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Monday 21 November 2022

Reviews: Distrubed, The Unguided, We Are Magonia, MMXX (Reviews By James Jackson, David G, Matt Cook, Mike JC)

Disturbed - Divisive (Reprise Records) [James Jackson]

Like many of us old enough to remember, the early 2000’s brought us the Nu Metal genre and like many I bought into most of it and since then I’ve seen the rise and demise of many bands all hoping onto that particular bandwagon.

Having survived the fickle nature of many musical trends, Disturbed are one of a few bands that have continued to make music and stave off commercial Death at the hands of what is or isn’t popular.
And to that end I’ve recently had the opportunity to listen to their latest offering: Divisive.
Other than playing their absolutely genius cover of The Sound Of Silence repeatedly upon its release back in 2015; the original a track I grew up with; I’ve heard very little of Draiman and Co since The Sickness and it’s follow up album Believe.

I soon tired of the style and indeed that whole Nu Metal tag early on in its conception, finding that there was little to entertain me and keep me hooked, in the heyday of Nu Metal’s glory I found that Slipknot’s much lauded sophomore album Iowa to be one of their weakest, that Alien Ant Farm only had one good song and it wasn’t theirs and Coal Chamber really weren’t that great no matter how many times the media told you they were.

I got bored of it all and in the meantime a band I’ve followed for years were evolving, making music that was experimental and capable of losing old school fans as well as earning new ones with broader ideals.. but that’s another story. One of the things I’ve enjoyed through my love affair with metal however is that ability to evolve, to try something new whether it works or not, somewhat at odds to that I also happen to believe in the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

And that’s where I find myself with the latest Disturbed album. I stopped listening to Disturbed when Believe came out, mainly for the reason that it really didn’t offer anything new, nothing stood out for me and six albums later it’s really just more of the same.

There are a few bands I can think of that haven’t changed the template since their conception and I don’t listen to them either and that’s just personal preference, I like to shuffle a bands back catalogue and instantly know by a tracks sound and arrangement that it is from a particular album and I just can’t do that with Disturbed, maybe if I was more of a fan rather than an extremely un-casual listener then I’d be album to tell my Believe from Indestructible but currently I cannot.

This album has Disturbed written all over it, the groove laden guitar riffs, the driving rhythm section and of course Draiman’s rather distinctive voice and style; I’ve recently discovered Bad Omens and their The Death Of Peace Of Mind album and I can more than happily press repeat on the whole album, playing very tracks over and over again and that was upon my first play through.

I can’t do that with Divisive unfortunately, rather than playing anything again, I’ve reached for the skip button. It’s familiar and safe for those who are fans of the band and I’m sure there’ll be a multitude of reviews doing them lip service but this isn’t for me. 4/10

The Unguided – 616 EP (Napalm Records) [David G]

Swedish four-piece The Unguided were initially founded by former members of metalcore act Sonic Syndicate and seem to have made a transition away from more hardcore inspired music to something that nods more heavily in the direction modern Swedish melodic death. There's also a healthy predilection for what appears to be World Of Warcraft inspired artwork. This EP purportedly includes re-recordings/re-workings of a quartet of their most popular tracks and comes across as a bit one-note.

I put the emphasis on modern in modern Swedish melodic death, as the inevitable screamed vocals are really the main remnants of the style on display. This is a rather polished effort that leans into aspects of lighter Soilwork/In Flames, naturally including those sections punched in by syncopated beats, overlaid by dreamy, echoing vocals and some trance-lite ephemera via keyboard fluff. There's nothing that feels particularly threatening or that really gets the blood pumping here (though surely there is the intention at points) because at its heart the music is safe.

That is not to say it’s bad, of course. Unguided Entity the track is a workmanlike chug-along until the brief breakdown two-thirds in brings the knife to the fight, it’s a short-lived moment and as predictable as it is, it feels rather vibrant. Eye Of The Thylacine, which is rather emo-ish at times, has a melancholic chorus that makes good use of vocal effects and the clashing approach of Richard Sjunnesson and Jonathan Thorpenberg. Iceheart Fragment starts with the seeming intention to liven things up with a rather fun rhythmic flourish but too often retreats to calmer ground in lieu of getting further up into your grill.

On this release The Unguided certainly sound very capable musicians and display a knack for a catchy chorus. Whether it is the song selection leaning into their more popular numbers meaning that the tracks here are a bit similar in their approach and therefore the band’s dynamic capabilities are not displayed as they could be, I could not say. The lasting impression is how conciliatory it all seems, rather like a little, friendly small talk. 5/10

We Are Magonia - Triangle Unicode (NewRetroWaveRecords) [Matt Cook]

Arguably the most attractive aspect of synth-based music is how versatile the percussion instrument is. The sky really is the limit as soundscapes are created in beautiful luscious meadows or musty abandoned caves. For a more positive or comforting slant, synthwave is your best friend. But for something more heart-racing and chilling, look no further than darksynth. We Are Magonia expertly orchestrated 35 minutes of foreboding, grim and downtrodden turmoil while effectively and sparsely introducing elements that evoke upbeat, happy-go-lucky moods.

Triangle Unicode is equal parts glitchy and jumbled (La Crypte), pulsating and prominent (Triangle Unicode) and indecipherable (Go To The Devil). However the real draw, the crux of this record’s staying power, is the melancholy and mystery. Written In Blood kicks things off in the vein of a sprawling, time-sensitive secret mission. The synth and bass significantly amps up in the final 30 seconds, which metastasises into the title track that is chock full of abandoned-church-at-night vibes. Pushing Up Daisies can’t seem to decide if it’s indicative of a bad time or a vehicle in which to saunter off into the sunshine with pep and swagger.

That’s exactly what makes Triangle Unicode thrive. The juxtaposition between good and evil - oftentimes within the same track - ensures the listener is always on their toes, unsure of what’s coming next while being forced to prepare for everything and anything. And finally, “If She Floats…” appears to allude to the infamous witch trials and the preposterous notion that if someone is in fact a witch, they will float to the surface of a body of water because of their inherent rejection of baptism. The paradoxical flip side being anyone thrown into a lake who is not a witch will sink, therefore any “innocent” person will be killed anyways.

We Are Magonia concocted a serviceable smooth album that nary overstays its welcome and produces enough flavour and variety to keep followers engaged and entranced. 7/10

MMXX - Sacred Cargo (Candlelight Records) [Mike JC]

Today's metal offering is brought to you by MMXX with their release Sacred Cargo.

Considered a Doom supergroup, the trio of Guitarist Andrea Chiodetti (formerly of The Foreshadowing) Drummer Jesse Haff and Bassist Egan O’Rourke (both previously of Daylight Dies)cleary have individual pedigry, but what they collectively bring is a sense of controlled heaviness and melody.

Opener 'This is not my breath' featuring Mikko Kotomaki starts off with a gorgeously metalic riff akin to the work of Meshuggah, albeit much slower, together with death growls and sweet harmonies it really does set the tone for the record and what MMXX are all about. The new forgotten ones featuring Yann Ligner shifts the balance by letting the vocals lead the song, riffs keep tempo and drive the song forward as the singing sails over the heaviness, delicate guitar interludes then give way to subtle electronics, the progressive influences really shining through on this track.

Title track Sacred Cargo featuring Aaron Staintho exemplifies the sound this trio has crafted, starting right from the off with heavy doomy riffs, slowly building and building before giving way to rather welcome chugging guitars and those oh so appropriate death metal vocals. There is so much going on sonically, with the addition of strings and spoken word, mixed perfectly in my opinion, this really is delightful stuff for us doom heads.

On that note, this record is very well produced, keeping things heavy but mixed well enough that each component is allowed to breathe.You may also notice at this point that there are a lot of features on this album, each bringing something different but always complimentary to the sound designed by MMXX, there is a real sense of purpose to everything here, with the featured artists adding to that completely.

Due to my own personal tastes I do wish at times the record would break from its perfectly executed restraint, I did find myself yearning for just a little bit more 'oomph' shall we say, but that is more a me problem that one for all of you lovely doom heads out there. There is absolutely something to enjoy on every track on Sacred Cargo

I would say Opeth fans would find a lot to like here, as well as fans of Swallow The Sun and My Dying Bride, I highly recommend you give this one a spin. 8/10

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