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Tuesday, 10 January 2023

Reviews: Lord Of The Lost, Screamer, Concrete Age, Turmion Kätilöt (Reviews By James Jackson, Simon Black, Matt Bladen & David G)

Lord Of The Lost - Blood & Glitter (Napalm Records) [James Jackson]

“Blood & glitter, sweet & bitter, we’re so happy, we could die”

And so begins the latest album, Blood & Glitter, from dark rock/industrial/gothic metal act Lord Of The Lost, vocalist Chris Harms’ rather distinctive tones filling the emptiness acapella style before instrumentals kick in for the title track. Throughout the album Chris’s vocals are as ever, varied; from the funereal dirge you’d expect from any band tinged with gothic influences to a more thrash like, bordering upon death metal style befitting of the music it accompanies.

Musically this, their 8th studio album so far, is as varied and potentially crowd pleasing as those that have come before it; though I must admit that it’s taken a few listens to really get into it.; for it’s not as instantaneous a liking as I felt with 2021’s Judas or Thornstar released in 2018; but I’m not hating it.
There has always been an element of experimentation within their material, as they’ve blended genres into their music throughout their 16 year career so far and sometimes, most of the time it works, I’m not so sure about the 80’s inspired synth led verses of Destruction Manual which at times doesn’t seem the right choice given the expletive riddled fist pumping chorus.

It’s a good album and stands up with their back catalogue, so far there are only a few standout tracks for me, the anti trolling anthem Leave Your Hate In The Comments and their cover of Roxette’s The Look featuring German Pop singer Blumchen amongst them, though I’m sure with a few more listens I’ll be able to add more to the list. 7/10

Screamer – Kingmaker (Steamhammer/SPV) [Simon Black]

There’s a reason why four plus decades after the breakout of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that bands continue to produce music in that distinctive style: that’s because it still works when done properly. Given the number of splits, divisions and sub-genres NWOBHM ultimately spawned, in any other musical umbrella genre the original movement would by now have been completely lost through fragmentation. 

However, not only are many of the original progenitors still going strong, but the generation of their children (and indeed their grandchildren) are still continuing the charge as if nothing had changed. Well, fortunately some things have changed, but let’s hope that casual sexism, mullet cuts and spandex stay in the past…

Sweden’s Screamer have been at this a while too, with Kingmaker being their fifth studio rodeo since their inception thirteen years ago. By this point in their careers many acts are often struggling to keep momentum, but not so Screamer. Another current challenge is that this genre has had a lot of retro nostalgia surrounding it recently, with many acts who either never made it first time round dusting things down trying to cash in one last time, or really young acts trying to recreate a sound long gone through technical cheats in the studio. 

Screamer though simply focus on writing good songs in the style of the period but with the attitude, values and technology of the present day. They were doing this before the 80’s retro fad came along, and will no doubt be doing it afterwards, as let’s face it this honest to your roots, but of the moment approach has not held back stalwarts like Saxon or Maiden after all this time.

The ten tracks on here do exactly what you want a traditional heavy metal album to do – belt out the tunes catchily, anthemically and with the perfect balance between heaviness and melody, and without overstaying their welcome, so keeping the average run time below four minutes. The band is formed around vocalist / songwriter Andreas Wikström, who is a man more than capable of crafting a good structure to his tunes. Vocally his voice is the clean end of the register, but with enough grit to keep things down and dirty, despite his quite good range. 

I can’t fault anything on here but the standout moments for me are the belting title track, which you just know is going to work well live and the more thoughtful and complex Ashes And Fire. The latter is a good minute longer than anything else on here, with a more epic feel and that extra minute allowing things to build slowly and add a little weight and introspection along with the roaring riffage that sets the tone.

Overall, this is nothing new stylistically, but then nothing in this genre has been truly new since 1982, but it’s done well, with workmanship and deference and makes a great start to the new musical year. 7/10

Concrete Age - Bardo Thodol (Independent Release) [Matt Bladen]
Compared to bands such as Tengger Cavalry, Sepultura, Moonsorrow and Eluveitie the Russian formed now London based Concrete Age follow up their 2020 album Spirituality with this new record named after the Tibetan book of the dead. On the first listen to Bardo Thodol you can definitely here why they have the 'ethnic metal' tag utilising the folk traditions and instruments of the Balkan regions to augment their metal baseline. They're just at home with death metal bands as they are with folk metal acts having played alongside both frontman Ilia Morozov, providing some great harsh/clean vocals, the Balkan instruments and guitars along with Boris Zahariev. 

As it's their eighth album, they aren't going to vary wildly from an established format so what you end up with over 10 tracks and 41 minutes is something akin to Machine Head going folk metal (the title track), though True Believer the vocals move towards Disturbed. High concept lyrics put to powerful modern metal riffs and the use of "ethnic" instrumentation, the band rounded out by bassist Giovanni Ruiu and drummer Davide Marini. Concrete Age manage to keep your attention on these 10 tracks, the symphonic melodeath of Threads Of Death, the folk metal of Lullaby For A Deadman and the out an out thrashing of Ridges Of Suffering all bring enough variation to maintain interest. With 2023 starting out this is a unique heavy treat to start the year off. 7/10

Turmion Kätilöt – Omen X (Nuclear Blast) [David G]

What can you really say about a band that counts amongst its members people using the pseudonyms “Master Bates” and “Shag-U”? Juvenile? Eye-roll worthy? Finland’s Turmion Kätilöt boast such a claim. Founded by a DJ and MC this might also inform as to what you should expect (though I should stress that for this part, at least, I hold no judgement).
The first 23 seconds of the album inspire a sense of dread, banging techno underscoring a statement of “motherfuckers drop the bass”. When the militant guitar riff kicks in you’ve kind of got a sense of what this band is about, industrial metal pulling in wider dance influences and croaking vocals that combine to a rather sleazy effect.

At various points through the album I’m reminded of Animatronic by The Kovenant, such as in the stomping riff that opens Vie Se Pois or the keyboard touches that highlight Puoli Valtakuntaa. With that said on the whole the music of Omen X is largely more straightforward, leaning into the tightly regimented rhythms and stomping beats as the order of the day with electronic flavourings added for taste. There are some curious sprinkles of an oddball nature through the album, for example Käy Tanssiin’s Hawaiian guitar interlude that soon descends into a catchy little melody. This little segment doesn’t really serve any significant purpose in the wider song, of which the main riff is pretty solid and the effects-laden outro is highly effective.

Closing track Kuolettavia Vammoja is probably the highlight of the album, with a nice little keyboard melody echoing through the track and the more natural variation in approach working quite well. This relies less on the spitting, vitriolic vocals and reining this in for a more considered approach with some strong backing singing. After the initial shock of the album has died down there’s some nice moments inside, it took a few listens to appreciate what is on offer and, frankly, to get over some of the more ridiculous aspects. I’m still not entirely sold as the basic approach does get a bit repetitive after a while, and it is the straying outside of the base formula that brings the most enjoyment. 6/10

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