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Thursday 10 November 2022

Reviews: Arallu, Spider God, Beyond Dystopia, Ellefson/Soto (Reviews By Rick Eaglestone, Paul Scoble, Ben Baljak & Matt Bladen)

Arallu – Death Covenant (Hammerheart Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

Hailing from the urban Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adummim, Arallu summon up thousands of years of darkness with latest album Death Covenant. Opening track End Ov Wars (Tikva) sets the tone early before the monumental Prophecy Of The Dead infuses occult Black Metal with the ancient Sumerian and Middle Eastern soundscapes. Already this track is a clear favourite.

Destructive pummelling is the sole purpose Ruler Of The Seven Worlds the raspy vocals alongside the spoken dialogue and sweeping sands make for another great track before my absolute highlight of the album Under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount slithers through the speakers with some fantastic lyrics. Satanic Spirit is the summoned before dispersing to make way for Mystical Sultan. The amount of atmospheric fury that spills through Desert Shadow Will Rise is frankly obscene and embedded within this is some wonderful guitar parts, and the as the sombre under tones of Humanity Death Embrace take hold I take a moment to bask in it riches until I am suddenly and sharply thrust back into the albums dark and raw soundscapes.

Two final tracks complete the album, the hypnotic Empire Of Salt & desolate Skeleton Battlefield which I have to say in its entirety Death Covenant is going to stay embedded into my mind sight all the way to my end of year list. Drenched in Middle Eastern mystique 8/10

Spider God - Fly In The Trap (Repose Records) [Paul Scoble]

 The exact origins of Spider God are shrouded in mystery due to the band being very tight lipped about when they started (looking at their releases it would be the end of 2019, beginning of 2020), or who the members of the band are (although Metal Archives has an entity named ‘G’ as the sole member who plays ‘Everything’). So far this is as black metal as black metal can be, however I can feel a certain amount of tongue in cheek with Spider God. The band have released a number of Ep’s and splits, and at the beginning of this year released their first album, called Black Renditions; an album of Cover versions of Pop hits such as Brittany Spears’s Hit Me Baby One More Time. So, clearly not Poe faced, serious Black Metal, Spider God have a sense of humour. Fly In The Trap is the bands first album of original material.

Black Renditions was very well received, if you didn’t know the original songs that Spider God covered it came across as a very good melodic black metal album. The sound on Fly In The Trap is broadly similar to that on Black Renditions, the overall sound is fairly simple and direct, the songs are pretty short (compared to a lot of black metal) and to the point. Black Metal riffs with a slight Hardcore edge to them, played on a very fuzzily distorted guitar sound, impressive battery drumming and nasty harsh vocals, which is all tempered by huge melodies. 

Everything I have seen about Spider God, including material from the band themselves stresses that this is Melodic Black Metal, the main thing that I have taken from this album is about huge hummable tunes, that worm their way into your head to be sung to distraction. I can understand why they did an album of Pop covers, Spider God seem to understand hooks better than an expert crocheter. On some of the songs it is a big melody lead guitar bringing the tunes, and on others it is a huge analogue sounding synth, on some of the tracks these two melody instruments harmonise, and when they do this album really soars. 

The synth sound is fairly old school, it actually reminds me a little of the pioneer sonic work of producer Joe Meek who wrote and produced the 1962 worldwide number one hit Telstar for the band The Tornados. The instrumental features a main melody played on either Clavioline keyboard or a Jennings Univox keyboard (there seems to be some confusion over which it was as both early keyboards worked and sounded similar). I found the keyboard sound and the type of melody used on Fly In The Trap to be very similar to the Telstar keyboard, in fact when I was listening to the album I used ‘Telstar Keys’ in my notes to describe the sound, as it seemed to fit so well.

Lyrically Fly In The Trap is about conspiracy theories and mysteries. In particular the album is about the 2013 case of Elisa Lam a young woman who was found dead in the roof top water tank of her Los Angeles Hotel. The lyrics delve into the myriad of strange theories and suppositions that have surrounded this mysterious tragedy.

Fly In The Trap is a great piece of very melodic black metal. The album is savage in places and is full of great riffs, but it is the huge amount and quality of the brilliant melodies and tunes that makes this album stand out. Once those tunes are in your head the album really works so well, full of savage tunefulness and viscous melodiousness. 8/10

Beyond Dystopia - Beyond Dystopia (Dystopian Dream Records) [Ben Baljak]

Beyond Dystopia are a three piece influenced by death, progressive and modern metal. The band name expresses their feelings about society; that we have already reached a dystopian world and what lies beyond could be a flicker of hope, a silver lining on the horizon… their words . A statement I’m fully on board with. However, I feel that total desolation is probably more likely and that the people responsible for getting us here don’t deserve anything less… or more… 

Unfortunately for these talented three, this is going to have to be an extremely short review, mainly because I just can’t get into modern metal vocals.

It’s clear that guitarist/vocalist Basil is good at what he does, I’d even go as far as saying he has a good voice , I just don’t like it. There are some great catchy poppy vocals throughout this album. But at risk of sounding like one of those boomer metal elitists on a download festival fan page, I don’t like them in my metal god damn it. Same goes for the fry scream; I am still under the outdated belief that a metal scream should sound like its coming from the depths of hell rather than from a distraught teenager going through puberty.

The first few tracks are complete with the modern metal combination of clean sections and polished melodic death metal guitar riffs, all with the overlying vocal melody of Tears For Fears 1985 hit single Shout. Silver Linings intro riff is awesome! A Matt Bellamy-esque groove doubled with a synth, the best parts of Hysteria and for me the best part of the song and possibly the album. Just a great fucking riff! Escape and Together In Chaos both seem to take influence from Metallica's main riff from Sad But True, another tasty groove feel.

Mindgames starts with a beautiful depressive deluge of desolation.. deluge of desolation … is that a paradox ? That defines the dramatisation of their dystopian dream. Deceptively, the direction diverts to a darker dialect more derivative of death before devolving back into the well-disposed delicate vocal melodies of which are more disagreeable to myself … and other D words …

Basil, Pascal and Sam really show off their abilities here. The music is tight, well produced, the guitar solos, vocals and drums are all clear and precise. Regardless of my personal feelings towards a lot of the choices in popular metal; it is popular for a reason, and I feel that Beyond Dystopia could have a healthy future within the scene. Great concept , great playing, I’m sorry it was me and my disposition who reviewed you. You probably deserved more. 7/10
Ellefson/Soto - Vacation In The Underworld (ROAR! Rock Of Angels Records)

Rock and metal music has ways had its share of talented tandems, usually these involve two members of their bands collaborating on music that speaks to fans of both of them, for instance Tony Iommi and Glenn Hughes or David Coverdale and Jimmy Page. Invariably these are either raved about as a one of masterpiece or overlooked as just a cheap pastiche of either persons band. The latest names to be added to this extensive list of duos are former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson and Sons Of Apollo vocalist and solo artist Jeff Scott Soto. 

Vacation In The Underworld is their debut effort release on Rock Of Angels Records and has been written with the musical backgrounds of both men in mind, as it contains a concoction of melodic hard rock, thrash, prog and even some power metal showing off the sterling vocals of Soto and the bass work of Ellefson that made him MegaDave's backbone for all those years. Joining him in the engine room is session drummer Paolo Caridi while the riffs, solos and keys are brought by the multi-talented Andy Martongelli of Italian band Arthemis. 

The thrash is strong on the opening title track which features Steve Conley and Ken Mary of Flotsam And Jetsam, the blastbeats unrelenting from Mary as Martongelli locks into some face ripping thrash soloing with Conley. From here there’s some bouncing heavy rock on Like A Bullet, a country influence to The Reason, both built on that Ellefson bass magic, while Hercules is a bass solo that moves into the proggy metal style of Rise To Win. For the devotees of Ellefson’s career it’ll be Sharpen The Sword, The Revolution and Live To Die Another Day have the ability to start pits but while thrash metal is the main style, there’s a lot of other things going on, the The Day Before Tomorrow in the prog style JSS has had a long association with, it also features Jade Etro of Frozen Crown in a great duet with Soto. 

The only downside this record has for me is that it is 14 songs long so there are one or two tracks that could have been cut, ballad Out Of The Blue especially. Still with so much experience behind this album, the Ellefson/Soto partnership could definitely have a future on the back of this album. 7/10

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