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Wednesday 18 January 2023

Reviews: Seether, Gra, Death Engine, Abyssal Worm (Reviews Matt Bladen, Erick Willand, David Karpel & Mark Young)

Seether - Disclaimer (Craft Recordings) [Matt Bladen]

To coincide with the 20th anniversary of South African grunge rockers Seether's acclaimed debut album Disclaimer, Craft Recordings has reissued it as a deluxe edition featuring the album in its entirety as it originally was, along with a previously unreleased live show from New Hampshire's Hampton Beach Casino in 2003. The album also features new cover art as the band have admitted they hated the original cover. The record features some of the songs that are still in Seether's setlist to this day, the Nirvana influences stronger here than on any subsequent albums. 

From the sexually aggressive Gasoline, to the percussive Driven Under which goes deep into Nirvana/Pearl Jam moodiness while the disparate Fine Again will transport you back to the early 2000's with just that reverbed guitar. Recorded on the album vocalist and guitarist Shaun Morgan, bassist Dale Stewart and drummer Josh Freese, Disclaimer put Seether on the map as a band who drew from the scene that then was 10 years ago, but doing it with as much emotion and catharsis as that initial Seattle scene. 

Closing out with the double hit of the raging F**k It and the brilliant ballad Broken (later re-recorded with Amy Lee for much bigger success). I haven't listened to this album probably since it was released and it still packs a punch but what should persuade you to buy it again is the additional content of the live show which captures the band on their inaugural US tour and you can hear that even at the beginning of their career they were destined for bigger things such is their professionalism. 

If it wasn't for the crowd and segues from Morgan you'd think this was the album versions, they're that good. The final addition to the collection is a timely and rare acoustic cover of Nirvana's Something In The Way, which was first issued as a B-Side, recorded in 2002 the original has just been used in the latest Batman movie and reminded a whole new generation what a great song it is. 

Morgan does it brilliantly just as seductive and slithering as the original they make it like it's their own. A band with a great debut record will always be one that triumphs (unless of course it's their only good record) thankfully for Seether it was the start of a very successful career so, why not stick on the rose tinted shades, throw on baggy jumper and rage like it's 2003. 8/10

Gra - Lycaon (Avantgarde Music) [Erick Willand]

Gra burst onto the scene in 2010 with the Helfard EP and has been consistently releasing music since then with a series of singles and splits, Lycaon is their fourth full length and follows previous album Vasen, a personal favourite of mine from 2018. So, let's see if these blackened war metal mad men can crush the front lines and march on to victory once again.

Opening track White City Devils kicks right off with fantastic riffs and before the vocals even kick in my head is moving. Always a good sign. This is a ripping good song with thunderous drums and clear lyrics delivered with just enough gravel. A fine opening track indeed and it leads right into track 2 Flame Of Hephaestus that starts with a cool swinging riff that I really dig. Again it’s the vocal delivery here that catches my attention and holds it, at 2:40 when everything stops but the lyrics “Cleansed by the fire and smoke” then kicks back in. Love stuff like that. Torn Asunder is the following track and continues the march ever forward with equal riffage and clear drumming topped by deeper, clearly more personal lyrics.

Lycaon is the title track and it shows in the clear effort put forth here. Lycaon is a genus of wild dog but also holds some mythical aspect from the story of an Arcadian king who was turned into a wolf. Felt like mentioning that. The song opens slower than previous tracks for effect but quickly kicks in with a sense of urgency that never fails to catch my attention. Special mention here goes to drummer Dimman who has a laundry list of previous bands and that experience shows, I feel like this album would not be nearly as strong as it is without him. Now comes Chariots Of Fire with its lure of an ambient opening that breaks out with all the aggression and whirling wheel blades of a straight up Egyptian chariot charge. 

This is 2 minutes and 50 seconds of blasting thrash infused violence and feels like it splits the album in two. Evidenced by track 6 Ett Avskedsbrev with its vibrant bass line and Amon Amarth vibes and Swedish lyrics. A fun song even if I have no idea what’s being sung about. Which goes for Brannmarkt as well, which translates as ‘Branded’. Opening up with the sound of distant horns and barked out Swedish through a megaphone while the band does their best to musically mimic the sound and feel of a crashing high tide during a storm. The longest track of the album at 6:17 it also carries the doomeist vibe punctuated at the 4 minute mark by the sound of tank rolling by while the song itself marches on.

The final track to me is just as important as the opening track and Gra does not disappoint with an ominous ambient piece with organic horns this time flavoured with a … tambourine I think. This song really gives me Heilung vibes as it is not a metal song but a proper Scandinavian flavoured outro. This caps the album off nicely for a satisfying 35 minutes of blackened Swede-death made by gentlemen that know the game well. And the cover art this time around, much better then Vasen, sporting a machine gun blasting bi-plane of a fictitious design diving in for a strafing run, great design for t-shirts. All told Gra earns a solid 7/10

Death Engine - Ocean (Code Records) [David Karpel]

Ocean is Death Engine’s third full-length and it comes after a break up, reunion, and line-up change. It seems this tumultuous, semi-recent history may play a part in the album’s tight delivery of grinding energy and stratified atmospherics. Admittedly, this is my first exposure to the French band, and their post-metal sludge, immediately blasting in the form of the record’s first ripper, Hyperion, hearkens some 90s post metal bands bands like Shai Hulud, Coalesce, early Cave In, Will Haven, and Botch.

Harsh, pained vocals given the full saturation treatment in most songs, the album can at times feel like a relentless, chaotic assault, but there are polished moments peeling back layers, revealing ethereal moments and depths of melody. While Hyperion, the powerful crusher Lack, and the closer Empire keep the walls of sound thick and craggy, and the energy as up front as the intense rhythms, standout tracks like the single Leaden Silence, Pulled Down, and Mess give the atmospheric spaces room to breathe. Dying Alone is my favourite and the most dynamic song on the album, including clean, melodic vocals and the emotive jangle of a tambourine.

Pain, anger, and disappointment come through the fiery lyrics in songs written with the backdrop of the global pandemic, continuing inaction on global climate change, and the unrelenting war in Ukraine. Bleak times that call for compelling voices calling attention to the problems at hand. While Ocean sounds more like a personal response to these issues, it’s that more effective because of it. The rage comes through wholeheartedly. The audience must pay attention. 

In that vein, Death Engine is releasing Ocean on their own label, in conjunction with long-standing collaborators Throatruiner. This sense of independence, collaboration, and loyalty are attributes that have driven the careers of many idealistic bands and demonstrates a sense of mission. While it’s not their opening statement, if Ocean is any indication, Death Engine have much to say and know how to say it with infectious urgency. 7/10

Abyssal Worm - Kingdom Of Decadence EP (Self Released) [Mark Young]

11-minute blast of brutality!

The EP from Abyssal Worm starts with an intro with discordant noise that runs for just over half a minute which then segues into Final Descent with blast beats, fizzing guitars and barely made out growls and it continues in this vein for the next 1 minute and 58 seconds. Negation Of Grace slows down to throw some groove in there and then hits top gear and stays in that zone. 

Conquest Of Submission, Denial Of Blood all follow that same path so there is no slowing down or variety in attack or approach. Title track seems to be slower then gets faster but there is a riff in there, but the production is a little muted, which could have been what they were going for with this release. It ends with Supreme Antichrist as it began with Final Descent, just foot to the floor play as fast as possible and make sure the song is less than two minutes long. 

It's like the audio equivalent of Speed, if the BPM’s drop below super speed your stereo will implode, sucking civilisation with it in an audio black hole. The intent here is to pummel you until it finishes or until you turn it off. This is not for the faint of heart, this is aimed at those who like their death metal to be as brutal, as fast, and as uncompromising in attack as can possibly be. There are no solos, no soft passages and it is better for it. I have not tried listening to this whilst driving for fear of writing my car off. 

For eleven minutes, this is certainly worth your time 7/10

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