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Wednesday 1 February 2023

Reviews: ...And Oceans, Crowne, Iron Void, Liv Sin (Reviews By David G, Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, & Mark Young)

 ...And Oceans – As In Gardens, So In Tombs (Season Of Mist) [David G]

A part of the late 90’s/early 00’s industrial black metal scene alongside contemporaries such as Aborym and Dodheimsgard, Finland’s ...And Oceans carried on for a good while before morphing into Havoc Unit. Now back following their rebirth under the previous moniker the band have returned to their original symphonic black metal home.

Indeed there’s a very mid-to-late 90’s symphonic feel to the material, the keyboards providing an apparitional melody in application. Within Fire And Crystal is a prime example of this as the thick wash of guitar runs on the keyboards sit in the high reaches haunting as they soar, until they meet in the middle and combine to close of the melody. It’s an effective device that sits in stark contrast to the furious blastbeats that kicks in later in the track when guitars also go into overdrive.

Where ...And Oceans feel most powerful though is when they create tremulous, echoing guitar melodies. A pulsing example of this is about a minute into the title track, where the rattling drums and screamed vocals push along, and the melody overlaid adds an insistence and verve that’s quite enthralling. The old school Ambivalent God also provides an ear-catching rush, a tinny and frail sounding melody that’s wonderfully evocative, riding atop the blastbeats like a rickety boat on the ocean.

The reservations I have about the album are largely the density of the material. Clocking over 50 minutes, whilst not unusual for an album length, there’s a sense of drag towards the middle. Things have a tendency to get a bit Borgir-ish with the calamitous, whirling keyboards sitting around the edges of sonic boredom. There are also still hints at the industrial past that, whilst probably hard to move beyond, feel like they detract from the more engaging aspects of the music.

When they’re on form on As In Gardens, So In Tombs ...And Oceans create some thrilling stuff. The ability to hold attention throughout the album is lacking, but when it is good it’s also powerful. 7/10

Crowne - Operation Phoenix (Frontiers Music Srl) [Matt Bladen]

H.E.A.T/New Horizon keyboardist Jona Tee comes back with the second album from Crowne. He produces and plays keys on this punchy rock record, packed with metal influenced riffs from Tee and guitarist Love Magnusson who comes from Dynazty, there's a lot references to bands like Europe and others than can cross between metal and rock. Speaking of Europe Tee and Magnusson are joined by Europe bassist John Levén, The Poodles drummer Christian Lundqvist as the muscular rhythm section while Crowne is rounded out be powerhouse Alexander Strandell behind the mic. 

A Swedish rock supergroup they pay tribute to another Swedish band with Super TrooperOperation Phoenix is a major upgrade from their last album, there's a professional slickness to this record which means tracks such as Ready To Run are pulsing workouts for the back room packed with plenty of shredding and keyboard runs, this has to be a set opener or a closer as it's incredibly pacy and will get a crowd going, Juliette has some orchestrations from bands such as Kamelot or Brother Firetribe the melodic metal links strong here. Swedish bands are always a few steps ahead of any other countries and they do melodic metal/rock better than anyone, so it was only natural that Crowne's debut album would be immensely strong. 

Well Operation Phoenix builds on that quality and tightens it all up with the same brilliant songwriting as the duo of The Last Of Us and Just Believe show in droves, both massive Eurovision-like rockers. I went back and listened to their debut and while that was good, this one is great. Arising from the flames Crowne have nailed it. 9/10

Iron Void - IV (Shadow Kingdom Records) [Rich Piva]

I love when I am doing a review of a band that I have never heard before and it is titled something like the new one from Wakefield, England’s Iron Void is…IV. The first question I ask is how I have missed a band in the “doom” category that have been around full time since 2008 and are album number four, especially when they are this good. These guys are right in my wheelhouse, and if IV I any indication then I need to deep dive into their discography ASAP.

As for IV, we are not breaking any new doom ground here, but these guys do what they do extremely well, with a combo of some serious Sabbath, Cathedral, and Trouble worship, with some nods to the NWOBHM gang, but with their own spin on it. This is not formulaic crap, this guys should be leaders of the modern doom march. We get riffs right from the start, with Call Of The Void, which is pretty much perfect old school doom. Grave Dance reminds me of something from the self-titled Trouble record while also sounding like the awesome new(ish) band Wolftooth (who rip and you should all check out). 

Living On Earth reminds me a bit of the killer band Curse The Son if they went in a more Pentagram direction on their next album. Pandora’s Box is more on the NWOBHM side of the house with some Cathedral vibes minus Lee’s heavy vocals, excellent stuff. More straight-ahead doom goodness with Blind Dead, some Candlemass influence showing up here. She may be my favourite song on IV, a slow burn with a catchy chorus for a doom song as I have been singing it though my house randomly (She who must be obeyed!) that descends into hell with a killer Iommi style riff half way through. The rest of IV is similar to the rest, which in this case is a good thing, with the killer Last Rites closing out this record perfectly. The back half of this album, starting with She, is pretty much doom perfection for 2023.
Nothing flashy here, just excellent old school doom/NWOBHM action that is done as good or better than anyone doing it today. Don’t expect anything you have not hard before from Iron Void, but what they do deliver is worth your time in a world filled with bands playing similar styles. IV should be checked out and go for a deep dive into their other stuff as well while you are at it, like I need to do to catch up on this great band. 8/10

Liv Sin – KaliYuga (Mighty Music/SPV) [Mark Young]

According to online sources, Kali Yuga (in Hinduism) is the fourth and worst of the four Yugas (World Ages) in a Yuga Cycle. Paraphrasing the current Yuga Cycle is believed to the present age. Hailing from Sweden, Liv Sin is fronted by former Sister Sin vocalist Liv Jagrell who formed her band in 2016 and this is their third release via Mighty Music and SPV following revamping her band. The ten songs on display will appeal to a certain audience, but not with me possibly because I am older than Moses. 

There is nothing wrong with the music provided here. It’s performed with gusto, played well and is heavy as well as being melodic in passages as you might expect from having two King Diamond members onboard for producing the album. There is a clear path and structure to each of the songs i.e., heavy bit, sing-along bit, blistering guitar solo but it is just bland, at least to me. I Am The Storm for example, Liv bellows and roars and you think ‘YES’ let’s have some more of that but then it drops off back to the more traditional rock singing. It’s a good song and is the highlight because she cuts loose, but there is not enough of it. 

There is a definite shift towards the latter end of the album, with Virus coming in at a good pace and D.E.R doing the same, but they fall into the same trap as the others and it’s a shame because there is some good stuff here, but it suffers because there is not enough variety between the songs. Its ok, but this being heavy music it should elicit a reaction that’s either positive or negative and this does neither. It just meanders from one track to the next following a process and probably and is just a bit sterile where had it been a bit rougher it would sound better. 6/10

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