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Thursday, 26 January 2023

Reviews: Sabaton, Torso, Grief Symposium, Aiming For Enrike (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Sabaton - Heroes Of The Great War (Nuclear Blast)

Those heavy metal history buffs Sabaton return with the second part of their Echoes Of The Great War trilogy of EP’s following up last years Weapons Of The Modern Age with Heroes Of The Great War. The previous part focused on the scientific advancements that took place during WWI, most of which were used to make barbaric weaponry, it was a more serious affair, due to many of these advancements part of the huge death toll present in The Great War. This EP however is called Heroes Of The Great War and focuses on the most outlandish, fantastic and unbelievable acts of heroism during this period of conflict. 

Again the majority of these 6 tracks come from the Swedes three previous albums along with one new song. Last Dying Breath is the earliest, the punchy thrasher coming from 2016’s Last Stand about the defence of Serbia. The galloping triple team of A Ghost In The TrenchesSeven Pillars Of Wisdom and 82nd All The Way come from 2019’s The Great War, with the adventures of Canadian sniper, T.E Lawrence (Lawrence Of Arabia) and Sergeant from Tennessee who captured 132 Germans. Its very action packed you can almost picture Dirk Bogarde, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers, Kirk Douglas, Peter O’Toole or Gary Cooper down and dirty in the trenches. 

It doesn’t end there though as the story of Milunka Savić gets it’s due with Lady Of The Dark and Sir Adrian Carton De Wiar known as The Unkillable Soldier, both coming from 2022’s The War To End All Wars. It’s a lot more upbeat than the previous EP, full of bluster on balls, the one new song fully committed to the ethos of the EP. Called First Soldier, it’s packed with triumphal keys and explains what a complete badass Albert Severin Roche a man too short for the army but eventually became known as the hero of France due to his unquenchable thirst for war. By the end of the war he had been wounded 9 times and had captured over 1,180 prisoners! 

Like I said with the last EP, history nerds like me will love this EP compiling some of the best bits of their last few albums. I wait for their next one and their tour in anticipation. 8/10

Torso - A Crash Course In Terror (APF Records)

Emerging from the fetid carcass of APF- signed horror metallers Possessor, comes Torso, something of a sequel, something of a remake, it's Evil Dead II in band form. Graham Bywater, frontman, guitarist, evil genius, returns not more than a year after burying Possessor with a leaner, meaner, unit, in fact it is just the torso (plus arms, legs and head) of Bywater that makes up the music on A Crash Course In Terror, producer Wayne Adams bringing eerie keys on a couple of tracks. 

Inspired as usual by the gore-soaked, unsettling flicks of Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Michele Soavi, Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava, obsessed with Drive-In B-Movies and low budget shocks Bywater channels this into the Torso project recording it in just 16 hours, the main vein being proggy, sludge grunge punk, riffs that seem to be gurgling and threatening, drenched in fuzz and harshness on Sinking Spell but also packing some schlocky rock melodies at the close.of Circuit Breaker Breaker. Meanwhile the vocals shift from shouted to spectral, often a slicker chorus coming when you're deep in the doldrums of grunting riffage. 

Much like his previous band it's cut to pieces with snippets, samples from movies, expertly woven into the songs themselves. Along with this there's a focus on making industrial atmospheres on Pranks, that are there to support the concept of this being the soundtrack to, or the audio version of a Grindhouse cinema, where the film is patched, broken and beaten, often cobbled together to make it play on projector. A Crash Course In Terror feels retro, produced hastily, its satisfyingly lo-fi, aimed at vinyl, yes, but more likely cassette, the kind of album that was traded but not bought. Bywater has risen from his grave with more audio nastiness, Torso are an unstoppable force as foretold on Precious Blood "You can't kill me I'm already dead". 9/10

Grief Symposium - ...In The Absence Of Light (Church Road Records)


1. a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject.

2. a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet (and notable as the title of a work by Plato)

Either of these options would be a harrowing experience if they featured as much torment as Grief Symposium, ooze out of their debut album ...In Absence Of Light. Cited as death/doom, it is so much more than that, it's a primitive, primordial, and supernatural album that draws from Candlemass, My Dying Bride and also Celtic Frost, but smashes them all together with a slab of monolithic metal that will punish your ears, but equally lead off on a journey of floating atmospherics that weave a gothic spell. At times an uncomfortable listen but a beguiling one, the melancholic pessimism that permeates through what the band "horrible music." 

Horrible it may be but it's also brilliant, from the tolling of a bell that welcomes Among Dead Gods, that initial pulverising riff of lja's 7-String, adapts itself into some battering death metal, bjm's drumming and csm's bass, blasting in full death metal destruction before they slow into something a bit more melodic, the voice of sjt splitting between whispered machinations and aggressive growls. The growls at their most vicious on the brutal Temple Of Decay, following this though is where Grief Symposium allow their more creative approach take the wheel as the cinematics of mpr are met with spoken word samples as we are brought into the progressive shifts of In The Shadow Of The Sleeping Monarch, Cecilia Adelaide's vocals beautifully used at the end.

...In The Absence Of Light is a personal album, the band having to look internally to discuss how the smallest decisions can effect you, they repent for these transgressions on the violent Veil Of Transformation, Descent In To Pandemonium, taking you deeper down the rabbit hole with raging prog death metal interspersed with more ethereal tones, Esoteric Mirrors meanwhile brings punishing sludge power as the final part shifts into a more upbeat mellifluous section. Closing with the 13 minute industrial throb of The Amber Kiss Of The Sun, ...In Absence Of Light is an album unlike anything I've heard for long time, an exploratory study in the mind through the medium of difficult, multi genre music, each listen revealing more each time you hear it. 9/10

Aiming For Enrike - Empty Airports (Jansen Records)

We are a rock and metal blog but occasionally we do branch out into other genres a little. With the ever increasing use of electronics in metal music many electronic artists cross over to reach rock and metal fans. I'll admit many of these are in the firmly ensconced in the synthwave genre, however Aiming For Enrike take their atmospheric approach from the realms of post-rock and ambient scenes, the duo having had a very productive few years with their debut album Music For Working Out and playing all around the world with a more riotous, louder sound. 

Here they have adapted their approach towards the electronic/post-rock/ambient style in an attempt to reflect the silence of the world during the pandemic, especially in network hubs like airports where the stillness was eerie, thousands of jets grounded and terminals free of human life. The album title is also a nod to Brian Eno's Music For Airports, the Oslo duo owing a debt to the pioneer of electronic music. Simen Følstad Nilsen provides guitars, effects and synths while Tobias Ørnes Andersen brings drums and synths, their musical dexterity mesmerising as these long form, flowing tracks bring waves of intrigue that will delight not only electronic music connoisseurs but also anyone that has an interest in post-rock or esoteric prog. 

The notes around this record mention 80's King Crimson on Feel No Threat/Absent Lovers and that's spot on, but elsewhere there's plenty of instrumental jams, such as The Castle which has the darkness of a John Carpenter soundtrack or the overall minimalists approach of Steve Reich. Songs that have been crafted into this album that is distinct in it's vision and a must for those who lose themselves in electronic soundscapes. 7/10

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