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Tuesday 20 December 2022

Reviews: Vented, Uncommon Evolution, Deathless Legacy, Lunar Mercia (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, David G & Paul Scoble)

Vented - Cruelty And Corruption (Metal.Hu Records) [Matt Bladen]

Vented features Sean Zatorsky (Daath/Sinsaenum/ex-Chimaira) on vocals, Austin D’Amond (DevilDriver/Bleed The Sky/ex-Chimaira) on drums, Gergo Hajer (Omega Diatribe) on guitar & bass and Simon C. Bondar (White Tiger) on keys & samples. Originally a vehicle that was supposed to feature Joey Jordison behind the kit his untimely death put paid to that, the entire album a tribute to their fallen brother, Vigil is about him along with losing another one of Sean Zatorsky's close friends.

So a long time in the ringer, Cruelty And Corruption has finally seen the light of day just as 2022 comes to a close and it's a heavy duty way to end the year with some crushing groove metal riffs that delve into Lamb Of God, Chimaria, Devildriver and also Fear Factory. The drumming throughout is absolutely brutal, even when they slow things down for the middle section of Desire, the drums are relentless, like an artillery barrage of war-like proportions, A New Trend, too has juxtaposed drumming as their speed counteracts the slower crunching, doomy riffage. Vented are trying to capture that NWOAM sound from the late 90's/early 00's, doing so very well due to members being part of many of these genre-leading bands. 

Besides the drumming there's some expert use of samples on Vitriolic and Withered, where there's a massive breakdown groove. Featuring guests such as Ahrue Luster (LATG/ex-Ill Nino/ex-Machine Head), Matt Szlachta (Broken Hope/ex-Chimaira) and Dustin Lei Griboski (Arise In Chaos), Cruelty And Corruption is a record that is trying to capture a specific period, a collection of bands who rapidly became world beaters, as groove metal took over the world. With some great production from HK Krauss, Vented have made an album that should be spoken about in the same breath as the genre leaders. If you're looking for a heavy way to close out the year, this will be it. 8/10

Uncommon Evolution - Fry (Argonauta Records) [Rich Piva]

A band that sounds like a combination of Clutch/Down/Pantera would seem like a sure thing, right? Well, the Montana band Uncommon Evolution on their latest effort, Fry, had me hooked until a couple of missteps almost ruined the entire offering for me. Outside of one very unfortunate and cringy track on this EP, there are some heavy and fun Clutch worship tunes and some mountain moving riffs that make this enjoyable. Now if they would have left off that last track this would have scored considerably higher.

Fry to me sounds like Clutch with Phil Anselmo on lead vocals and most of the time this works. The opener, Widow Makers Breeze has some killer heavy riffs but still that groove you would expect from a band that mentions Clutch first in their bio. The guitar work is great on this track and throughout the six tracks on Fry. Rut Struttin is serious Fallon worship, maybe a little too much, but I am a Clutch fanboy, so this works for me. Smolder is a slow burn along the same vibes of the first two tracks and could have been a lost track from the Elephant Riders sessions. Funeral Samba is leaning more on the Down side of things, slow and heavy with some serious riffs and some serious emotions. Good stuff. 

Mask is probably my favourite track with more of a heavy stoner vibe and some nice heavy blues riffs until the tempo picks up and I am reminded of Pantera big time. We go off the rails with the last track, which the less said the better about Deep Sea Loving. Which is the not subtle at all telling of how mermaids are created.  It is dumb and not funny at all. I had secondhand embarrassment for the band as I listened, and I disliked that track so much it took away from the five killer songs before it. Maybe that is not fair but that is how turned off to this track I was. I am fine with comedy in music, but this was just not funny at all. 

I love Clutch, so a band that is so influenced by them doesn’t insult me in any way. There is just enough from Uncommon Evolution on Fry to make them not be a cheap rip off of anyone, even if they lean a bit more on the worship side than the influenced by side. That being said, Clutch would never have a song so cringe worthy on any of their records. You can be funny and clever without something being so blatantly stupid, so maybe on the next offering keep with the riffs and grooves and maybe lay off the comedy or figure out some subtlety instead. It will go a long way in delivering a quality, end to end record because Uncommon Evolution has some serious skills and potential. 6/10

Deathless Legacy - Mater Larvarum (Scarlet Records) [David G]

Self-dubbed “Occult Horror Metal” (eye roll), Italy’s Deathless Legacy are causing me a bit of a headache if I’m honest. This, their fifth album, is a bit of a blend of quite effective and blunt metal edges, very effective songwriting and flourishes that almost invite a bit of laughter or further eye rolling. 

Lead off track Ora Pro Nobis strides those different lines, the chord progressions are orderly and though somewhat trite, still quite effective; the layered vocals are evocative and bewitching, leading the song with assurance leading grandiosity. It's the keyboards that bring the kook, providing overstated organ-like backing that combines with the Latin chanting to provide a cartoonish interpretation of horror. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing though because if there was a really serious feel about this release it might be a bit off-putting.

Hollow also strides those same lines but a lot less comfortably, staccato quintuplets delivered underneath power vocals of finest eighties balladry, it isn’t terribly unique, but again there is a sense of crafting involved. They just can’t resist the goofy plinky-plonk organ boards in the chorus that are akin to taking a Heart music video and sticking Hammer Horror zombies in the background (and not the ones from the excellent Plague of Zombies).  

As you’ve now gathered the Horror part of the band descriptor seems to be largely derived from the keyboard presence, and we’re probably using horror in more an Omen 2 sense. It’s cheesy, daft, at times hilarious, but can also be somewhat adorable too. Let’s be clear, there is nothing remotely Horrific about all of this, this isn’t Diamanda Galas doing Plague Mass, this is good time metal that could probably draw a comparison to Ghost here and there.

The aptly titled Run, a high energy number based around a breathless spider dance on the guitar neck, integrates the atmosphere more holistically and is a jolly good bit of entertainment. More often-than-not though the keyboards are bolted on to more conventionally shaped and well-done tracks, and though that is somewhat frivolous it does something that paradoxically works but doesn't.

I feel like the more I write about this album the less sense I’m making. To put it plainly, Mater Larvarum is over the top. There are the weird steps that are confusing and attention-diverting, but there is also a core that seems resilient, built to withstand what silliness may get thrown at it. Whether the album is likeable because of, or in spite of, the kookiness is hard to pin down, but it’s an experience, that’s for sure. 7/10

Lunar Mercia - Leaving The Fragile Space (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

Hailing from the home of heavy metal (Birmingham), Lunar Mercia have been making music together since 2018. The four piece, made up of Stephen White on drums and vocals, William Southworth on vocals and guitar, Simon Alexander on guitar and Steffano Bassi on vocals and bass, have released one EP in that time in 2020’s Departing and Adoring, Leaving The Fragile Space is the bands first full length release.

Lunar Mercia’s sound is a mix of black metal and post black metal, with some surprising additions. The album is split into 4 songs 3 long 12 to 14 minute songs and one short, but very beautiful shorter track. The album opens with the track On The Veiled Road, which blasts off with some old school Tremolo Picked riffs that are half black metal and half OSDM, the riffs are fast and savage. The track then slows down and some NWOBHM influences come in giving this an early black metal feel. 

At this point we hear the surprising addition for the first time; a clear, pure falsetto voice that is a little bit like King Diamond, but is also reminds me of the kind of voice you would find in church music, if you went to a sung Mass, this is the kind of voice that you would find singing it. This voice does make me think of Mercyful Fate, particularly when it is coupled with some of the NWOBHM riffs. 

The song then goes into a blasting section with harsh vocals that are also very good. The song then takes a turn back to a softer sound with some very pleasing guitar harmonies which also feature both clean and harsh vocals in harmony. The track then takes another sharp turn towards very soft and gentle church music with the falsetto voice layered so it is beautiful and affecting. The track comes to an end with the opening aggressive old school black/death metal riffs to blast the song to its end.

Next track Sombre Corruption opens with mid-paced riffs that are black metal, but have a bit of a pagan metal feel to them, there is a choppy quality to the riffs. The song then injects some NWOBHM guitar parts into the mix, before the falsetto voice comes in to smooth everything out. The song then goes into vacillating between two distinct sections, one fairly aggressive black metal riffs, again with a pagan feel to them with harsh vocals and expansive sections with keyboards added to the more ethereal guitar riffs, coupled with the clear falsetto voice. These two section swap places a couple of times before the expansive style takes the song to its end.

The Loss is a short section of gentle, clean guitar and the falsetto voice layered to make a beautiful, restful piece of music that should by rights be played in a Cathedral.

Final title track Leaving The Fragile Space has a post black metal sound. The riffs remind me of Deafheaven, and Italian band Falaise, the tempo is relaxed and dreamlike. We get a blast beat that again is far more post black metal than the blasts that have been used so far in the album, coupled with the harsh voice. The song then goes into a full on black metal blast beat, with tremolo picked riffs that are far more like the other blasting on the album, the guitars have a different, harsher sound on this section of the song. The song then changes tack back to the blissful post black metal sound, with maybe a little more aggression than at the beginning of the song, and this feel takes the song and the album to its end.

Leaving The Fragile Space is a great piece of  black/post black metal. Musically it is inventive, tuneful and affecting, but the thing that stands out is that falsetto voice and the way the band have melded ethereal religious music together with OSDM and a more modern post black metal sound. Lunar Mercia have produced something that is genuinely original and striking, which is not easy to do these days, the fact that this is the bands debut album makes this even more startling. If this the bands debut, I am very keen to hear whatever they do next. 8/10

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