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Monday 19 December 2022

Reviews: Landfall, Coraxo, In The Woods, Gondhawa (Matt Bladen, Paul Scoble, David G & David Karpel)

Landfall - Elevate (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

Brazilian band Landfall bring a vibe, leaning towards the grittier end of the 80's melodic rock sound they've been compared to White Lion, Extreme and Dokken, all of whom are perfectly good comparisons to these South American rockers, as is Mr Big, that invoice looming large on opener Never Surrender. Led by the great vocals of Gui Oliver. Elevate is their second record and it's more than a title but a state of mind when approaching the album, feeling like they could create music that was more authentic to how they wanted to sound as a band. 

With Oliver's great vocals up front they are very Eric Martin meets Arnel Pineda (current Journey vocalist), the rest of the band; guitarist Marcelo Gelbcke, bassist Thiago Forbeci, and drummer Felipe Souzza all drive the music in these songs, Olivier's experience songwriting for others such as Jimi Jamison and Bobby Kimball finally paying dividends to the band who were finding their feet on their debut The Turning Point, but have arrived properly on Elevate. 

Tracks like Waterfall, Elevate and Feels Like Summer, bring big Journey melodies while Rescue Me is a bit Toto, as Shadows Of Love is a father paced rocker that leads into the big ballad of the album The Wind. Landfall nail their sound here, ones to watch on the melodic rock scene Landfall have hit the ground running with their second album, there'll be no stopping them now. 8/10

Coraxo - Luna (Snow Wave) [Paul Scoble]

Coraxo are a Finish duo who have been making music since 2013. The pair are Ville Vistbacka on drums and Tomi Toivonen on vocals, guitar and programming. In the 9 years the band have been together they have released 3 Ep’s called Starlit Flame, Part 1 and 2 in 2014, and Part 3 in 2019, they have also released 2 albums in that time in 2015’s Neptune and Sol in 2017. Usually Coraxo play an electronic infused style of death metal, however on Luna the band have decided to abandon their customary style in favour of making an experimental album featuring several guests. 

Ilkka Ferm plays saxophone on most of the tracks, Elena Cor Tauri provides vocals on the song A Star Broken, and Emi Path and Aly Queen do vocals on Wolves Of Valhalla. The album does not have a single style, preferring 6 songs that are all quite different from each other, ranging from jazz and post rock to aggressive hardcore and harsh noise. As with all experimental albums there is a chance that the experiments might not work, but without this sort of experimentation music would not move on or develop.

The album opens with the song A Star Broken, which features Elena Cor Tauri on vocals, begins with a post rock/new wave feel to it, this builds in intensity until it drops into a heavy doom section. After this the saxophone comes in and this feels more like art rock and drives the song to its end. A Star Broken is followed by the track Abyss, which again has a post rock sense to it, and features Ilkka Ferm’s saxophone (probably the most dominant instrument on the album). The track features some interesting riffs, but also doesn’t really go anywhere, it wanders about for a while before slowly fading out. 

Black And Void is a short track of atmospheric electronic noises. Dance Of Shiva is big and doomy for the first half and aggressive and nasty in a Hardcore kind of way for the second. The second half features a sort of blast beat that is very loud, staccato and heavy on the snare so that feels like the band is challenging their audience, as if this part is deliberately provoking the listener. To be honest it doesn’t do anything for me other than be irritating, this feels like Coraxo’s version of the “I know a song that will get on your nerves” song. 

The Cartographer is a mix of brooding bass heavy post rock and some very heavy doom riffs, which really work very well. The album comes to an end with the song Wolves Of Valhalla which features Emi Path and Aly Queen on vocals. The song opens with beautiful choral voices before the Saxophone comes in. The song is mainly minimalist drums and electronic, with great vocals and interesting saxophone riffs. In places this song reminds me of Portishead with its minimal production and fantastic vocals. The song is less coherent as it nears its end, where it falls apart in a very interesting way. 
Luna is definitely and interesting album. 

Not all of it works in my opinion, but that is going to happen with anything that is truly experimental. Coraxo have moved so far out of their comfort zone that they couldn’t see it on a clear day, and that should gain them respect as artists. However, does this work as an album? Well, yes and no, both songs with Vocals work well for the most part, but the rest feels a little lacking in direction, and doesn’t go anywhere. On balance this probably averages out at a six out of ten, if the band want to develop a new sound from this experimental album then the songs A Star Broken and Wolves of Valhalla would be good starting point to building an interesting sound. 6/10   

In The Woods... - Diversum (Soulseller Records) [David G]

Norway’s In The Woods... reformed in 2014 following a hiatus from a career in which they released seminal albums that combined black and doom metal in a one-of-a-kind plaintive approach. Now with drummer Anders Kobro as the only remaining original member they plow on into something that is rather more mundane and lacking that magical touch they previously held.

Diversum opens with the rather somnolent The Coward’s Way, at first this seems to be a rather interesting gambit as it largely moves along in ponderous fashion. It sounds positively fatigued, the slowly breathed dual vocals backed by resonant but not particularly interesting guitar work. There’s some aggression in the harsh vocals that kick in, but even this is tempered by the laboured atmosphere. The chorus provides a rather interesting antidote, the rattling bass drums picking up the tempo and singing begins to soar.

What becomes obvious in following tracks is that most songs on the album have a similar mood and approach. In fact, by the album’s close it felt like time was lost, because the repetitiveness of the affair caused it mostly to blend into a morass of melancholia. It’s all very competent, but also so very formulaic. There’s a moodiness to it all, certainly, but also a dreary atmosphere that actually becomes tiresome after a while, trudge and wail, trudge and wail. The other-worldliness that lived in Heart Of The Ages or the dreaminess of Strange In Stereo seems to be largely gone, replaced by something that seems run of the mill.

There are some interesting sideways glances at other bands too. Moments opens with a piercing guitar line that would probably be at home in late-90's My Dying Bride, Humanity is driven by a weary riff and stark lead that would equally be at home in late-90s Katatonia. It’s weird to hear this band, known for its uniqueness, sounding like other bands. Something of the aura that surrounded the name is pierced.

It’s hard to lay my expectations at the door here, because In The Woods... were a special band that released some special music, admittedly that must be a difficult legacy to live up to especially when the band as it was is all but gone. What this current incarnation have released in Diversum is a rather ordinary album, one that does something competently, but doesn’t capture the imagination or draw a significant response. 5/10

Gondhawa - Maanthagori (Stolen Body Records) [David Karpel]

Gondhawa are a tripped out, electrified psych trio out of Angers, France. Maanthagori is a two song EP that, for me, was an introduction to a sound I’m absolutely sure I never want to hear again. But that’s just me. It’s not the music, which is pretty cool, and it’s not the fact that they sing in an Asian language, Gondhawii. Both of those things sound like a recipe for something fascinating and fun. But for the nasally, repetitiveness of the vocals, it might have been. 

If you dig the quirky and don’t care to understand the lyrics and don’t mind those lyrics pounding you like a square peg into a tight circle with the same atonally expressed 8 lines or so repeated over and over like a taunt, then go give them a listen. If it’s your thing, you’ll need room to dance around and get a sweat going about a third of the way into the 10 minutes of mostly high energy when not space-out music. 

It sucks that the last review I’m probably writing this year is so negative. While my musical tastes run the gamut of genres, languages, and styles, I still don’t have the space for Gondhawa. 5/10

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