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Tuesday 15 November 2022

Reviews: Lamentations, Dirt Forge, Despised Icon, Hedra (Ben Baljak, Rich Piva, Lee Burnell & Matt Bladen)

Lamentations - Passion Of Depression (Willowtip Records) [Ben Baljak]

Lamentations are back with their second full-length, following 2016 debut album Echoes In The Wind. Passion Of Depression is a cinematic concept album that portrays the pain, pleasure, joy and sorrow that encompass one’s life journey. Accompanying Danny Jungle Jacob - frontman, Chris Stropoli - Drums, Prophet - guitar and Jose Figueroa - bass for this grandiose indulgence of notes are various guest musicians. Including guitarists from Cynic, Extol, Black Crown Initiate and Exist to name but a few.

The album opens with Prodigal. Beautiful guitar melodies stacked on top of more technical riffs complimented by smart drumming and the ethereal arpeggios of guest keyboard player Gregor Connelly. The song then opens up with demonic discordant chords and aggressive vocals that sound like the war cry of some kind of carnivorous mastodon, whilst the bassist runs some nice licks between stops. At the halfway point, Lamentations give us some lush piano harmonising with acoustic guitars and the mysterious mastodon with a thirst for blood shows that he can also sing. It’s hard not to think of Opeth during these sections; but who can’t appreciate some Opeth-isms ? Philistines that’s who!

Anew opens deceptively soft and bewitching. A lulling into a false sense of security that serves the impact of the bitch slap of prog death and high IQ guitar solos. Shiver hits hard! and guest guitarist Santiago Dobles and Jason Gobel prove their chops. The intro solo tapping faster than the unholy hybrid of a chronic white knuckle rider and a pneumatic drill with the precision of a bionic-eagle. Discordant damning atmospherics into a riff for the headbangers whilst Gregor comes back for a synth solo, breaking for the twisted lullaby of harmony vocals and then another decent into the depths metal was forged in. Tou-Fucking-Che.

Sombre features the supporting arrangements and keyboards of Steve Harbour. Starting like a dark fairytale with classic, mystic horror movie strings. Until guest guitarist Ole Børud introduces the brutality to come with some satisfying shred. The song swings in and out of the regions above and below for its duration of almost eleven minutes. Fluidly transporting us between conflicting realms. Ire expresses what it says on the tin; fury, rage ,wrath! Fast and violent throughout and another great guest lead from guitarist Ethan McKenna. It really says something when the listeners break from more complex songwriting is the brutal death metal song ... and that’s not to say that Ire lacks in complexity.

I’d say that Obeisance is the weakest song on the album. Perhaps this is why Lamentations have hidden it somewhere near the back. Still, that’s not to say it’s a weak song in the least. Although I’m beginning to wish it was, as all these compliments I’m giving are starting to make me feel a little nauseous. I’ve been looking forward to this; The obligatory fifteen minute epic at the end of any progressive album. Known by some as the art of self fellatio. And to those some that I have just made up; I ask - is it self indulgent to create a masterpiece? Perhaps, and perhaps Ouroboros wasn’t born that way. Is the prog player just an amalgamation of Narcissus and Ouroboros destined to nosh on his own custard launcher for all of eternity? I think not! … On this particular occasion…

Anyway! Nurture is fantastic! Once again Steven Harbor takes supporting arrangements and Max Phelps gifts us with a bluesy Spanish inspired guest guitar solo. The song wraps up the album with a haunting, crushing aesthetic perfect for laying there and contemplating picking up the pieces of skull and brain matter debris from when your head exploded a few songs back. Passion Of Depression is - to sound pretentious; A piece of evocative art. I am a sucker for a good heavy concept album. And my only gripe with this one is that Lamentations didn’t give me a chance to whinge a little. Now I’m going to have to find a child to punch to get rid of some of this pent up negative energy. And that’s all on you Lamentations! 

There is a concern and curiosity over how they’ll take this show live. With only one official guitarist and the addition of guests being well … guests. It’s hard to see how any of these songs are really possible in the live format. Hopefully they’ve already got a plan. If you’re a fan of technical progressive death metal and the diversity of bands such as Opeth then Lamentations - Passion of Depression is an album you just can’t miss.

Album now added to personal playlist. 9/10

Dirt Forge - Interspheral (Majestic Mountain Records) [Rich Piva]

Copenhagen, Denmark’s Dirt Forge play some heavy sludgy doom and do it really well. Their sophomore album, Interspheral, is a bulldozer mowing down everything in its wake, but the record is not just a brute; there is some nuance here that differentiates the band from others in the same circle. That being said, there are some pluses and minuses on Interspheral.

First off, I am not sure if it is the promo I have, but the production on this album is murky. I want to blast this, and have it come clean out of my speakers (clean may not be the best adjective for this band, but I think you get it) but something about the sound is not letting me. I am hoping this sounds much better on vinyl. 

The opening track is a weird instrumental that almost sounded like it didn’t belong or was somehow corrupted which starts Interspheral out on a strange note. It’s a choppy start. However, once you get to the meat of this record, starting with the nine-minute Highest Low, you get some killer sludge with vocals barked out at you but not just all brute force, the tempo changes throughout make this the true intro to this sludge/doom trip. 

I get some serious Crowbar vibes from these guys as well as Mastodon. Ascension is an excellent track that makes me think a double bill of Dirt Forge and Behold! The Monolith would be very relevant. I love the vocals on this track, as you have the barky, but you also get an urgent wail as well in parts. Moralterations is another instrumental intro that leads into another sludge ripper, Left In A Lurch. Which pretty much rips your head off and has an almost psych/space feel to the track, but subtle. 

I really like when these guys go loud, quiet, loud. They do it very well and it is very effective in keeping this record on the rails and interesting. Miscommunision is the most Mastodon worshipping track I have heard in a while (compliment!) while Descension closes us out with another mistimed instrumental.

So, what I was able to hear I really enjoyed. I think there may have been an issue with the copy I have, but the sound was muffled, and the tracks seemed either cut or corrupted (or it was meant to be this way, which I hope not). What I was able to hear was excellent; tracks like Highest Low and Left In A Lerch are killer sludge/doom, but it was hard to truly experience this record. I am going to redo this review when I have a full copy and more than likely increase the score, but from what I could make out this will be a big hit for those who like the sludgy doom with barked out, heavy vocals. 7/10

Despised Icon - Deterre (Nuclear Blast) [Lee Burnell]

Canada’s own Despised Icon have a re-released an EP made up of tracks from 2005’s The Healing Process, 2016’s Beast and a 2005 split with Bodies In The Gears Of The Apparatus. Deterre is a nice throwback to see the progression of the band’s history and shows of a great mix of death and grindcore with a cheeky bit of Dillinger Escape Plan chucked in there for good measure.

Starting off with Warm Blooded and Bulletproof scales, it teases listeners with the pacing throughout the two tracks which can only leave you feeling unsettled with constant timing changes which are both disgusting and brutal. One Last Martini shows the DEP influence here from the get go but up until this point, the EP just feels very repetitive in regards to the pacing of the tracks re-released for this. The songs are strong but feel kind of samey.

Oval Shaped Incisions offer some nice grooves with some jabs of blistering guitar and drum work but again, it doesn’t exactly wow and finally Sever The Ties offer more or less the same. All in all, a decent EP but I feel like they had stronger songs that could have made the cut but it was a nice trip down memory lane for Despised Icon fans. 6/10

Hedra - The Pecking Order (Devils Clause Records) [Matt Bladen]

Formed way back in 2014, Hedra have been a name to watch for a while now however founding members Jim Marten (vocals) and Kamil Korsak (guitar) found themselves in a constant stream of new bassists and drummers which hindered the band somewhat for the first few years of their existence. Despite being a studio project for a while all bands want to get out and showcase their music, so new members were needed. It was in 2020 that the current line up came to be, just as live performances started up again in 2021. With the big slab of Murphy's Law behind them, as well as numerous gigs to refine the new line up of Zoran Gyenis (guitar), Lukas Mozdzenski (bass), and James Redden (drums), Hedra look set to fully realise their potential. 

Building on some singles they signed to Devil's Clause Records and now release this new EP which is a study of the animalistic traits our leaders adopted while trying to navigate the pandemic, the lyrics damming the way the British government treated those lower than them while frequently ignoring the law. Thus establishing the social pecking order. Throughout this EP, Jim compares the similarity between human and animal relationships and how these have effected the country at large. It's deep in its lyrical content but then it is prog metal. Modern prog metal at that built on an emotional heart but with technically gifted playing in every passage. 

From the djent of Jackdaw, through the groove metal of Stolen and Suchi, the level of heaviness is high, down tuned riffs and fat grooves driven by some natural sounding production. AvisMogi slows things down with a bit of drama and metalcore choppiness, the vocals of Marten at their most tested as Storm Clouds adds some more emotion leading to the finale of Head Held High where o can hear a bit of Creed. With a steady line up now in place Hedra are now set to take on the prog metal pack. 7/10

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