicated three EP's worth of material to it (along with two albums) with EP focused on a different subject. This first one focuses on weapons/science, being a military historian myself, I didn't think I'd need the plentiful additional reading that comes with the EP, through their app that is in conjunction with The History Channel, but I certainly found things I didn't know. This is one of the things that I respect about Sabaton, whatever you think of their music (I happen to like it) their commitment to history and education is unwavering. So back to the music and Weapons Of The Modern Age give us songs about the scientific evolution during the period of the Great War from the sky battles fought with The Red Baron to the naval campaigning on Dreadnought each of the songs here represent a different way The Great War influenced conflict. 

The solitary new song is Father which is a doomy track that deals with Fritz Barber the man who invented chlorine gas that was used so viciously in the trench warfare, however he was also responsible for the Harber-Bosch method of synthesizing ammonia which revolutionised farming and crop production across the world, winning him a Nobel Prize. It's a wild story but one dealt with the right tone by the band, making for a darker, more conflicted edge than usual. 

It's back to basics from there as Joakim Broden bellows out these tales with the band ripping through their power metal sound with plenty of galloping rhythms and lead guitar solos. If you've not heard many of the Sabaton albums then I'd say that this record along with the two more to come; Heroes Of The Great War and Stories From The Western Front are a great entry point into the fascinating and dynamic musical world of Sabaton, a band who continue to carve their own path to mega stardom. 8/10

Voak - Verdrängung (I, Voidhanger Records) [Paul Scoble]

Voak formed in 2020, the Athens based double act recorded and released an EP; Verschiebung, in their first year of existence. Verschiebung was about exploring themes about Imprisonment, Verdrängung is about privilege, in particular about suppressing your own privilege. The duo, made up of K playing the instruments and V on vocals, have a clear political standpoint as Anti-Fascists, Pro-Feminist and Pro-LGBTQ+ and this is reflected in their lyrics. The album was mixed by Ayloss of the band Spectral Lore, and sounds great.

On Voak’s Bandcamp page they describe their music as “Something like Black Metal”, which is a pretty accurate description. Most of the songs have a clear black metal base; blasting drums, tremolo picked riffs, harsh vocals and a certain amount of coldness, but in many places there are other influences that are put into the musical mixing pot.

The track Für Jede Wunde Ein Pfeil is uptempo, choppy black metal with a little bit of a pagan metal feel to it, in some ways I thought it was reminiscent of German band Horn. The second half of the song is a little slower and features hand claps, which was a surprising choice, mainly because of how well it works, there is also some chanting which helped give the song a nice ritualistic feel. Atemzüge Der Wölfe is another mainly black metal song, featuring blasting fast tremolo picked riffs in a fairly orthodox style, the song slows down in the later parts and has driving an aggressive stomp that works really well.

One of the places where Voak leave the standard black metal template is on the track Die Verwandlung which has a much looser, punky sense to it, in some ways it has a bit of a black and roll feel that is really good. The punk feel this track has fits in beautifully well with the bands stated lyrical subjects, and just feels right. Another departure is the first half of the track Affektintoleranz which has clean guitar and vocals, a thundering bassline and very expansive drumming in a very New Wave or even Gothic way. This adds another tonal quality to the album that works very well, the second half of the song is fast and flowing black metal and the two parts of the song merge together in a very pleasing way.

Verdrängung also features a cover of the song Sabbat by hardcore band Catharsis from their genre perfecting album Passion (1999). The Voak version has a black metal feel to it by playing some of the riffs in a tremolo picked way, but at the same time the song is instantly recognisable, so they’ve put their own mark on the song, whilst at the same time haven’t changed it so much it has no connection with the original, which is pretty much what I want from a cover version.

Verdrängung is a great album. The songs are short, punchy and very memorable, the band has taken black metal, put their own spin on it, and have made something that is original and very enjoyable. I have been genuinely surprised at how good this albums is, considering that the band have only been going since 2020, and this is their first album, it feels like a piece of work made by a much more experienced band. Highly enjoyable, Highly recommended. 8/10

Devenial Verdict - Ash Blind (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Matt Cook]

The artwork for Ash Blind will give even the most vigilant of megalophobes a run for their money. You might even have to squint to make out the shadowy figure in the foreground, dwarfed by what seems like two mountainous forms split down the middle by lava seeping from the sky. If nothing else, Devenial Verdict sure know how to get a non-verbal message across.

The Finnish brutal death metallers debut with a full-length record that comes a decade and a half after their 2006 formation. However, the time between may have done more damage than it did favours. The drums don’t always sound like they’re on the same page with the rest of the band, and there is quite a bit of empty space throughout the 45 minutes which doesn’t act as a beacon of artistic flair.

However, there is in fact Hope. The opener sees Sebastian Frigren peppering the track with dirgy guitars that make for ominous overtones. Overall, the song is layered and picks up nicely towards the end. Ash Blind is catchy with a recurring riff, and the melody drones and toils (for better or worse). 

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled (which is entirely possible), but I yearn for more brutal death metal from a brutal death metal record. The Contemptor provides energy and bluster, but the fact that Okko Tolvanen is the lone original member begs the question of if Devenial Verdict ever built enough cohesion and like-mindedness to create synergy needed for a full-length. 6/10

Friday 28 October 2022

Reviews: Thotcrime, Obsidious, Vananidr, Nostromo (Reviews By Matt Cook)

Thotcrime – D1G1T4L_DR1FT (Prosthetic Records)

Stop everything you’re doing. Put your phone down, pay attention and fucking listen.

Cybergrind is here to stay, and the world is a better and more fun place because of it.

Enter Thotcrime, a four-piece, multinational juggernaut that doesn’t give a shit what normal musical conventions dictate. Their second record, D1G1T4L_DR1FT is a sight to be seen (or heard). Immediately after I played it it, I wish I could have sampled it for the first time again. Twenty-five minutes of what sounds like a computer struggling to buffer a program.

The fact that the record clocks in just barely longer than a rerun of The Office adds to its listenability, but really, take your pick. The clean vocals are magnetic, polished, dare I say, beautiful. The guitars – at least I think they’re guitars – are utterly erratic and uncontrollable. The drumming – again, who knows how much of it is or is not electronically created – is hellacious, bellowing. At one point, Dot Homler’s blistering percussion work sounded like a program freezing mid-launch.

And those sweet, sweet electronics. Producer K. Salmon had a field day on this album. Opener This Isn’t Foundation, Now Give Me Your Skin Please is playfully juxtaposed. trust://fall garners attention with an 8-bit-inspired hook. It’s followed up by what sounds like Mario glitching out before the grindcore comes back to sledgehammer your teeth into dust.

As intoxicatingly frayed and jagged the electronics are, the vocals simply cannot be overlooked. Far from what you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill grindcore record, Hayleyy Sparxx illuminates D1G1T4L_DR1FT with trippy, futuristic vibes. The contrast in styles is stellar, and that doesn’t even do it justice.

Spoken vocals on trust://fall are compelling, articulate. Tweet This! might be the catchiest track overall, and that’s saying something, because the entire full-length has something to gush over. The vocal production featured on Critical Codependence is enough to lull you to sleep in its exquisiteness.

Who knew the soundtrack to a technological meltdown could be so damn enjoyable? 9/10

Obsidious – Iconic (Season Of Mist)

Born in the wake of a mass exodus from German outfit Obscura, the still very similarly named Obsidious are a four piece international technical/progressive death metal act that packs quite a bit of proficient guitar work and maintains direction and structure.

The hits come both literally and figuratively on debut full-length Iconic, though the vocals from Javi Perera – the lone non-former Obscura member – become watered down and emerge as a quasi-technical power metal affair. Guitarist Rafael Trujillo is fit for the task, and on Sense Of Lust, he’s broodingly thick with his sludge riff and dual-wields a dizzyingly complex approach. On the titular track, Trujillo is highly technical in his introduction, though it becomes offset by Perera’s ill-placed clean vocals. When he’s harsh, he’s on point, but the flowery singing doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the performances.

Likewise, Trujillo is monstrously effective with his soloing (Iron And Dust), however the drums seem to act more as a contradiction than a complement. If Perera kept to the “death metal,” it would do more to assist his guitarist. Opener Under Black Skies features hearty, bloated grunts. Sebastian Lanser mans the kit with aplomb here, viciously attacking with bass blasts that eventually morph into lighting-speed tumbles.

Iconic is a musically inclined title contender. But when I first heard the clean-sung sections and the power-metal deliveries, it categorically derailed things for me. The aforementioned title song does show off Perera’s impressive vocal range, see-sawing from high-pitched wails to downtrodden growls. However, more of the latter and less of the former would help to fully accentuate what Obscur, er, Obsidious have to offer. 6/10

Vananidr - Beneath The Mold (Black Lion Records)

Scandinavian metal has an innate ability to emit frosty, ice-covered songs. It’s similar to how southern rock wields an inherent swampy, greasy undertone throughout its storied history.

Vananidr’s fourth record in five years, Beneath The Mold, takes this sentiment to the extreme and in 44 minutes, lays down a frozen sheet of ice over the already snow-covered melodic black metal landscape. It’s delectable in that it’s achieved without waxing poetic about Satanism (or nationalism…).

The production is fittingly abrasive. Anders Eriksson’s vocals bite with the same mettle of minus-zero wind chills. His screams are unforgiving, consumed by haze, while also remaining distant and set back underneath the ferocious instrumentations. A girthy, poignant bass coupled with chuggy riffs coats The Watcher in icicles and the omnipresent wily drumming from ex-Amon Amarth skinsman Fredrik Andersson underscores the messy situation in which he was discarded from his previous band.

The percussive work on opener Dominion is electrifying and the dynamic tumbling found on Awake helps not only to solidify the album’s identity; it also firmly carves out Andersson’s ability to vigorously lay down drum lines that belong in multiple genres and settings. Hell, even the monochromatic artwork tells the tale of a bitterly cold, utterly uninhabitable northern wasteland. A lone pine tree is distinguishable in front of wisps of what looks like more flora. In any event, it certainly doesn’t paint a picture of a tropical paradise.

And that’s the heart of Vananidr: the atmosphere is sturdy and unforgiven while the musical output is welcomed and well-placed. At times droning and trailing off, Beneath The Mold likewise possesses power akin to taking a slapshot right to the face. 8/10

Nostromo - Bucephale (Hummus Records)

Their story isn’t entirely unheard of, though it is worth mentioning. Extreme metal veterans Nostromo formed in 1996 and released two full-lengths before taking an 11-year hiatus from 2005-16. Now in 2022, with three-quarters of the original lineup still on board, the Swiss-based four-piece have finally produced an LP to supplement 2002’s Ecce Lex.

That record, Bucephale, personifies the band’s metalcore/grindcore label. Javier Varela commands the microphone with harsh gusto and intense bravado, but is still able to successfully mesh with the instrumentation. While the vocal cadences are at times unstructured, it’s by design and amplifies the ferocity the band unleashes.

Shuffled guitar chugs, grimy sludge and crunchy production over 40 minutes is Nostromo’s recipe. Realm Of Mist is a combustible barrage of hellfire. And despite the decade-plus break, the group doesn’t miss a beat. The erratic nature of Nostromo breeds unorthodox behaviours, which very easily could have ended in a sinking ship of mediocrity. Instead, the unpredictable structure is exactly what draws attention to this record. Even newcomer Maxime Hansenberger elevates the band’s overall sound despite having only been with them for four years prior to Bucephale. The drummer is simple but firm with rugged drum blast-bursts, and also knows how to let loose and devastate.

Where some bands find themselves struggling to revisit past glory or move on from elongated time away, Nostromo have instead used the break to regather their goals and motivations. Bucephale spews extreme metal at its finest, coupled with an air of adept musicianship. 7/10

Reviews: Noctem, Psychonaut, Insonika, Faustian (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver, Quinn Mattfeld & GC)

Noctem - Credo Certe Ne Cras [MNRK Heavy] [Paul Scoble]

Noctem have been making blasting unpleasantness since 2001. In that time the five piece have made five albums before Credo Certe Ne Cras. Their debut album Divinity was released in 2009, two years later came Oblivion, then in 2014 Noctem released their third album Exilium, and after another two year wait 2016 brought us Haenesis. In 2019 Noctem broke with their tradition of one word album titles by releasing The Black Consecration. Noctem is made up of Beleth on vocals, Varu on bass, Voor on drums, Moss on guitar and Tobal on guitar.

Noctem’s style is a mix of fairly brutal death metal and equally extreme black metal the exact balance of death metal to black metal changes from song to song. There are some similarities in sound with Belphegor, Behemoth, or Blaze Of Perdition but Noctem definitely have an original sound all their own. One of the stand out elements in Noctem’s sound are blast beats with almost ridiculously fast drumming, if you want an album to batter the living crap out of you, then Noctem are a band for you. 

Sovereign Providence is a good example of this; the song drops us straight into savage blasting with nasty tremolo picked riffs and harsh vocals, it feels very aggressive and dramatic. The song does have a couple of slow sections with some nicely dissonant guitars and a very memorable tremolo picked melody, this melody is then repeated over some very fast blasting at the end of the song. Ceremonial Miasma is another blastathon, but this time the riffs have more of a death metal feel to then. The song is short and savage, with a slow section right at the end so we can get our breath back.

Noctem are also very good at dissonance. The song The Pale Moon Rite has a beautifully dissonant, wailing guitar over the slower parts of the song, there are some blast beats and very fast riffs, but it’s mainly about the slow and inharmonious. Another place where Noctem slow things down is on the track Chalice Of Turpitud, which features some very slow and heavy riffs. The song is also packed with melody (I was surprised to find so much melody on such a brutal album, but melody tempers extremity very well), one deeply hummable melody in particular returns several times, so it really worms its way into your head.

Title track Credo Certe Ne Cras is an interesting song. It opens with a voice chanting before dropping the audience straight into some taut death metal style blasting, the track then slows a little but gets more aggressive. The song then slows and becomes much more minimal, before dropping us back into a mid-paced blast beat that has some really great tremolo picked riffs over the top that feel very aggressive. The song briefly gets more expansive before it comes to its end.

Credo Certe Ne Cras is a great piece of black/death metal. The extremity is right up there with some of the most brutal bands, but it’s also packed with melody and hummable tunes. The level of blasting on it did make it feel a little impenetrable on the first couple of listens, but once I got to know it a little better, it opened up and I found a very memorable album. Despite the savagery, this is a very well balanced album the fast and frenetic material is tempered by the slow and dissonant, and the memorable melodies tie the whole thing together very well. Highly recommended. 8/10

Psychonaut - Violate Consensus Reality (Pelagic Records) [Richard Oliver]

Violate Consensus Reality is the second album from Belgian progressive/post-metal outfit Psychonaut. The band formed in Antwerp in 2013 and turned heads with their debut album Unfold The God Man in 2018. With their new album heads are certainly going to be turned once again.

Psychonaut are a band that I have seen mentioned before but never checked out until now and from the music on Violate Consensus Reality seem to be a band comprised of three distinct elements - psychedelic melodic sludge metal, experimental and progressive sounds and bone crushingly dense and heavy post-metal. The three elements are combined together in fantastic style across the eight songs which make up Violate Consensus Reality

The first few songs mix sludgy riffs, light airy melodies, harsh screams and complex songwriting which is best realised in a song such as All Your Gods Have Gone but it is in the middle of the album where things get really interesting and the progressive and avant-garde leanings of the band come to the fore such as in the stunning title track which features guest vocals from both Amenra's Colin H. van Eeckhout and Brutus' Stefanie Mannaerts who both add an extra dimension to this gorgeous composition. Another stand out is the mesmerising and atmospheric Hope which is the albums most melodic, calm and introspective moment and it sounds absolutely beautiful. 

The album finishes off with its most crushingly heavy song A Pacifist’s Guide To Violence with contains some of the heaviest riffing on the album before Violate Consensus Reality closes with the longest song on the album Towards The Edge which has all the best elements of the album mixed together in one massive epic.

Violate Consensus Reality is definitely an album that grew on me as it progressed with the mid section of the album being especially good. Psychonaut have a cool sound which mixes together elements of bands together such as Mastodon, Baroness, The Ocean and Cult Of Luna and manages to be crushingly heavy and deftly melodic in equal measure. I found the start of the album a little forgettable but once it got going it was damn good stuff. 7/10

Insonika - Pithos (Self Released) [Quinn Mattfeld]

If Insonika were a band of identical calibre in a different genre, say, grindcore or sludge they'd probably be an outstanding example of promise and vision among their peers but as the Swedish 4-piece has chosen stoner doom to be the vehicle for their unique metal proclivities, Insonika isn't quite outstanding... but they are standing. In a subgenre overstuffed with veteran acts like Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats as well as truly exceptional upstarts like Mother Iron Horse and Telekinetic Yeti, it's more than likely that Insonika will be lost in the volume, but I wouldn't say that they're doomed…

Pithos begins dramatically and with aplomb, demonstrating the band's mastery of blending the rhythmic and the melodic, followed by the title track which takes a page from the Khemmis playbook including some death metal-inspired vocals that soon transforms into a rhythmic dirge which, unfortunately doesn't go much of anywhere. It just sort of continues. And herein lies the rub. 

Throughout the album, Insonika falls into a series of seemingly habitual cadences, that dominate the record's sound. Examples abound including Monsters In My Head, Warmongers, and the closing track, Dunes Of War. The Plague stands out as a great example of the band taking an opportunity to allow the rhythmic to become something more. The central riff of the song winds its way through the track which builds to a climactic solo only to collapse back into that singular, driving riff which demands heads be banged and horns be thrown. 

If Insonika can push themselves to find that next level of variety and creativity going forward, they have a real chance to turn "still standing" into "outstanding" with subsequent releases. Pithos is not a mediocre album. It's a very good album but in 2022, stoner doom, as a whole, is a subgenre that consistently goes beyond "very good" and frequently offers the sublime. I think Insonika can get there, but I don't think they are there yet. My only real complaint about the record is the album art, which I would like to imagine is some kind of attempt at humour but as this is a Swedish band, it's likely not.7/10

Faustian - Faustian (Black Lion Records) [GC]

Today’s review is from Black Lion Records blackened death metal trio Faustian and it’s their self-titled debut EP. Threshold is meant to set the mood for the entire EP before a note is played and is a brooding and lurching introduction before its all systems go with Birth Of Apparitions which is a lovely mix of savage death metal technicality and atmospheric black metal rawness that has just the right amount of nastiness to really spike the interest and create a bruising and chaotic opening. 

Communion With Shadows brings in another frenzied dose of urgent riffs from the black metal playbook that still has enough of the body and feel of a death metal track so as not to lose its way and just like that it is onto final track Void Sight which is a lumbering brute of a song and really goes all out black metal with drummer Max Kimmons really shinning here and the dual vocal back and forth of guitarist Dallas Smith and bassist Troy Bennet is also the best it has been so far which all finishes us off on a gloriously chaotic and brutal diamond.

It’s worth noting before my final score that this is a concept EP and that the word ‘concept’ would usually fill me with dread as it usually ends up in some overblown and boring cosmic story that’s just generally a steaming load, however the way the music ebbs and flows and drags you along you find yourself intrigued about the subject matter which is the story of the collapse of a persons humanity and the destruction of oneself and becoming and evil apparition, its done beautifully and makes me think that given more time and experience they could definitely do a lot more concepts and make them really interesting.

So, as an EP I really enjoyed what I have heard from Faustian, and the main frustration was that there just wasn’t enough of it to listen to! Of course, this is just a minor problem as you can tell that with time, they have the potential to create some truly special music, and this is most definitely just the beginning of what is to come. 7/10

Thursday 27 October 2022

Reviews: Implore, Brutus, Fifth Ring, Vacuous (Reviews By Matt Cook & GC)

Implore - The Burden Of Existence (Church Road Records) [Matt Cook]

The burden of existence has been heavy on us all lately, to say the least. At times things feel bleak, apocalyptic, rage-inducing. And this usually before we can even make it out of bed. It often leads you to want to scream, smash everything, yearn for a chance at a new world. That exact tenacity and benevolence has been harnessed and comes together thanks to Implore and their album referenced earlier, The Burden Of Existence

For just over a half hour, the German foursome loosely categorized as both a blackened death metal, grindcore and crust band wields their weapons of annihilation. What is akin to being stuck on a roller coaster while the speed only increases exponentially. Its infectious vocals allow you to live vicariously through Gabriel "Gabbo" Dubko who infuses the record with raucous rebel-rousing. The consistent two-headed monster delivery of biting screams ups the ante entirely with the balanced harshness brought forth via bassist and fellow vocalist Carol Lieb. The only respite from the visceral assault comes 30 minutes in (Love Will Gradually Perish). 

Otherwise, the nine other tracks are a splendid “fuck you” to the world we’ve been unceremoniously mired in for years now. Masochistic Tendencies in particular mimics someone recognising that death is on one’s doorstep. The feedback is utterly lobotomising.  And this isn’t simply rugged music that elicits moshing: Accept The Loss pummels with the ferocity of a 135-mm cannon on board a battleship. Sun Deprived follows it up with grindcore being bludgeoned into smithereens. 

If the vocals represent artillery, Markus Matzinger’s drumming is planet shifting. He turns the rage up to 11 (Archetype) in a display of hate-fueled vigilance. Ultimate Freedom threatens to derail a freight train and The Burden Of Existence concludes with a bone-meets-bone collision of violence and gore. As rotund as life’s stresses get, Implore’s imprint is more massive and titanic than any hare-brained invasion or Swiss-cheese economic stability. 8/10

Brutus - Unison Life (Sargent House) [GC]

There was no press kit or info sheet when the new Brutus album landed in my inbox so I am gong into this totally blind and that is probably for the best as it means I can just listen and not get bogged down with what they want to do or used to be like. 

Haunting first track Miles Away is more of and into but it has an ethereal beauty to it and mixes in some tension in places and the switch between these styles is a nice way to kick us off before Brave properly introduces us some dense post-punk that has some nice atmosphere colliding with a claustrophobic wall of sound and some nicely delivered vocals it then gets all dreamy with Victoria which has a very floaty feel but still manages to maintain that punk edge that is needed so it doesn’t float away and get lost in the atmospherics and this carries through into What Have We Done which is a slow build of quiet guitars carried on an impassioned vocal line and it slowly but surely kick in with some emotive guitars and has jarring drums but the real star of the show here is most definitely the vocals of Stefanie Mannaerts as they are full of pain, passion and angst and its delivered to perfection on this track, carrying on we get Dust which is a bit more aggressive and jarring and throws some hardcore into the mix of sounds that have been offered and the contrast in styles here is a great piece of timing by Brutus as so far its all been slow and measured and halfway through the album, this really kick things into life in spectacular style. 

Liar begins with more of the punk side of things and manages to be grandiose in parts and the sparse and bare boned in other places it’s a great contrast and make for an interesting listen, following on from that we have Chainlife begins with a wall of sound full of anger and sorrow before exploding with some jarring and scathing hardcore and a big chugging riff that fits in nicely before it all slows down and lulls you in before finishing you off with a punishingly devastating finishing section. Entering the closing section of the album and Storm is probably the most straightforward song so far and without any warning throws in a slight pop edge to the structure and overall sound and the mid-section mixed into the closing section here is another thing of absolute beauty! 

Dreamlife is another straightforward but devastatingly emotional dose of dense, dreamy and passionate post-punk that segues nicely into the gigantic closing track Desert Rain which starts with some echoey guitars and soft sequences that then explodes into some breakneck drumming and veers in and out of a chaotic mix between epic soundscapes, quiet emotional, introspective passages the some intense and frenzied hardcore its all here and it’s all mixed together really well and they have definitely saved the best till last here as this is an absolute journey to go on and worth every minute you give to it! This has been a real rollercoaster of an album, there is epic beauty, devastating sadness, furious rage and an almost loving kindness in equal measure here which all feels like it is done with nothing but 100% commitment. What’s clear hear is that Brutus have created a beautiful album that is full of surprises with twists and turns that will keep you listening and always wanting to come back for more. 8/10

Fifth Ring - Masochist (Self Released) [GC]

Another day, another deathcore record for me to review, this time I have the debut album from an international bunch of lads know as Fifth Ring and it is also their debut album, Masochist! Let’s get into it then! Straight form the off you know what you’re getting with this, BRUTALITY and lots of it Ten Horns kicks everything off in a blur of double bass and blast-beats courtesy of Q. Keith Brown Jr and some nice technical guitar mixed with big chugging riffs from Christopher Williamson all held together by the deep the guttural vocals of Zachary Kepley, The Snake is a more groove filled beast that has a little more structure and subtlety than before but is still has all the bludgeoning riffs and savage drums to form the body of a big heavy monster of a song and even throws in some melo-death style guitar work in places but it’s the ending of this song where the pay off is really shown! 

Crimson Mask begins with possibly one of the best intro samples I have ever heard and is one for WWE fans for sure, the song itself is another groove-laden beast and doesn’t let up on the savagery that has been on offer so far and offers up some absolutely insane drumming in places with yet another lovely end breakdown! Head On A Pike bounds out of the speakers at a breakneck pace with more almost melo-death style riffing before dropping directly into a big stomping cloud of serrated riffs and elephant heavy drums and even has clean vocals thrown into to mix which although not exactly need, does show a nice variation, and breaks up the relentlessness slightly but obviously not for too long.

Dust To Dust then slows everything right down and is a bit of a shock to the system as its all tippy-tappy drums, acoustic and picked guitars before its all come to life and has the feel of an almost black metal song with the staccato and atmospheric guitars crashing with the doomy drums before it all drops directly back into the previous quiet guitars and drums before it then breaks out into more familiar deathcore territory and in all honesty it’s all a bit of a confusing clash of dynamics and doesn’t really do much for me and typically it’s the longest track so far! Can’t have it all, I guess! 

Maggot King then give another slight switch in formula and has a hardcore vibe to the beginning vocals that piqued the interest before just becoming more of the same deathcore brutality that has been on show so far and they again throw in some unnecessary clean vocals that do nothing to elevate the song and are just a bit annoying really BUT these guys really know how end songs! 

The end of this is just a thing of savage perfection!! Waste does nothing to slow down the tempo and attack and is another decent slice of deathcore, but those clean vocals really can fuck right off! STOP IT!! They offer nothing and sound stupid and the end verses lyrics are also pretty cringe-worthy. The Pit is probably my least favourite track so far as it just doesn’t really do very much, its kind of just there and lumbers along not really offering too much in the whole scheme of things and so its down to Lurking In The Open Wound to close things an it does so in a decent fashion it’s full of driving and relentless death metal riffs and punishing drumming and makes you forget about the last couple of track that were just a bit meh.

I have got say I’m not really sure about this album its all decent enough and has all of the brutality and savageness that a person needs in a modern day deathcore record but, in some places it does get a bit samey and some parts just plain miss the mark all together and when they do try and mix it up it tends to make the whole flow change and not in a positive way!? Overall this is a decent record to listen to but I wouldn’t give it repeated listens like you would expect to do and that's the problem! 6/10

Vacuous - Dreams Of Dysphoria (Me Saco Un Ojo Records/Dark Descent Records/FHED) [Matt Cook]

The very first vocal line presented on Dreams Of Dysphoria is indicative of a band that spawned in the bowels of a pandemic-ridden wasteland. U.K.-based filth mongers Vacuous released a demo back in 2020 and after allowing the cutting room floor to grow mouldy and sticky, their full-length debut is upon us. Listening to it summons the same feelings one gets when that too-close stranger on the red-eye flight back home starts to doze off on your shoulder and can’t quite keep their drool to themselves. 

Whatever you might find in the darkest recesses of the divest bar around, nothing quite tops Dreams Of Dysphoria. Jo Chen provokes and admonishes everyone within earshot by way of spacious grunts and heinous howls. The foul-smelling recording studio must also have been quite the scene because the production value is hazy at best. A putrid smog hovers ominously above the entire 33-minute record. 

All of this, however, is much to the band’s benefit. Thunderous, stampeding, Katana-edged fury. Death metal not only categorises Vacuous; it is an appropriate label to the entire finished product. It’s likely best consumed whilst showering since you can kill two birds with one stone. It’s not always lightning fast. The instrumentation ebbs and flows with more precision than destruction, a veritable dose of carbon monoxide that, unbeknownst to its victims, quickly and quietly kills. And if you listen closely, Chen appears to be gargling their saliva before letting out a juicy spit. 

Believe it or not, it’s far from the most disgusting aspects of Dreams Of Dysphoria.The five-piece’s name is also a bit of a misnomer: blatantly removed from unintelligent mouth-breathers, Vacuous possess a penchant for well-crafted compositions that give off an odour as sensual as an abandoned men’s bathroom balls-deep into an apocalypse. Then again, the band did surface in the midst of COVID. How else could one express their inner thoughts during that period? 8/10

Reviews: Polyphia, Sugar Horse, Bring The Hoax, The Sade (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Polyphia - Remember That You Will Die (Rise Records)

In this review g game you often come across a band that completely destroys your expectation. Polyphia are an instrumental prog(?) band from Texas, and I use the question mark against their genre description as they are progressive in the core sense of the term, this record defies genre at every turn one minute giving you jazz influenced instrumental prog rock ala Plini etc then, jumping on to post-metal cinematics, then it's rap/trap music, then pop trappings etc. 

The musicianship staying at the highest level while the songs evolve into varying styles. Across three previous albums Polyphia have been, winning over countless fans with the genre-hopping and expertise, but I'd never heard much of them before, expecting more instrumental music I'd heard before. However on Remember That We Will Die I have been totally converted to the Polyphia cause as this is the way to distance yourself from a crowded scene. Comprised at their core of guitarists Tim Henson/Scott LePage, bassist Clay Gober, and drummer Clay Aeschliman, Remember That You Will Die features numerous guest slots, mainly vocally to allow their hybrid style really take hold. 

If you're not a fan of rap/hip-hop/trap, modern R&B etc then you may find this record very jarring but tracks such as Playing God, Reverie and Neurotica are part of that instrumental grouping of bands like Plini and Sithu Aye, all four members showing off their chops but not sacrificing the songs themselves. As for guests there's plenty who bring the modern production methods such as Brasstracks, Rodney Jerkins (Michael Jackson, Destiny’s Child, Lady Gaga), JUDGE (Migos & Marshmello, blackbear, Young Thug), Y2K (Doja Cat, Remi Wolf, Tove Lo) and Johan Lenox (Kanye, FINNEAS), all of who get featured on select tracks adding their own style and sound. 

Performers like multilingual pop singer Sophia Black, hip-hop star/multi-instrumentalist Killstation and trap star $not all make the songs their own their own, $not's raps on Fuck Around And Find Out full of confrontation. it then shifts into the brass of All Falls Apart. Now if like me you have no idea who any of these acts are then you'll probably know who Chino Moreno and Steve Vai are, the Deftones man performing on Bloodbath while Steve Vai bring his alien shred to Ego Death

These last two songs are the sort of music you'd think a band such as Polyphia would play but you definitely have to expect the unexpected when it comes to this Texas foursome. Is it rock? Is it pop? Is it prog? Is it rap? Who knows? Is it a joyous musical experience? That's for damn sure! 9/10

Sugar Horse - Waterloo Teeth (Small Pond Records)

Bristol's self deprecating eclectic rockers Sugar Horse return with their new EP Waterloo Teeth, it follows on from a debut full length and a EP's, but this one is more of a collaborative effort featuring members of bands such as Heriot, Conjurer, IDLES, Biffy Clyro and more. Having drawn comparisons to the excellent Oceansize, Sugar Horse approach music in the same way as their comparison, unaffected by trends or sticking to genres, they shift their influences throughout every record and this is no different. 

Recorded at Xmas 2021-2022 the band were ensconced in Small Pond Studio to create this EP, calling in friends from around the UK to add their talents. In their constant striving for nonconformity this EP is a celebration of the limitations of art, though this EP doesn't seem to have any limitations, the weirdest, quirkiest, most experimental music yet, their elongated, long form songwriting of previous records has been stripped away, perhaps linked to that idea of limitation as Disco Loadout kicks off with outright aggression Debbie Gough (Heriot) and Damien Sayell (Mclusky) both giving the roaring vocals to this short shock of violence with the discordant cello from Matt Loveridge. 

From here we're on much more familiar territory as the title track is much more in the longing, echoing, atmospheric wheelhouse of Sugar Horse Jake Healy's baritone guitar featured heavily against the dramatic voices of Ashley Tubb and Paul Tierney, Tubb is the second guitarist here, the bass given by Dave Larkin of Black Peaks as Will Gardner of the same band provides the sax. This is very much the post-metal assault many will know from Sugar Horse, the parping sax distorted against the big doom riff. Gutted comes next and is a mindfuck Kate Davies (Pupil Slicer), Nuala Honan on vocals while Brady Deeprose/Conor Marshall (Conjurer) give both their voices and their guitars to this cavernous doom number, the backroom of Chris Howarth (bass) and Martin Savage (drums) carrying the song through its various phases as the doom gives way to ethereal soundscapes then more ear piercing noise and back to doom. 

Most bands would take it a bit slower after this and Sugar Horse do the same with the ringing Super Army Soldiers feeling a little like U2 or Biffy as IDLES bassman Adam Devonshire brings the four strings Connie Matthews of Wych Elm features behind the mic and Mike Vennart of Oceansize/Biffy provides the searing solo on the closing song that will make all those who have made the Oceansize connection very happy indeed. The euphoric choral finale over you're left with the thought that Sugar Horse could basically do whatever they want now and still have people clamouring to hear them, exciting and bold Waterloo Teeth is an EP that proves music is better experienced with friends. 9/10

Bring The Hoax - Bring The Hoax (Lövely Records)

It's amazing how far music permeates, even in countries that you may not think about. You wouldn't think countries like Sweden necessarily have many band who are influenced by anything from 90's except death/black metal however that's clearly not true. Released by fuzz/alt rock label Lövely Records have carried the newest EP of Stockholm band Bring The Hoax, takes you on a journey to the early 90's grunge/indie scene, paying particular attention to groups such as Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr but for this Welshman, Bring The Hoax's EP sounds like it draws a massive influence from 1992-1994-era Manic Street Preachers. 

Punkish, fuzz riffs, remind you of Generation Terrorists or Gold Against The Soul while vocals have the James Dean Bradfield edge and everything takes a poppy melody, lyrically too it's politically motivated just like the South Wales firebrands. Recorded in their rehearsal room and mixed afterwards it's a furious run-through of 5 original tracks that are steeped in 90's rock traditions 1993 encapsulating this perfectly. Featuring Karl Nordahl (vocals/guitar), Hasse Karlsson (guitar/vocals), Sara Engström (bass) and Mark Pettersson (drums) this fourpiece bring a slice of Seattle and South Wales on this latest EP. 7/10

The Sade - Nocturna (Go Down Records)

There's been a lot of great Gothic rock around recently so it's a hard genre now to make a splash in. Having been around since 2008, Italian goth trio The Sade have got time and experience on their side. They've release a number of albums and EP's as well as countless tours, along with being quite a notable name in the Italian rock scene. Nocturna is their fourth album, conceived during the pandemic, I'm certain that the enforced hiatus and constant stress of the situation (especially in Italy) informed the downbeat, introspective music on this record. 

However The Sade's brand of death rocking, goth/post-punk has shifted more towards dark wave which for me loses my attention as this style has been done to death, moody shuffling riffs, dramatic baritone vocals and synthy orchestrations all played slow and deliberately maudlin. It's OK for one listen perhaps but repeated exposure and you'll want some variation on the theme. Maybe I'm not goth enough for this but I found Nocturna to just be a too brooding for my taste. 5/10

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Reviews: Ugly Kid Joe, Stryper, Near Dusk, Brown Acid (Reviews By Rich Piva)

Ugly Kid Joe - Rad Wings Of Destiny (Metalville Records)

I really wanted to hate this album. When the first Ugly Kid Joe EP came out the big hit Everything About You was all over the place and full disclosure, young me loved it. That whole first EP was super fun, and they did a service to the youth by exposing them to Sabbath with their cover of Sweet Leaf. They went on to have a couple more hits and even had the Metal God himself make an appearance on their debut full length. But their act got old, quickly. 

I have little appetite for a “joke” band which they came off as to me after a while and they seemed to fade into the hair band sunset (fair categorisation or not, but those were the times). Whitfield kept the band going, releasing several albums of at times questionable quality. So, when I saw their new album, Rad Wings Of Destiny, in the review folder I figured I would get nostalgic and crap all over their latest offering. Well, I really can’t. It is actually a fun listen, with a few excellent songs and some serious clunkers, but overall, an enjoyable listen.

The sense of humor of the band is buried a bit on Rad Wings Of Destiny, case in point the excellent opener, That Ain’t Livin’ which is AC/DC worship and immediately also made me thing of the underrated Junkyard. Listen to that track without knowing who the band is and tell me its not a great song. The album is a disjointed, case in point the poppy, Beatlesque (?!) Not Like The Other which is not a bad song, it is just a confusing transition from track one. Everything’s Changing and Kill The Pain are slower, introspective, and serious tracks, done well but strange when looking at the entire album. 

A cover of Lola is next, and I know these guys had a huge hit with a cover, but this is an unnecessary one and should have been either left out or added at the end, because again this thing is all over the place. Dead Friends Play is back to the AC/DC side of the things with Whit singing about the bands he loves but with some very confusing lyrics about his Dead Friends that are actually still alive (listen and tell me if you get it because I don’t, but it is a cool song). 

Up In The City is an interesting, groovy little ditty that at first I was confused by but is actually catchy fun. I could do without the country twinged Drinkin’ & Drivin’ (some of their humour showing that I have little patience for). Failure vibes on the Bon and the boy’s side of things and is a fun rocker while Long Road is one of the only tracks that makes sense in its sequencing as a catchy pop introspective track that would have been a hit if on America’s Least Wanted.

Rad Wings Of Destiny is a fun, yet very disjointed album, but not one that should be ignored if you have ever enjoyed the band’s more straight-ahead rock output. You have a couple great tracks, a couple terrible tracks, and a very unnecessary cover, but Ugly Kid Joe have one of their best records in a long time which is a welcomed surprise. Take out the couple of stinkers, re-sequence, and explain the lyrics to Dead Friends Play and this may have been rated a point or two higher. 6/10

Stryper - The Final Battle (Frontiers Music Srl)

If you are of a certain age and enjoyed “metal” you probably had Stryper’s huge album To Hell With The Devil on vinyl or cassette. Tracks like Calling On You, Free, and Honestly were huge, and even if you didn’t even believe in Jebus I would bet you were still down with the Yellow and Black Attack. Stryper has been pushing their pious POV for decades now (except for that album when they weren’t) but somehow they have gotten heavier as the years have gone by. Like the Ugly Kid Joe record I just reviewed, I was ready to hate this, but I did not at all. This is some solid metal, albeit I would pass on the subject matter, but that has always been the case with these guys.

The band sounds great, and the production is strong, but leaning towards a bit too polished. Songs like the opener Transgressor and See No Evil, Hear No Evil are rockers with a message. The guitar work is great on The Final Battle with Oz Fox ripping it up which is awesome to hear after his heath scares. Michael Sweet’s voice is suspiciously strong yet occasionally annoying when he goes a bit too high, but it is a pretty amazing performance given how long he has been doing it. Same Old Story is my favourite track and is super catchy if not a bit preachy, but hey it’s Stryper. Rise To The Call is another fun rocker but after this we start to drag a bit. I could do without a few of the weaker, sappy tracks like Near and Till Death Do Us Part, and the record is about four songs too long and seems to go on like you are 12 years old in church during summer break.

Fourteen albums in, Stryper rocks harder than ever before and still is out their preaching the word. I respect their resiliency and their shift to more aggressive rock. This is a solid offering if you are a fan but it’s not going to win any new converts to their sound or to their saviour. Good album for what it is. 5/10

Near Dusk - Through The Cosmic Fog (Iron Head Records)

One of my favourite random finds on Bandcamp has been the Denver, Colorado band Near Dusk’s debut, self-titled album. The small circle of stoner rock aficionados in the Money Pit have been fawning over the riffing of these guys for more than a year, so when the announcement of a new record, now with Tony Reed involved to mix and master, you can imagine the excitement in our little clubhouse on Twitter. The new album, Through The Cosmic Fog is exactly what I wanted from their sophomore record. Stoner goodness and so many riffs but also both catchy as hell and aggressive in the best kind of way.

Right off the bat you get a track that will be on my song of the year playlist, The Way It Goes. Riffs for days and an edge to the band that takes this song to the next level. Bluesy stoner goodness all around. Mr. Reed knows how these bands should sound, and he is right on point with Near Dusk. The trio is on fire with ripper tracks like Spliff Em’ All that starts with some doomy riffing from front man Matthew Orloff that leads into stoner rock perfection. You can hear the Tony Reed influence all over Through The Cosmic Fog but none more than this track. The Damned is another three-minute stoner burner with even more riffs and killer breakdowns. ]

Did I mention the riffs? The titles are all perfect for this album and you know what you are getting. Cosmic Fog? Check. Slab City? Check. The former is a seven-minute slow burner that lives up to its name and gives you a contact buzz just listening to it while the latter brings the heavy riffs that smack you upside the head. Roses Of Durbana is super emotional track that starts with just guitar and Orloff’s voice that reminds me of Thunder Horse and their amazing track Texas from their killer Chosen One record.

Near Dusk’s second album is killer and will be much loved both inside and outside my little group of purveyors of all things stoner rock. There is not a bad track on Through The Cosmic Fog and Tony Reed’s fingerprints are all over the record in the best kind of way. My only complaint is it is nearly impossible to get any information from their record label for these guys and their label mates, Mezzoa. All I want everyone to be able to hear what some of the best bands of the genre are putting out there today, because this is awesome. 9/10

Various Artists - Brown Acid: The Fifteenth Trip (RidingEasy Records)

I am going to start this review like I did the last edition to this collection; I love the Brown Acid series that has been curated by the great RidingEasy Records. If you are not familiar with the set the basic concept is that Lance Barresi, owner of L.A.-based Permanent Records, searches the far corners of the US in dusty record store bins, garages, attics, and confirms musical urban myths to bring us lost and the most underground of underground songs from long forgotten bands that in some cases may have only release one song on a promo single. These songs come together to populate the now fifteen volumes of some of the best 60s and 70s proto metal and psych rock that you have never heard before. Never ever do these comps disappoint. This one is no different with another ten lost treasures for your listening enjoyment.

The Looking Glass start us off with their 1969 mind melting track Take The Time. If you like to garage rock stylings of bands like Blue Cheer but more frantic and even more unhinged, this one is for you. Some more goodness from 1969 with a proto punk energetic ripper 444 from The Zoo. I love the guitar work on this one. Black Hawk brings more proto goodness while Truth And Janey bring us a very garage heavy interesting cover of the Stones classic Under My Thumb with a fun guitar solo that is missing from the original. I love the description on the RidingEasy Website that It was like the song was written for The Who and not The Stones. 

Negative Space is raw, riff heavy and very DIY with their killer track Forbidden Fruit leaving you wondering what other goodness these guys could have created. Scrap Iron offer one of their only tracks in existence, Roxanne, a buzzy little number that reminds me of the Mothers Of Invention. The most known band on this comp, White Lightning, offer another track with Under Screaming Double Eagle, which is a killer title for an equally killer track. Overall the ten tracks on this comp are all worthy of your time and are guaranteed enjoyment if you like this kind of stuff.

Another amazing set of lost gems from RidingEasy Records. Get this one and the other fourteen volumes ASAP. RidingEasy is doing the Lord’s (hail Satan?) work bringing these songs to light. Required listening. 8/10

Reviews: Therion, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, We Came As Romans, Mothman & The Thunderbirds vs World Eaters (Simon Black, Ben Baljak, Zak Skane & Rich Piva)

Therion - Leviathan II (Nuclear Blast) [Simon Black]

Given that across the various sites I contribute to, I am often the first one (and indeed often the only one) to dive into the piles of symphonic, power and melodic metal offerings that we get, let alone with any gusto, you would think I would be all over Therion by now. The reality is I only came across them via a recent review of some reissues of theirs (for which I am still kicking myself for missing that there were six albums in the re-issue pack but I had only downloaded the first, due to the sheer volume of stuff in my review queue at the time). 

That album was 1996’s Theli – their fifth, but in many ways it was also their first, given that it’s experimental nature effectively kick started the whole symphonic metal sub-genre (despite being itself massively inspired by Celtic’s Frost Into The Pandemonium). Not bad for a band that started off as a death metal act worshipping at the feet of Tom G. Warrior… That run of six classically influenced albums is widely regarded as not only ground-breaking (without it you would not have Nightwish, or anyone else like them for that matter) but the peak of their creativity - which has been a bit turbulent ever since, so it is with some caution that I approached this release.

Plus, it’s a concept, and then some…

If that’s not daunting enough, diving into the middle of a three-album trilogy always requires some element of caution for the humble reviewer (as indeed does anything conceptual come to think of it). The harsh reality of the attention-deficit streaming world of today makes it a brave decision to opt for - for any band. A one album concept is bold enough for most, but a trilogy might be seen as reckless were it not for the fact that Therion are no strangers to long form releases, concepts and arcs (2018’s divisive Beloved Antichrist was a triple disk), so this feels like it may be more to do with the label slowing the rate of release for commercial reasons as much as the backlash to its predecessor, which somewhat divided people’s opinions.

I’m personally cautious with concepts and arcs for the simple reason that they take a lot of unpicking to even begin to fully appreciate. The first one I fell in love with was probably Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime, but the concept didn’t grab me until it had become a well-worn piece of vinyl, as in my university days records were a rare treat and you wanted to get value for money. A reviewer does not have that option, as I’m usually cranking between fifteen to twenty releases a month, so to give anything the airtime that even begins to reflect the effort that went into it is highly unlikely.

Yet here I am…

Having dipped in and out of Therion’s back catalogue a bit in recent weeks, the first thing that strikes me about this album is its accessibility. It’s a clear successor to the fabulous Theli in terms of sound and consistency of quality throughout, but also because its not a hard listen. One thing that differentiates from symphonic metal as it evolved is that the genre has always been metal first, with orchestral and / or classical touches second, whereas once again this one feel like it has been constructed as a piece of classical music structurally, with metal sounds a part of the instrumental mix – something that alienates many traditional metal fans. This is evident so strongly in the use of chorals as the absolute backbone of the vocal work, with support from a number of solo vocal spots. Thomas Vikström is still delivering the tenor vocals, supported by Lori Lewis in soprano, but they also have guest contributions from Eclipse singer Erik Mårtensson on Pazazu.

The danger with rolling multi-album epics is always that listenability and song-writing become a slave to the straight-jacket of the concept, but that’s not happening here. Like Mindcrime, the concept is something to come to grow and love over time, and the album works brilliantly without that from the get-go. This has an enormously rich and epic feel overall as an album, still feeling like a well-thought through whole, whilst allowing the individual songs to stand well on their own feet. I will be honest, without a lyric sheet I am not even going to begin to start unpicking the story, but what I am hearing after four or five full spins is a deeply well-crafted and catchy piece of music that is as strong and impactful as Theli was on first listen. There may have been a few rocky bumps in the road in-between since 1996, but this is a band that are at the top of their game and who have successfully recaptured the essence of their roots.

Bold, brave and impeccably delivered. 9/10

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - Orlando: Le Forme Dell’Amore (InsideOut Music) [Ben Baljak]

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso get ambitious with their 50th anniversary release Orlando: Le Forme Dell’Amore. A concept album that has been worked on for years, narrating and inspired by the XIV century poem; Orlando Furioso by Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto. I have listened to this prog rock opera many times now and reviewing it almost feels as ambitious as the concept itself. It’s bizarre! seamlessly dipping in and out of folk, theatre, rock, jazz and many other genres. 

Proemio literally meaning introduction eases us in rather gently considering the second track. La Pianura Rossa sounds like it was conceived by Franko Zappercino during an ayahuasca experience. this is then contrasted by the more romantic slow danced rhythms of Serve Orlando Adesso, that kind of traditional meets electric guitar sound Robert Rodriguez makes when he thinks of Salma Hayek. The slow dance then becomes a tango with Non Mi Spaventa Piu’ L’amore - I Am No Longer Afraid Of Love; beautiful guitar phrases and some interrupting accordion and yet somehow the song manages to culminate into an unholy crossbreed of Devin Townsend meets King Crimson, Magnifico!. 

Non Serve Tremare - No Need To Tremble. Industrial synths are the walls on either side of a catchy yet calm guitar motif. The melody has a familiarity to a 90s movie but is distant enough that trying to place it almost drove me to madness. Le Anime Deserte Del Mondo leads with a piano piece that is just a little too pleasant for my ears , I’ve never quite managed to get to grips with overly happy sounding music. Regardless of that, each song is a testament to their diversity.

Considering the name Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Orlando Le Forme dell Amore is almost enough words to fill a standard review by itself and the album contains a massive fifteen tracks. I’ve decided to review only my favourite songs for the duration of the album…. Was something that I wrote before changing my mind and deciding to quickly comment on the next nine songs. Track 7 L’isola Felice sounds like somebody gave Thomas Newman a speedball and let him lose in Hawaii . It also contains auto tuned vocals for an effect, rather than necessity. This is the correct way to use auto tune.

La Maldicenza gives us our first fully instrumental number and it’s delightfully bonkers. This is that IQ 3000 nonsense that pretentious prog fans worldwide pretend they enjoy. Myself included. Cadere O Volare - Synth solo! Take me to Miami Beach! II Paladino equals more fantastic instrumental prog nonsense and even some chugging and chromatic shred runs rarely found outside the realms of metal. L'Amore Accade is what I imagine Disney songs sound like in Italy. This one is not for me.

Non Credere Alla Luna - Don’t Believe In The Moon, Don’t worry, they’re not Flat Earthers as far as I am aware and the moon in question is a metaphorical one. Sax solo over minor chord progression = the Sex. Moon Suite fills the spot for compulsory song over ten minutes on a prog album and the penultimate song Com’e Successo Che Sei Qui brings the album back down to earth with a much more simplistic piece ready for Cosa Vuol Dire Per Sempre - What Does Forever Mean to close the album, another slower number with some tasteful blues guitar leads.

I’d go as far as saying Orlando: Le Forme Dell’ Amore is a work of art. From the complexities of the concept alone to how the talented musicians pull it off is all very impressive. Some of it wasn’t to my personal tastes, however, it’s impossible to ignore the skill and song writing abilities of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso. If you don’t speak Italian, they were even nice enough to include English translations of the lyrics along with the original Italian in the artwork for basically monolingual ignorant Americans or Brits such as myself.

Molto impressionate! 9/10

We Came As Romans – Darkbloom (Sharptone Records) [Zak Skane]

We Came as Romans have been in the metalcore game since they started making waves with their cult classic album To Plant a Seed in 2009. Since then the six piece Christian metalcore act have been featured on countless tours and festivals and released four more albums; Understand What We’ve Grown Up To Be in 2011, their magnum opus Tracing Back Roots in 2013, Self Titled in 2015 and Cold Like War in 2017 before the passing of their co-vocalist Kyle Pavone in 2018. Following their vocalist Dave Stevens confirming that the band going to continue and release their current album Darkbloom.

Opening with some cool jarring vocal samples Darkbloom features the continuation of the bands classic trademark polished metalcore sound, which brings in a mixture of Parkway Drive and Linkin Park. The guitars sound polished, with the perfect sounding drums. Even though sonically the band are back to true form, Dave Stevens sings a chantey chorus “I won’t pretend that I wont see the end” displaying the vulnerability of the band. The following track Plagued consists of nu-metal edged low tuned riffage, which leads into ambient sounds and swift drum groove-based verses, soaring melodic vocals in the choruses and bouncy post choruses. 

The leading single Blackhole, which features Beartooth’s vocalist Caled Shomo still continues the Nu -Metal influences with the vocal coder sampled intro, the rapped pre-choruses and the bouncy butt rock choruses which is nothing new on paper, but what really shows this songs strengths is the vocal collaboration between Caleb and Dave bouncing lyric ideas off each other. Also with both of coming from troubling pasts it really gives the song extra weight and passion. Daggers being the heaviest song on the album with it’s repeating siren effect during the heavy riffs, giving it a modern sounding Slipknot edge especially when accompanied with full on harsh vocal delivery from verse to chorus coming from Dave. Another highlight on this song is the guest rap section, the fast delivery and aggression stemming form it really gives the songs that extra sharp edge. 

The melodic pop sounding song One More Day really adds more emotion to this bands triumphant returning release. Introducing piano chords and ambient guitar leads it really gives the band a more cinematic sound giving the lyrics more depth when singing about savouring the moment. The outro of this song has a really nostalgic feeling to it like…it came from a 2008 advert, which you can either take it as a good or bad thing. The other melodic songs on this album is Holding The Embers which mixes the hot and the cold by mixing the ambient pop sounding verses which contain some awesome drum grooves to heavy hitting choruses and their moving closing track Promise You which features lyrics of the emotional journey of the passing of their former vocalist.

Overall this was an enjoyable listen. The band have made a triumphant return with songs like Plagued, Daggers and Double Speak still showing us that the band can still deliver the angst whilst still emotionally moving us with songs like the rager Blackhole, and the melodic songs like One More Day and their closer Promise. As much I liked the album, so many bands have copied their delivery of the polished metalcore sound. So I would of liked them to explore more of a rough sounding production to add a more edge to their emotional journey. 8/10 

Mothman and The Thunderbirds vs World Eaters Mothman and The Thunderbirds vs World Eaters Split (Self Released) [Rich Piva] 

Split single time! I’m a big fan of Mothman and The Thunderbirds based on their scrappy DIY debut record that was on constant rotation for me in 2021. New material from the one-man brainchild behind the band is excellent news and the two tracks on their half of the split with World Eaters are both killer. Rusty Shackleford is a frantic ripper that goes in like ten different directions at once and all roads lead to excellent somehow. 

This is the best sounding Mothman song for sure. Catchy, heavy, weird, and wonderful. Some thrash, some industrial, some great guitar work, and just super cool and unique. Nephilim is even more frantic, sounding like a black metal ripper to start, but somehow not back metal at all. Reminds me if the Blood Brothers had a singer a few octaves down. Also, I love both tracks, possibly the two best songs in the Mothman catalog. I totally dig their direction here. Great stuff. I was not as familiar with World Eaters going in, but their two tracks are also really good. The production on the World Eaters songs is way more DIY, and the vocals are more of the death growl as you would expect from a more straight-ahead death metal offering that you get with Flash Of Green and The Siege

You are not breaking any new ground with either track, but they are both solid death rippers. The Siege stands out for me a doom death burner that leaves you wanting more. Overall, this is a fun split, with the Mothman And The Thunderbirds tracks standing out ahead of the World Eater tracks, mostly because of how fun and unique they are. I look forward to more material soon from both. 8/10

Tuesday 25 October 2022

A View From The Back Of The Room: Samantha Fish & Wille And The Bandits (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Samantha Fish & Wille And The Bandits, Tramshed Cardiff, 24.10.22

A wet and windy Monday evening meant that myself and camera carrying colleague Mike hid out in the bar pre-show (the quirks of living around the corner from the venue) however at 7pm we corralled by the security to make our way into The Tramshed for an evening or rootsy, bluesy rocking courtesy of two fine acts.

Having seen them previously in Clwb Ifor Bach, Cornish (and one Devonian) roots rockers Wille & The Bandits (7) got things off to a louche, riffy start, frontman Wille delivering some sweet lap steel, guitars and those gritty, soulful vocals as his band of Bandits brought a sound with southern, blues and Americana influenced rocking drenched in keyboards but unfortunately overridden a lot of the times by the loudness of the drums. While this wasn't as noticeable during their rockier material, when they played the quieter lighter stuff from their most recent album, the drums were a little distracting. Still they quickly won over a damp crowd with their infectious energy/camaraderie, even getting them to clamp/stomp/sing along. An opener that quickly set fire to the room warming everyone up nicely in 45 minutes of blue collar rocking.

The changeover began and the stage was set for tonights headliner a woman who has managed to shift the blues into the 21st Century, collaborating with Tech9ne on a song and using electronics on her most recent albums, although from her and her bands retro aesthetic you would think otherwise. It was time for kick off and Samantha Fish (8) hit the stage toting a cigarbox guitar and a slide to get the night off to a strong start with big hitter Bulletproof (Tangle Eye Mix) from previous record Kill Or Be Kind, the twangy cigar box reverberating around The Tramshed as Fish's vocals give a whiskey soaked, angelic hue. This was only one of two from that record with 3 coming from Faster her most recent release.

The country shuffle of Better Be Lonely, the attitude-filled Twisted Ambition and the classic sounding blues of Hypnotic bringing a bit of St Vincent (Masseduction-era) as the traditional blues was given a modern makeover. Still the blues loomed large on Highways Holding Me Now, the swaggering No Angels and Bitch On The Run which are all steeped in Fish's take no shit attitude. She's a great singer and guitarist, with a well drilled band behind her, it was only between the songs where there seemed to be nerves as the wet Monday crowd were a little muted, however as the night progressed things did heat up and by the time of the encore of Neil Young's Don't Let It Bring You Down was played there was a euphoric reaction. Redefining the blues with every show and every album

Reviews: O.R.k, Brant Bjork, Gospelheim, The New Roses (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

O.R.k - Screamnasium (Kscope) 

Always worth their weight in gold for musicianship alone O.R.k's albums have have always been great workouts but never really carried over their songwriting prowess. That is until this third album Screamnasium, essentially what would happen is Soundgarden started to employ jazz bass and drums, Screamnasium has a massive vocal performance from Lef, where he comes close to being the much missed Chris Cornell on tracks such as the raw Unspoken Words

Screamnasium feels as if it's the culmination of a working relationship, one that hinges on the virtuoso rhythmn section of Pat Mastelotto’s expressive, inventive drum patterns and the undeniable bass prowess of Colin Edwin, anyone who has seen O.R.k or indeed King Crimson/Porcupine Tree will attest to the brilliance of these two men but here songs such as Consequence where Lef duets with Grammy winner Elisa who has worked with Ennio. Morricone and Quentin Tarantino (hope she was wearing sturdy shoes). 

The duet makes for such a cathartic moment the voices and the drums the biggest contributions but it sits as wondrous example of the 'new' O.R.k. With such a well respected, revered rhythm section, the guitarist can always be overlooked but Carmelo Pipitone's contribution is fantastic, riffing heavy on the rockers while also providing the layers acoustics that appear on numerous tracks such as Something Broke, where he also brings riffs, the guitars excellent on Lonely Crowd.

They've said about this album being purifying for them as a band as things close with Someone Waits which has Jo Quail bringing her spine tingling cello to close. Edwin calls this the album they've always wanted to make since their debut and if they were trying to create a stunning fusion of prog and grunge that blends technical expertise with hooks aplenty. 9/10

Brant Bjork - Bougainvillea Suite (Heavy Psych Sound)

Despite making his bones in the 90's desert rock scene with legends Kyuss, Brant Bjork's latest record is a proud homage to 60's rock n soul of the Woodstock generation. The PR mentioned Sky & The Family Stone, which can be heard on So They Say, but there's also some Booker T & The MGs, Cream, Iron Butterfly (Broke That Spell), Parliament and others, basically anything featuring Steve Cropper. 

This is apparently a bittersweet record for Bjork "saying goodbye to an era" as he puts it. The perennially laid back multi-instrumentalist, does so in a fine style, echoing the last time before the desert rock revolution his Southern Californian music scene was at the world stage, during the psychedelic 60's. I suppose you an also see it as the antithesis to his last project Stöner, which was much more like his history, featuring Ryan Güt and Nick Oliveri both of whom appear here, Güt on percussion and keys, Oliveri playing lead guitar on the choppy Bread For Butter. With the funky Ya Dig, the hip shaking Good Bones, the organ-led Trip On The Wine and Let's Forget which is built on tabla and a Velvet Underground-esque keyboard. 

Bougainvillea Suite is much more reserved and laid back, the kind of album you throw on when you're enjoying glass of wine from the burgeoning SoCal vineyards, spark up one of your favourite strains and just ease into it man. 8/10 

Gospelheim - Ritual & Repetition (Prophecy Productions)

Have you decided upon your Samhain/Halloween soundtrack yet? May I suggest Manchester gothic rockers Gospelheim? I shit you not this debut album is one of the most accomplished gothic metal records I've heard in years, I laughed when the spool accompanying it mentioned it could be referenced in the same sentence as the Beastmilk debut, but after one soon I knew this album was special. 

Scintillating, undulating synths are the foundation that most of these songs are built on, especially Hope Springs Infernal, the band building their melancholic, satanic, gothic metal on too of this the guitars and bass of Ricardo and Cook mixing as flawlessly as their vocals, Ricardo with a sneering low to Cocos more otherworldly melodies, their music is expansive and can adapt to many guises, just like the Lord Of Hell himself, meaning that Satan Blues goes a little country though with some black metal added for flavour. Praise Be comes from the brooding doomsphere the themes of the occult, existentialism and a generally goth aesthetic, the post-metal/blackgaze shimmer of Valles Marineris is cut from the same cloth as Pelican, Cult Of Luna or Alcest. 

It's the sort of album that make you want to shuffle listlessly in a corner as a cigarette burns away one minute and then throw wild eyed, Siouxsie Sioux-like shapes, scaring the normals, the next. Now rounded out by second guitarist Jordan and drummer Rob, the broad sound of this record can now hopefully be captured on stage, tracks such as Into Smithereens and it's industrial tinge, the chiming guitars of Pink Floyd meets Depeche Mode on Voyeuristic Schism while it's The Hall Of The Unconsumed that gives this record it's most cinematic moment as the extreme metal style is the most obvious. 

If Manchester clubs such as Pips or Cloud 9 were around today they'd be playing Gospelheim's debut in full, on repeat, this is the state of gothic metal in 2022 and it's wonderful. 9/10

The New Roses - Sweet Poison (Napalm Records)

As The New Roses continue their ascent in the rock scene their appeal to me diminished, I'll admit One More For The Road was a great record but since then they have become a bit more middle of the road, much like their fourth album Nothing But Wild, this fifth record is not groundbreaking but a decent rock record that still retains remnants of their AC/DC-like blues base but moves squarely towards arena recognition. 

Having toured with Scorpions, Saxon, Accept and Tremonti, track such as Dead Of Night are crafted to be sung back by large crowds which for a band who have been around for 20+ years is the sort of trajectory you want. These Germans have taken the Aerosmith approach by becoming more mainstream in their sound, with ballads such as the acoustic True Love and All I Ever Wanted, then 1st Time For Everything and The Usual Suspects are so smooth they would probably be waterproof. 

Therein lies the problem, there are multitudes of bands doing the more melodic rock thing, most of them on Frontiers Music, but The New Roses had some grit and groove to then now they just seem to have become part of the pack a little. Timmy Rough has a decent singer and if they had stuck to it they could have taken the place of The Temperance Movement as rootsy, rock n rollers but now there's plenty of sweet but very little poison. 5/10

Reviews: Chez Kane, Sede Vacante, Godeater, White Skull (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rick Eaglestone, Matt Cook & David G)

Chez Kane - Powerzone (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

The Ultimate Power club nights have been one of the best received touring club nights in the UK for years now. There's just something about drinking heavily and belting out massive 80's ballads that really gets people going. The ones that appeal most are usually from such leather and lace glad divas such as Bonnie Tyler, Cher, Heart, Pat Benatar, Stevie Nicks, Alannah Myles etc. It's these icons that Welsh rocker Chez Kane looks to on her second full length record. 

Following on from her 2021 debut, the former Kane'd has retained the creative muscle of Crazy Lixx's Danny Rexon, for 10 more, sing along, rocking anthems that will have you searching for the mirrored aviators, lace gloves and tight stonewashed denim. I Just Want You is the perfect first song, a massive chorus that evokes Benatar or Bonnie, a muscly guitar riff, huge synths and chorus with more hooks than a changing room. It firmly plants us back in the familiar territory of the debut but with more focus on capturing that particular style that is so important to club nights like Ultimate Power. 

Chez's vocals are brilliant, clean enough for the emotion but gritty enough to bring some guts when things get rockier. It's vocal that feels as if it's been honed on the sun drenched avenues of the Sunset Strip not the shores of Swansea. Powerzone just feels bigger than the debut, more ambitious and accomplished, Kane's vocals soaring above the instrumentation of Rexon as tracks such as (The Things We Do) When We're Young In Love makes me think of the nostalgia often employed by Bon Jovi, Rock You Up brings Def Leppard layered backing vocals (and drum beats), the rambunctious Love Gone Wild gets some sax from Jesse Molloy. 

As these rockers all lead to what for me is the most 80's sounding track I've heard in long time; Children Of Tomorrow Gone has every genre troupe you could think of but you know what this is going to kill on stage and Kane sings the hell out of it! You may think that from here it all goes down hill but no Powerzone just keeps giving! With the rocky title track bringing Heart-vibes, the anthemic rock sound continues on I'm Ready (For Your Love), Nationwide (a natural opener/closer) as Streets Of Gold owes as much to Scorpions as it does to the blue collar storytelling of Bon Jovi. 

Powerzone closes with Guilty Of Love, which isn't a Whitesnake cover, (though is love to hear Chez sing it), it's a synthy AOR song that rounds out this superior melodic rock record. Enjoy watching Kane play these smaller venues on her current tour as my guess is she won't be playing them for long. 9/10

Sede Vacante – Conium (Scarlet Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

It seems like a lifetime ago that Symphonic Gothic Metal was very much my main musical go to, now as I have gotten older my palette may have become a little more extreme but that doesn’t mean that I’m not partial to a cleanser and for this occasion it comes in the form of Finland and Greece’s Sede Vacante with latest release Conium

Short introductory Furia transitions into dark melancholy riff laden Mistake followed by Dead New World which contains some wonderful harmonic vocals embedded into some sweeping orchestral parts.Title track Conium combines dual vocals with layer upon layer of varying soundscapes that really elevates it my highlight track, the solo in it is also fantastic as well is the catchy as hell chorus. Continuing the trend is Raindrops which pairs with the previous track perfectly.

Apprehensive moment time as the band decide to throw in a cover the little known Paint It Black, I jest of course it is a huge track to take but credit where credit is due is done really well, It’s slower which lets the emotion and anticipation build. I have come back to this a few times and it honestly gets better with each listen. The counteraction to the cover is Melancholy Black which gallops through into Walk On A Lie which contains to great accompanying electronic elements alongside some nice basslines. Focusing on the heavier rock side is The Bride where the fast-paced nature mixed with piano parts creates another dynamic that works incredibly well.

Penultimate offering Wheel Of Misfortune has a great string arrangement which carries nicely to final track “Tattoo” which has a wonderful ballad like quality that starts to slowly build into a cascade of emotion with its simplicity. Sweeping Symphonic Gothic Metal Goodness. 6/10

Godeater - Vespera (Baroness Music) [Matt Cook]

Boston, much like any other major city in the world, has wretched traffic problems. A 40-minute commute to work (despite living less than 10 miles away) is the norm rather than the exception. But Godeater saw an opportunity to capitalise on that with the release of their bruising eight-song full-length, Vespera. The Scottish-based tech-deathers tick all the vocal technique boxes, and most of the songs start off like a Howitzer bursting to life.

Vespera is that soundtrack you need to quell the frustration of sitting bumper-to-bumper. It features anthems that conjure both speeding in the passing lane on the highway and sputtering in stop-and-go traffic. Josh Graham, the mastermind behind the microphone, throws his weight into his bellows. Devastating shouts found on The Hatchet coupled with splintered screams on opener Self-Surgery leave no questions unanswered in regards to Godeater’s plan.

The aforementioned Self-Surgery houses rugged guitar lines that make for a stable-yet-debilitating experience. Oftentimes, tracks seamlessly transition from one to the next, again reinforcing the appropriateness of using this album as a traffic companion (though I wouldn’t advise trying to get into the HOV lane). Graham is a wizard on God Complex. The song contains thoughtful technical death metal alongside deathcore, and the vocalist organically slithers from effective clean power vocals.

Vespera is only three years removed from Godeater’s debut All Flesh Is Grass, yet Vespera at times feels like a group that has their technique and delivery down pat. The five-piece set out to lay waste to everything in their path, and since we can’t actually drive our vehicles through a swamp of idle cars going nowhere fast on the Mass Pike, a 40-minute crash course in crafting a tech-death minefield will suffice. 7/10

White Skull - Metal Never Rusts (Rock Of Angels Records) [David G]

Italy's White Skull have been playing their power-infused metal for over 30 years, from a personal perspective they have always existed somewhere on the periphery of my vision. I recall seeing their 1999 Tales Of The North in a Plastic Head Distribution mail order catalogue and its cheesy cover triggering my adolescent "That looks cool!" response, before passing them over to buy a CD by some legendary act like Amsvartner. It's remarkable that over the decades, despite many close encounters, this is my first actual experience of the music of White Skull, and on the balance of this release that is somewhat regretful.

Hammer On Thin Ice opens posing as a rather fun interpretation of earlier Helloween, complete with chanted "Whoah"s, it's a nice up-tempo piece of power metal that is not overly sickly in approach and plants a rather enjoyable vocal hook. This is followed by Metal Never Rusts that in moments could convince it actually is Helloween, for example in the pre-chorus where Frederica De Boni verges on the Kai Hansen territory in vocal approach and the powerchords hold that same sense of excitable climax building. There is however a little rawness around the edges, mostly in the dated power of metal'n'stuff lyrics that obviously don't seem incongruous within the music, but I guess describing them as well worn would be ... well... worn.

It feels a bit cheap to knock some of the rather daft moments the album presents, because I guess that's just traditional power metal isn't it? Chants on Black Ship sound like "Bat Shit". Heavily Mental's painfully acted inner monologue (I assume) is easy to eye roll. Jingle Hell is all eye roll; yes it is a Christmas themed song, and no, trying to do a subversive Christmas themed song isn't an excuse. I'm sure there's other moments if I'm being uncharitable.

I don't want to be uncharitable though, because there's fun to be had. Ad Maiora Semper is an enjoyable romp that charges along at a jolly old pace and has a fluid and fun little guitar solo buried close to the back end. Weathering The Storm closes the album with a ballady affair that yes, could potentially cause diabetes, but also invites a lighter in the air and the curtains catching fire. Scary Quiet is another banger that is accentuated nicely by dramatic keyboard stabs, and despite initially thinking Frederica's voice was straining to uncomfortable places it turned out it was actually a little guest appearance from Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl.

I'm past the point of doing this ironically now. Guilty pleasures are really just pleasures. We can acknowledge the cringeiness of something, but just like it for what it is, and where it does cross the line say "yeah, too much...". Metal Never Rusts spans the spectrum, but it hits the right spots more often than it goes too far. 7/10

Monday 24 October 2022

Reviews: Jaded Heart, Grand, Elephant Takedown, Deer Lord (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Jaded Heart - Heart Attack (Massacre Records) [Matt Bladen]

Heart Attack is Jaded Heart's 15th album, released just two years after their previous record and it looks like they still producing melodic metal for the masses even after all these years. Heart Attack doesn't vary from the template too much, you get sophisticated guitars, great vocals from Johan Fahlberg and anthemic songs. Starting off at the heavier end, though most of this album is at the heavier end as with Blood Red SkiesSweet Sensation and Heart Attack all get the blood pumping while they slow down with the chunky Harvester Unknown which goes down the metal route as does Midnight Stalker

I'll admit I hadn't heard Jaded Heart for a while but I forgot they were this heavy if I'm honest, Heart Attack giving off classic metal at every turn. Even the pseudo ballad Remnants Of Before is moody and introspective but carries weight to it. The guitar duo of Peter Östros and Masa Eto bring a lot of Teutonic riffage as Michael Müller brings meaty bass to Right Now drummer Bodo Stricker hitting his hardest on Bridges Are Burning. I was pleasantly surprised by this record. I expected a lighter side of rock for some reason but I got some muscular melodic metal that verges on trad metal throughout. 7/10

Grand - Grand (Frontiers Music Srl)

Grand, the debut album by Grand, opens with a song called Caroline, unfortunately it's not a Status Quo cover, instead it's a shining AOR, with slinky rhythms and shiny melodies. Formed by Swedish singer Mattis Olofsson, who has been singing for 20 years, it's the realisation of his dream to front an AOR project, gaining guitarist/producer/bassist/keyboardist Jakob Svensson (Wigelius) and drummer Anton Martinez Matz in his quest, the trio forming Grand in 2020. 

Now any band that say they are inspired by Starship, immediately puts me on edge as the 80's iteration of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship band, are the culprits behind one of the worst songs ever written We Build This City. But luckily there's no such abomination here, just the lightest form of AOR, the kind brought by Giant, Dare, and Heartland , that edges closer to pop and was huge on FM radio in the 1980's. Case in point Make It Grand sounds like Roxette with it's "nah nah" vocal refrain, while Once In A Blue Moon has a similar style to Mike & The Mechanics. 

Grand is a decent debut album for AOR fans, Olofsson is a good singer but nothing on the record really grabs me long enough to really be more than just a passing interest. 6/10    

Elephant Takedown - Duck & Cover (Headline Records)

I'm not sure why there are Elephants roaming the Cambridge countryside or why they need to be taken down but hey I guess it's a unique band name. 'Punk metal' band Elephant Takedown release their debut album called Duck & Cover and it's packed with riffs and riot, barrelling through everything in about 31 minutes. Musically this foursome sound a lot like Therapy? on Fresh Blood, The Misfits on lead single Don't Spoil My Fun and Unto Others, especially on opener Pull The Pin. So really it's much more in the alt-rock realms than anything else, of course that's a genre that takes numerous forms so having a broad range of sounds is natural. 

The first four tracks here are all speedy before things get a bit slower with Deceiver and it's from here that the wider influences become more pronounced with Ben Wilson and Phil Bartlett giving us some biting guitars, Bartlett taking the leads and Wilson on rhythm. Wilson also is the vocalist snarling and shouting out their lyrics based around human condition, cult mentality and conspiracy theories. Bright Blue Eyes, brings some fuzzy bass from Alex White, but then My Heroine comes from the woozy desert rock scene, Simon Philpot and White really boosting the haunting Sleep. This Cambridge band do a lot of things here and are successful at most of them. Vibrant alt rock from this four piece. 7/10

Deer Lord - Witches Brew/Psychedelic Roadkill (Self Released)

Releasing this 2 track EP in time for Halloween, Sonoma County California riffers Deer Lord continue to tap the vein of psychedelic dooming with Witches Brew and Psychedelic Roadkill. The trio of Sheafer McOmber (guitar/vocals), Jared Marill (bass) and Ryan Alderman (drums), make a racket that at all times threatens to blast off into the outer reaches of space. Having been called "extraordinarily loud" it's perfectly evident that Deer Lord love feedback, reverb and all the sounds that were pioneered by bands such as Sleep and Kyuss. Witches Brew is a seven minute slog through haze and fuzz, while Psychedelic Roadkill is shorter but like a chugging Electric Wizard cut. Just two songs in length this ideal spookiness for the season. Play loud! 7/10