Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Thursday 2 March 2023

Reviews: Enslaved, Stoned Jesus, Villagers Of Ioannina City, Acres (Reviews By Mark Young, Rich Piva, Matt Bladen & GC)

Enslaved - Heimdal (Nuclear Blast Records) [Mark Young]

Heimdal is their 16th release and shockingly I have never come across them before on my travels. Described as being exponents of avant-garde black/progressive/viking metal and hailing from Norway, I wasn’t sure what to expect because that is a lot of tags which suggests them as being all things to all people. The fact they have released something so vital sounding in what is their 30th year is nothing short of astounding.

Of the seven songs here, each one is different from the one before with tracks starting off before transitioning into something else within the same song with riffs and vocal lines sometimes coming in what sounds like 90 degrees to everything else. I’ve listened to this now four times and I still cannot find anybody else to compare it too apart from maybe later stage Opeth with how they subvert the vocals but that is it. 

It just grabs you and then that’s that, you are strapped in, waiting to see where the next one takes you, be it from speedy riffs to ponderous bass to clean vocals to death growls to all points in-between. It doesn’t feel self-serving at all like it has been written just to show how good they are, its simply that it is a band that has managed to put together a barn-stormer set of songs that are heavy without being so down tuned you can’t make anything out.

Kingdom for example is one of them that just segues between different sounds and is just royal. The Eternal Sea conjures up images of a Viking crossing without descending into any parody. The songs range in length but do not feel too long so you reach for the next button. Riffs are economical and sharp and there some epic moments that will translate into something else live. The use of sound effects for gusting winds, lapping waves are used extremely well especially Caravan To The Outer Worlds which uses them to lull you into a false sense of security and then it just takes off to imbue you with an audio description of space travel.

The final track starts with an almost Meshuggah type guitar line and seems the darkest of the tracks on here. But this is not a facsimile of that sound as they present this final offering which is based upon Nordic mythology and the gatekeeper of the nine Norse realms. It changes halfway through into a more traditional Viking metal song with the uplifting guitar lines challenging you to nod your head.

It is unbelievable to think that we are now in March and here we have another possible contender for album of the year. This is a rich release in which you will discover new things upon every listen and if you are fan already you should not be disappointed by this. If you are like me and never come across them before, it is an exceptional starting point for jumping on with and they are now on my radar for any UK dates they have. 9/10

Stoned Jesus - Father Light (Season Of Mist) [Rich Piva]

Stoned Jesus have been around for a while, providing killer stoner doom with experimental elements for over a decade now. Given what is happening in their home country of Ukraine, a new album from the band was never a sure thing, but the announcement of their new record, Father Light, had their loyal fanbase rejoicing, and I do not think anyone will be disappointed with the final product that is a very deep, introspective, and personal point of view from the band that is obviously going through some shit given the state of the world today.

Fuzzy, groovy, and doomy jams with riffs for days and clean, killer vocals is what you get over the six tracks on Father Light, with the exception being the acoustic title track opener that may make you weep. But after that you get a slogging killer fuzzy doom track, Season Of The Witch, that drags you through the bog until the middle, where a life raft offers some, dare I say, funkiness, until the seas calm and you are back on shore. An almost twelve-minute epic adventure that never gets boring. Excellent stuff. 

Thoughts And Prayers is heavy in a couple of different ways given what’s going on in their homeland and is a track that must be checked out and is probably their deepest song lyrically, practically a call for help and reinforcements for their countrymen. Porcelain starts out as a minimalist dirge until the crunch kicks in and the riffs knock you right upside the head, until things calm down and you do it all over again. And the guitar work at about the six minute and thirty second mark is just excellent. CON is the most straight ahead stoner track on the record, but still has some unique vocal patterns and background vocals. The nine-minute closer, Get What You Deserve, is a riff filled doom psych journey and an excellent way to wave their victory flag for the amazing win that is Father Light.

It is hard to find anything wrong with this record, other than occasionally the songs being a tad long, but overall, the new Stoned Jesus record is here to scream for help side by side with you and their fellow countrymen while standing strong and never backing down. The most personal and heavy for many reasons album from an excellent band that never disappoints. Stoned Jesus channels all their pain and anger into Father Light to create one of the most epic albums of the year. 9/10

Villagers Of Ioannina City - Through Space And Time (Alive In Athens 2020) (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Another record that has already been released previously as a digital album on their bandcamp and the full show was put on their YouTube but is now on a major label, with a CD/Vinyl releases planned. Through Space And Time is the first live album from, Epirus masters of atmospheric, environmentally conscious, psychedelic/folk rock Villagers Of Ioannina City (or more commonly VIC). 

Recorded in front of a baying Athens crowd in February 2020 at the Faliro Sports Pavilion Arena just before the global pandemic it was originally released it in 2021 digitally but as the warmer weather starts to creep in they have brought it to Napalm Records so more people than just fans like me can hear it.

Based around their 2019 album Age Of AquariusThrough Space An Time is an audio-visual feast that of course features some earlier offering sprinkled throughout, but it's unique in that they play all of Age Of Aquarius in full. Using the unique combination of heavy guitar riffs and traditional Greek wind instruments such as clarinets, bagpipes, kaval, they have amassed a cult like following in their own country and of there was any justice they'd get the same everywhere as there's a primeval quality to their music that brings an intensity that can result in frenzy. 

Just listen to be crowd when they play Zvara, the clarinet is used as a lead instrument and the audience go absolutely bat shit, they start lighting flares and everything (an integral moment at Greek outdoor gigs no matter what Bruce Dickinson thinks).

A two hour showcase of VIC's cacophonous, polyphonic and psychedelic music that builds into mountainous peaks and deep valleys, an exercise in how to build a live show, handpicking the songs that will give you the best journey. Old and new in unison as Age Of Aquarius is the first sign of how powerful they are on stage, Perdikomata resets the pace with a slower track following some immensely powerful songs to begin with building up again with the clarinet and a repeating heavy riff that segues into the brilliant, building, bubbling Skaros as heavy Father Sun comes in the second 'up' section.

Through Space And Time (Alive In Athens 2020) is not only a wonderful live album performed infront of a rabid home country crowd, it's also the ideal entry point to who VIC are as a band. Buy this album and settle in for 2 hours of pure expressionism. 9/10

Acres - Burning Throne (A Wolf At Your Door Records) [GC]

Post Hardcore is a bit of an off-putting tag when you hear it, what does it really mean? And some of the bands that have been labelled this over the years have been terrible and some have been exceptional and there isn’t really a nailed on ‘’Post Hardcore’’ sound so with this in mind today I have the new album Burning Throne from UK Post Hardcore band Acres. Really not sure what is going to come out of my speakers on this one!

First song Nothing spills out of the speakers drenched with textured guitar tones that are full of atmosphere and depth and a rumbling bassline before the soaring vocals are introduced and mixed with a nice sense of occasion and the harsh vocals mix superbly and this is an absolutely stunning opening track that really took me by surprise, Burning Throne is full of epic soaring vocals and a more stripped back verse structure but the bass rumble permeates throughout this track and when the guitars do kick in they are huge and the riff at the midway point is HUGE. 

Hold On is slow and precise and the ambience they create makes everything feel warm and welcoming, but they are never far away from chucking in a massive vocal and guitar part, and everything just feels so measured and on point its breath takingly beautiful at times and the raw and powerful emotion they manage to put into every note they play is genius! The Death Of Me then continues with the general feel of the album a soft and thoughtful beginning that is so genuine and heartfelt it hurts my soul but this song doesn’t stray from the soft and slow approach until about hallway through when it as expected explodes into a huge vocal and epic guitars that then get mauled with the harsh vocals in a perfect mix of light and dark which continues until then end of another stunning song. 

These guys are special, and they might just be one of the best kept secrets we have in the UK right now! Visual Hallucinations is an electronic and ambient chill out that drifts into your ears soothes you and the just as quickly leaves, usually not my sort of song and I moan about them endlessly but when it is done this well you can’t help but enjoy it, this then leads into My Everything which has a big chugging riff that powers directly into an main body that drips with atmosphere and low end rumble and it is almost impossible not to just close your eyes and get lost in the soundscape that is being created, truly remarkable song writing.

Feel Anything then tears out of the blocks and feels full of anger and frustration but also the beauty and emotion which proceeds to drown you and immerse you fully, so far there has not been one wasted second on this album, it is just so well thought out and utterly devastatingly beautiful. Into Flames continues the perfect run and is another song full of big guitar and again the low end takes control of the main verse and leads everything along brilliantly the mix of soft & harsh vocals are again a main point on this song and it works superbly. 

The end verse is so beautifully executed the album could just end there and I wouldn’t complain but it doesn’t and When You’re Gone bathes us in a wave of soft and subtle sounds that intertwine with the vocals and carry us into the type of verse that most bands would kill to be able to write before sinking back into the soft ambience that has served so well and this soft/explosive dynamic continues all the way through before its last track Lost In Our Own World which for one more time bathes us in beauty and warmth and closes the album in the most beautiful way you could ask for its soaring and atmospheric and most of all perfect and that really sums it all up for me.

I am completely and utterly shocked at what I have just heard! The UK has an absolutely amazing heavy music scene at the minute and Acres have just put forward their case to be one its leading lights, this album is total perfection and there is not one missed opportunity or bad song. Burning Throne deserves to be heard by everyone and if it doesn’t make Acres huge there is no justice in this world. This album is Stunning, Beautiful, Devastating, Moving, Powerful its basically everything you need it to be, do yourself a favour and listen to this album now, then when its finished listen to it again and again until you have really taken it all in, you will not regret it. 10/10

No comments:

Post a Comment