Black Lava - Soul Furnace (Season Of Mist) [Paul Scoble]
Soul Furnace is the debut album by Australian band Black Lava. The band features Dan Presland on drums and Ben Boyle on guitar, Dan and Ben are both members of Vipassi and A Million Dead Birds Laughing, they are joined in Black Lava by vocalist Rob Watkins and bassist Tim Anderson. Black Lava’s sound is a mix of OSDM and OSBM, with the balance probably being on the side of the death metal, so blackened OSDM. The bands style is also bolstered by a healthy dose of hardcore, if death metal and black metal wasn’t enough nastiness for you.
The album has 9 tracks, a slow and very heavy intro track and eight full songs, none of the songs are very long as the album as a whole comes in at 34 minutes, however with the style of music Black Lava play, 34 minutes is fine. The album turns up, kicks you in the bollocks, and runs away laughing, which is exactly what blackened old school death metal should do.
A lot of the material is mid-paced, such as the song Aurora, which has a tempo that stomps along with a hardcore edge to it, and lots of dissonance, there is a slower part to the song, but this is mainly up-tempo, driving and purposeful. Things do get nice and fast on Northern Dawn which features fast and flowing death metal riffing, which in places has a great old school D-Beat pacing to it, as well as some very impressive blast beats. The song does have a slow, heavy and very intense section at the end that feels relentless and reminds me a little of British band Leeched.
Another song with slow and heavy parts is Baptised In Ash which is a mix of very slow, heavy and intense riffs, which have a hardcore feel to them, despite the slow tempo, and fast OSDM riffs, which again have that delicious D-Beat pacing. One place where the black metal sound comes to the fore is the track Eye Of The Moon, which has a section in the middle with fast, flowing black metal riffing, this section is surrounded choppy death metal riffs, but the black metal section feel very energised and stand out in a very pleasing way.
The album comes to an end with one of the most interesting tracks, the title track Soul Furnace. Soul Furnace is mid-paced, brooding and dramatic, it feels expansive and huge in places, and builds in intensity as the song progresses, and is a great way to bring the album to it’s close. Soul Furnace is a great blast of savage extreme metal. It is impressive that this is a debut, as it feels like something made by a much more experienced band. It’s simple and direct, and is incredibly intense and impassioned. It is a short album, but packs such a punch that you don’t need more than 34 minutes.
An absolute blast of old school fun and games, in some strange ways it feels like an enjoyable head injury, and I’m going to end the review there, before anyone asks me to explain that analogy. 8/10
(EchO) - Witnesses (Black Lion Records) [Paul Scoble]
(EchO) have been making huge music since 2007, the four piece features Mauro Ragnoli on guitar, Simone Saccheri on guitar and keyboards, Agostino Bellini on bass and Fabio Urietti on vocals. The band are joined on Witnesses by guests; Francesco Bassi on Drums, Heike Langhans (REMINA and Ex-Draconian) on additional vocals, Alexander Högbom also provides some additional vocals and Don Zaros does keyboards on 4 tracks.
(EchO) have released 3 albums before Witnesses. Their debut Devoid Of Illusions was released in 2011, five years later they released Head First Into Shadows and the 2019 saw them release Below The Cover Of Clouds. (EchO)’s style is atmospheric doom, so huge and heavy, but with a certain amount of tempering from softer and less aggressive elements, on Witnesses this softer side has a distinct post rock feel to it.
Opening (ok it’s not the opening track, there is a short intro, but the first proper song) track Laudanum is a good example of the bands style. The song opens with big powerful doom that is very heavy and has harsh vocals on it, then a new riff with a melody lead comes in, this huge melody then powers the rest of the song, not in a dissimilar way to how death/doom bands use melody. The melody assuages the huge heaviness and brings softer elements into the music. Another good example is the track Wanderer, which uses very minimal sections that are quiet, but also feel brooding and suspenseful as a juxtaposition to the huge and heavy doom, which has a slightly more relaxed tempo than on a lot of the material that surrounds it.
My Covenant features some very good minimal post rock parts and the amazing vocals of Heike Langhans. The song opens with Heike’s beautiful vocals which take us into a section that slowly builds from very small beginnings. Vocal harmonies are added and this is really graceful and affecting, the song then takes a turn towards heavy riffs and harsh vocals, the song then returns to the delicate post rock with beautiful vocals. These two sections, one minimal and beautiful and one hard and heavy swap once more before the song comes to an end with heavy riffs and clean vocals. The song is all about dynamics and ebb and flow, building and diminishing.
The post rock takes a more central role on the albums final song, Saturated, which is a mix of clean and soft post rock and a heavier style that feels to me a little like post black metal, in that this is heavy, but has an uplifting sense to it, in some way like Sunbather by Deafheaven, or Italian Band Falaise, there aren’t blast beats or tremolo picked riffs, but the feeling is very post black metal. As with most of the songs on Witnesses the two different sounds vacillate, but on Saturated it feels more relaxed; the different sections drift one way and then drift back, in a very pleasing way that fits with how the parts make you feel, and is a very uplifting and almost blissful way to end the album.
Witnesses is a very good album, great doom riffs with extremely well done melodies and some very effective minimal post rock. A lot of this album is about how the songs build and collapse, (EchO) are masters of musical dynamics, and musical construction. The album is great structurally, but you will also find it’s melodies are very memorable and will have you humming them to distraction. A huge doom album tempered by great tunes, minimal post rock and some exquisite beauty, who could want more than that? 8/10
Black Paisley - Human Nature (Black Paisley AB) [Matt Bladen]
Taking their name from Ritchie Sambora's signature Fender guitar and opening their new album Human Nature with a song that sounds a lot like Runaway, Swedish rocker Black Paisley are very much fans of melodic rock. Released on their own label, I have to admit it's probably not long until they are picked up by Frontiers, AOR Heaven or even Earache as all three labels would have a massive interest in the classic meets modern rocking of these NWOCR newcomers.
Though perhaps not that new as this is their fourth studio album but this one was mixed by Mike Fraser (AC/DC, The Cult, Aerosmith & Metallica) and mastered by Ryan Smith (AC/DC, Adele & Ozzy) both of whom are rock n roll royalty. They give this record a classiness of American rock band which will get Black Paisley in front of a bigger audience.
Ultimately though it's about the songs and Black Paisley definitely have songs, the title track with a little bit of Thunder, Promises and Don't Call Me A Liar having that Whitesnake groove; Stefan Blomqvist doing a great David Coverdale impression, though his normal voice is very adaptable sounding extremely American on the Americana infused Mojo, to me he sounds a lot like Black Stone Cherry's Chris Robertson, just listen to Hard Times and disagree, there's also another singer he's close too but I can t quite out my finger on it, listen to Crazy and let me know.
Blomqvist's rhythmn guitar links with Jan Emanuelsson's bass and Robert Karazsi's drums so Franco Santunione can play some flowing leads ala Ritchie Sambora. On Human Nature Black Paisley have aimed at the big boys and managed to pull off a blinder, keep a close eye on these Swedes as you'll be hearing them on a rock radio station near you soon. 7/10