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Wednesday 29 March 2023

Reviews: August Burns Red, Shores Of Null, Cruachan, Grande Royale (Reviews By Zak Skane, Quinn @AV4APod, James Jackson & Rich Piva)

August Burns Red – Death Below (Sharptone Records) [Zak Skane]

Entering our journey we begin with the experimental intro track Premonition which introduces the listener to slide guitar lead lines, surf inspired clean sounding chords and when we get our first verses from the album that are delivered in the form of slam poetry. Jake Luhrs still performed every lyric with passion til the band tails this song with the back metal gaze.

The Cleansing greets us with Matt Greiner providing us with one of the many incredible drum fills before we get more black metal energy with my ear drums being pummelled with layered chords and blast beats before we get the classic August Burns Red technical metal core riffs from guitarists John Benjamin "JB" Brubaker and Brent Rambler along side gender bending clean sections and a key changing outro.

With the guest appearance of Killswitch Engage's Jesse Leech in Ancestry, the lyrical themes delve into the themes of grieving and loss. Jesse’s and Jake lyrical trade off on this album is really treat that us metal heads never though we deserved. The swinging rhythms of Tightrope keep the heads bobbing with it’s swinging grooves, Jason Richarson's guest lead performance glides through the track at break neck speeds implicating everything tapping legato in one fell swoop.

One of my personal highlights is their experimental piece Fools Gold In A Bear Trap with it’s hauntingly chilling guitars accompanied by experimental snare rolls, and grinding bass lines before we are shrouded by shoe gazed guitar layers blast beats before it transcends back into swinging metalcore assault with Backfire. The guitar riffs ascend like the stairway to heaven and descend like the highway to hell, the thunderous brutality of breakdown match Jake's demonic range perfectly make this track a complete nuclear assault.

Other highlights on this album are Dark Divide which channels their Gojira influences with it’s heavy aggressive chugging, pick scraping and razor sharp harmonics alongside eastern sound samples and droning choirs. The catchy yet dark brutality of Deadbolt will keep the choruses haunting you for days, the space, stoner rock inspired introduction to the layered lead lines of The Abyss.

The closing track Reckoning takes us back to classic August Burns Red with Matt drum wizardry and classic crushing breakdowns whilst delivering modern edge with djenty percussive picking from John Benjamin "JB" Brubaker, and Brent Rambler and the Dark glass crushing bass tone from Dustin Davidson.

August Burns Red have always had a consistent discography stemming from their cult release Messengers in 2007. From the start to finish the band still deliver their brand of technical/progressive metalcore. From the classic trading guitar lines on songs like Ancestry, Backfire, Tightrope and the crushing brutal riffs of Deadbolt to the genre bending moments of the slide guitars of Promotion, the surf sounding guitars of Fools Gold In A Bear Trap and the stoner rock introduction on The Abyss leave listeners on their seat.

This is August Burns Red still doing to what they do best, which is delivering their A game and melting minds. 10/10

Shores Of Null – The Loss Of Beauty (Spikerot Records) [Quinn Mattfeld @AV4APod]

One of the things I frequently insist on to people that I don’t know in the grocery store, is that one ought to be able to differentiate between music that is their “favorite” and music that they think is the “best.” The first is subjective and the second is objective. For example, Abbey Road is my favourite Beatles album, but their best is likely Revolver or Sgt. Pepper. So, I put my obnoxious musical proclivities to the test and gave myself a challenge in reviewing an album that lives outside of my own personal tastes.

Shores Of Null is a melodic doom band which is different than the doom I typically prefer, as the emotional core of the music is right up on the surface of its sound. That’s not to say that it’s superficial, but rather, melodic doom is making no attempt to conceal the emotional impetus for the music they make. The sorrow, beauty, joy, and heartbreak are all immediately present to the listener and it seems on their latest record, The Loss Of Beauty, the Rome-based quintet have mastered their methods… maybe a little too well.

The opening track, Destination Woe feels like an unhinged flood gate of feeling and the album only soars upward from there, reaching something of an emotional apex on the gorgeous and deeply moving The Last Flower. It is entirely possible that becoming burnt out on the sheer amount of feeling that comes through the record is more of a ‘me’ problem, than it is a Shores Of Null problem. 

Objectively, though (best not favourite) the album starts to feel a bit homogeneous at this point and I find myself wishing that they could find another way to elevate the intensity of their songs than soaring operatic vocals over the doom-version of a blast beat. 

Moments certainly stand out like the chorus of Nothing Left To Burn and My Darkest Years, both highlights and examples of this particular strain of metal’s undeniable virtues but I did have to check the track listing as the album transitions into Old Scars because upon each and every listen, I was certain the band just injected a two-second pause into a single song.

The Loss Of Beauty is occasionally too monotonous for my tastes but then, that may have more to do with my taste than it does with what is an expertly executed record by a band that knows exactly who their audience is… or ought to be. 8/10

Cruachan - The Living And The Dead (Despotz Records) [James Jackson]

I quite liked the idea of this, Celtic Folk Metal has a certain ring to it, I’ve recently been listening to a few Folk Metal bands and whilst it’s easy to discern the folk elements the metal aspect hasn’t been as obvious; perhaps it’s more about attitude and aesthetic as it is the more traditional sound we associate with Metal.

That’s not the case with The Living And The Dead, opening track The Living is a wall of guitar, drums and a violin which takes the lead in this full on instrumental piece. Following that is The Queen, and it’s a galloping riff that opens this track, that quickly evolves into the metal equivalent of a bard regaling the unwashed masses before a roaring fire, it’s not my cup of tea in all honesty especially when a black metal style vocal kicks in. I like black metal, though my tastes veer towards the more symphonic rather than the raw, cult material but there’s a time and a place for that kind of vocal style and I don’t particularly think it’s here.

The Hawthorn opens to a very folksy fiddle/violin led melody complete with acoustic guitar and whistling, this is Folk music, if you were to imagine what it’d sound like then this, complete with the vocalists Irish twang, is it; this is the soundtrack to a Tolkien inspired buddy movie, well up until the “Metal” hits and that acoustic melody is ramped up to 11 and the vocals get serious. The next track is called The Harvest and whilst I’ve seen blood soaked movies with similar titles, this is literally about the toils and tools of Harvest.

Lyrically it reminds me of school assembly, musically it’s doing what it says on the tin: it’s Folk AND it’s metal.There are moments within the album, the metal ones then, that are pretty solid, these guys have been around for quite awhile but it’s a hard sell, to combine something so quaint, something that conjures up images of maypole dancing, school assemblies and tins of fruit - why did we take tins of fruit into school for Harvest - and to successfully combine it with a very traditional example of heavy metal riffs and vocal lines.

There is a cracking bass line in The Ghost, I’m learning to play so a bass lead will always win my heart but generally this is a pass for me, I don’t mind the Folk music but in moderation, if I was sipping a Guinness in the Emerald Isle then I’d be in my element but I’m not quite sure of the melding of genre here. If anything I was quite enjoying The Crow, seventh track upon the album UNTIL the Metal came in. Think it’s time to dig out those Corrs albums. 5/10

Grande Royale - Welcome To Grime Town (The Sign Records) [Rich Piva]

Grande Royale is a band that has escaped me up until this point. I grabbed the promo out of curiosity on the initial description, and it turns out I have been missing some serious rock and roll fun all of these years. The Swedish band play a blend of energetic straight-ahead rock with some garage, punk, blues, glam, and classic rock influences. Nothing too flashy or unique to see here…but what the band produces on their sixth (!) album, Welcome To Grime Town, is fun, catchy, well executed, if not terribly memorable and not going to break down any musical barriers, but you will certainly get you and move around when the record is blasting out of your speakers.

You get the energetic blues punk of Status Doom. The sing along, straight ahead rocker Tell Me. Some 70s inspired rock with Run Officer Run. A song that reminds me of Hanoi Rocks in Freak Parade. The production sounds good but is a bit clean for me and the musicianship is fine for what this is. If this is your sort of thing you will dig all twelve tracks on Welcome To Grime Town, where the band leverages several different genres and influences but never stray to far from that formula, where if you dig it, your will listen to this party album on repeat. If you are looking for something more cerebral, I would head towards some kind of Post-Something band because this is not that, in the best possible way.

A fun rock and roll party that keeps the theme of this Grande Royale going over the six records in their catalog. Nothing new, but if you are in the mood for an upbeat, danceable rock and roll record check out Welcome To Grime Town. 7/10

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