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Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Reviews: Leper Colony, Dryad, Skáld, Immortalizer (Reviews By Matt Cook, Paul Scoble, Richard Oliver & Matt Bladen)

Leper Colony - Leper Colony (Transcending Obscurity) [Matt Cook]

It doesn’t take long after sifting through Leper Colony’s self-titled debut before it’s abundantly clear: these guys know what the fuck they’re doing. Marc Grewe (vocals), Rogga Johansson (guitars, bass) and Jon Skare (drums) boast a qualified resume as a group as well as independently. And if their aim was to play thrashy death metal from days of old, they absolutely nailed it. Grewe - of Morgoth and Insidious Disease fame - is straight-up impossible to tame in the blistering 34 minutes. Be it hellacious howls or hard-hitting heavy-metal huffs, he ensures the record is covered in grime ‘n roll goodness. When called upon, Grewe acrobatically navigates the ship. 

Additionally, the versatility Johansson (Paganizer, Revolting) provides cannot be overstated. The guitar fills are magnificently placed and executed. Rock-solid guitar huffs give way to Carcass-esque licks (The Surgical Undeadvors). And the riff from Rapture Addict is as deviant as it is straight-to-the-face. And finally, Skare (Consumption, Reek) masters the kit and tears down the house on ‘Perdition’s End’ before helping to rebuild it from the scraps left behind. Tar And Feathers is equal parts grit and groove. Even when the trio pumps the brakes (Leper Colony), the outcome is fluid and complementary.

Mind you, all of this expertise and musicianship is presented in the most late 1990s-early 2000s way possible without ever feeling like a ripoff from 20 years ago. Far from hoping to grab the lowest-hanging fruit, Leper Colony imbue the current death-metal landscape with a ferocious, diaphragm-exhausting record. It sounds clean, polished and disgusting. 8/10

Dryad - The Abyssal Plain (Prosthetic Records) [Paul Scoble]

Iowa based band, Dryad have been making music together since 2017. In that time the band have made 2 EP’s; a self titled one in 2017, the second EP, The Silurian Age was released in 2018, and in 2019 they released a split with Acid Leather. The Abyssal Plain is the bands first full length album. Dryad is made up of Oli on drums, Claw /Clair on guitar and vocals and Grimtooth on guitar. Dryad's style of music shows quite an amount of extreme metal nostalgia, something that I am definitely on board with due to being a heavy metal obsessed teenager for part of the eighties. So I have a lot of love for the early extreme metal era, when death metal and black metal were far less defined, and metal reviewers classed everything fast as thrash, I remember reading reviews of early albums by Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and early Death were being described as ‘Thrash’.

The style present on The Abyssal Plain fits into this style of early extreme metal, a mix of early black and death metal styles, it also has the same necro sound with nasty lo-fi production and loads of echo on everything. The album also has the other factor that was present in the early days of Metal being hazardous and dangerous, it is full of an infectious energy and excitement (the early days of extreme metal were amazingly exciting, every week there was another album pushing the boundaries of speed and extremity, each time thinking that that was as far as extreme metal could go, only to be shocked and amazed by the next album that pushed things even further).

In many ways this album goes for an earlier sound that a lot of OSDM, which goes for a sound that was came from a death metal scene when the music was defined, this album is more like mid-eighties where death, black and thrash metal weren’t completely specified, I can hear influences from early Bathory, Hellhammer, Venom, Early Sodom, early Kreator and even some early Wrath Of The Tyrant-era Emperor.

The album is split into 13 short tracks, four of which are instrumentals, two are an intro and outro the other two form brief breaks from the chaotic, lo-fi savagery. All the full tracks are fast, some have fairy basic prehistoric blast beats, such as opening song Bottomfeeder, a primitive piece of death metal nastiness. There is also a tempo used on The Abyssal Plain that is far closer to mid-Eighties thrash, like the track Pompeii Worm, which is nasty echoed early black thrash, or the excellent piece of choppy thrash that is Black Smoke, with influences from early Sodom or Kreator.

Vocally, Claw/Clair has a savage and shrill high register harsh voice that I find reminiscent to first three albums Bathory, the vocals work very well with the style of music presented on The Abyssal Plain. The album also features the heavy use of old sounding, massively echoey keyboards, which give a nice atmosphere to several of the songs. The style of keyboards reminds me of Wrath Of The Tyrant-era Emperor, adding another old school element to make a very effective sound. Probably the best example of this is on the song Eutrification, which is the last song on the album and feels very dramatic in parts due to the use of keyboards.

The Abyssal Plain is a great album, full of nostalgia for the early days of extreme metal. It’s a blast of old school nastiness that turns up kicks you in the knackers and runs away giggling, it isn’t a particularly long album, but with this much positive energy and high speed necro fun it doesn’t need to be long. If you are feeling a little bit nostalgic for extreme metal that is simple, direct and full of great caveman riffs, primitive blasts and old school punky thrash tempos and savage vocals, then this is the album you’ve been looking for. 8/10

Skáld - Huldufólk (Universal) [Richard Oliver]

French neofolk collective Skáld return with their third album of Nordic tales Huldufólk. Like previous albums Huldufólk is sung in Old Norse, the ancient language of Scandinavia, with the title translating to the Hidden People.

Although I have heard similar artists this is my first exposure to Skáld. Similarities can be drawn to other bands who have a similar sound and structure from the traditional folk instrumentation, use of ambience and atmospheric, tribal rhythms and range of vocal styles from the harsh to the ethereal. Huldufólk is made up of twelve songs with ten of them being original compositions followed by two bonus cover songs. Out of the original material the latter part of the album is the strongest with the stirring Då Månen Sken and the rousing Elverhøy being particular highlights though Troll Kalla Mik is a suitably impressive opening song for the album. The bonus cover versions include interesting reinterpretations of Rammstein’s Du Hast and The Cure’s A Forest.

There are plenty of bands performing this modern take on Nordic folk music right now and whilst they don’t quite reach the heights attained by some of the more popular and well known bands doing similar things, Skáld are still a very solid and enjoyable folk collective and Huldufólk should definitely appeal to and please fans of the genre. 7/10

Immortalizer - Born For Metal (BrainLab Records) [Matt Bladen]

Produced, mastered and mixed by Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), who also appears on the track We Were Born For Metal, Immortalizer is actually a one man band from Ontario Canada. The sole creation of Dave D.R. he plays every instrument and performs the vocals on every one of these 10 odes to the glory of heavy metal. From the look, the title and the cover art you'll probably be thinking Manowar histrionics but Immortalizer is more akin to Accept, Grim Reaper and even Megadeth due to the shredding twin guitars and Dave's snarled vocals. Having been releasing singles since 2016, they are all featured on this debut album with a couple of more tracks thrown in to maximise the metal. 

Kicking off with Out In The Streets, were straight in with some Teutonic metal galloping, Cut Loose bringing a bit of thrashing before we get to We Were Born For Metal which pairs Metallica with Primal Fear due to Scheepers scream. It's with Lemmy that the style changes into to bass led hard rocking in the tribute to one Mr Kilmister as Back In Time goes back into the classic metal galloping and we carry on from here with some classic metal stylings. If bands such as Accept, Firewind, Grim Reaper et al appeal with their guitar heavy classic metal/thrash metal then you to will be Born For Metal. 7/10

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