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Tuesday 28 March 2023

Reviews: Babymetal, John Diva & The Rockets Of Love, Spectral Lore, Mace 'n' Chain (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Babymetal - The Other One (Cooking Vinyl)

I'll admit I've struggled with Babymetal in the past, their mix of ultra Kawaii J-Pop with heavy metal was a little jarring, but they seem to have become a phenomenon who are very Marmite to many metal fans.

After 10 years they started to record their latest album The Other One, inspired by a concept based on the Metalverse, a virtual world that has inspired this new album. Essentially carrying on their theme from the last album. Each track is based on 10 separate parallel worlds and it is a great excuse for the band to stretch their creative muscles and reinvent the band a little into more accessible genres that include symphonic metal, djent and others, their J-Pop trappings still there but the songs here are more mature utilising a lot more in the lyrics while the music is a bit easier to digest for me anyway.

As the time counts down on first track Metal Kingdom, we go into some dramatic symphonic metal, a slower more epic sound than before, it's a great way start the record as the song is very much in the modern symphonic metal style, leading to the heavier and EDM driven Divine Attack, Mirror Mirror having all the sounds of djent and blastbeat driven thrash too that carry though on the grooving Maya. Across The Other Side Babymetal display a style that is far removed from their debut album, evoking all facets of metal (and Russian pop on Believing) but continuing to be to be an enigma all of their own.

Well that is unless you follow the Japanese metal scene closely. Soon to be on tour with Sabaton Babymetal are a live spectacle that are now maturing on their albums. 8/10

John Diva & The Rockets Of Love - The Big Easy (SPV/Steamhammer)

Do you like Def Leppard, Cinderella, Ratt and even Motley Crue? Well then have I got an album for you! John Diva is the Spandex clad, bleach blonde vocalist for his celebration of hair metal, glam metal and the debauchery of the Sunset Strip.

Following up from their second album American Amadeus, The Big Easy is a breezy, sunny rock album that builds on big choruses, strutting guitar riffs, steeped in melody it's the state of California distilled into one album, perfect for those long lazy nights of friends and frolics. Liberal lyrics that welcome everyone, this isn't the Steel Panther's misogyny, anyone can party with John Diva and it's an album made for partying.

Structured to fit as a complete album rather than individual songs it should be listened to as a full album, from the intro California Rhapsody to the closing moments of Wild At Heart, The Big Easy will have you smiling like it's 1980-something. There's a lot to like on this record, especially if you've still got your hair intact to swish along to anthemic tracks such as Runaway Train and Back In The Days. Unlike Steel Panther and their parody bullshit, The Big Easy is a loving tribute to a bygone era and much better because of it. 7/10

Spectral Lore - 11 Days (I, Voidhanger/Throne Records)

In attempt to preceed their as yet unreleased album, Greek ambient/atmospheric black metal band Spectral Lore release a four track EP entitled 11 Days. The brainchild of Multi-Instrumentalist Ayloss, this 44 minute EP is based on the refugees that travel the Mediterranean sea to find safety in Europe. Proceeds of the digital and physical additions will go to give aid to refugees.

A thematic journey through this dangerous route the two metal and two ambient tracks are only a glimpse into the arduous, dangerous route taken by these people often fleeing war in their own country. For the first time a Spectral Lore album features memebers of other bands providing vocals help on the tracks for a collaborative effort that rallies against the way many of these refugees have been treated by various governments.

Starting off with Moloch, the cascading drums and guitars building the first moments of this near 12 minute opener, it's got that Spectral Lore sound nailed to the post and if you know anything by the band this is what you'd be expecting the EP to start with. Roared vocals and an ominous atmosphere, it keeps it's claustrophobic edge through Fortitude/Sunrise which is like a John Carpenter/Vangelis composition brimming with synths, the black metal blasting coming back on Adro Onzi, a rawrer affair than Moloch it sets you up for the final electronic track Tremor/Kalunga Line.

11 Days is a harrowing EP which benefits a good cause, full of angry music. 8/10

Mace 'n' Chain – Among Ancient Pillars (No Remorse Records)

Released through Greek classic metal label No Remorse Records, Mace ‘n’ Chain is a one man project from Sweden with all music and lyrics by David Nilsson, he also plays all the bass, guitars (except the solos) and sings all the songs too.

For the solos he’s got a load of special guests from the Swedish metal scene to lend their axe slinging, with a keyboard solo on Upon The Anvil Formed. This along with the lack of a drummer (I can’t find a name so I assume it’s a computer) would make me think Mace ‘n’ Chain is just a studio project for now. However it’s a pretty complete studio project that draws on swords and sorcery for its NWOTHM inspired sound, songs of battle and victory are put to riffy speed metal (By The Pearl Of Thunder) and 80’s style gallops (Labyrinthian Black).

Vocally David sounds like Unto Other’s howling frontman, so that could be a deal breaker for a few, though I love the vocals as it feels as raw as the rest of the album. Among The Ancient Ruins really feels like a lost cassette from the 80’s, pitched not to be too adventurous but with a lot of macho battle metal to get your head banging it’s another quality pick from No Remorse Records. 7/10

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