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Friday 10 March 2023

Reviews: Isole, The Cold Stares, Depraved Murder, Dirge (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Rich Piva, GC & Mark Young)

Isole - Anesidora (Hammerheart Records [Paul Scoble]

Formed in 2004, Isole have been making huge noises in their base in Gävle, Sweden. The four piece band is made up of Daniel Bryntse on guitar and vocals, Crister Olsson on guitars, Jimmy Mattsson on bass and Victor Parri on drums. In the nearly twenty years the band have been together they have made seven albums before Anesidora; Their debut album, Forevermore in 2005, One year later they released Throne Of Void, the bands third album was released in 2008 and called Bliss Of Solitude. Another year wait and the band released their forth album Silent Ruins, album number five was called Born From Shadows which arrived in 2011, three years later came The Calm Hunter and in 2019 the band released their last album Dystopia.

Four years have elapsed since Dystopia, what have Isole contoured up for us in that time? For the last few years Isole have been making hugely heavy and melodic epic doom, Dystopia, the bands last album was incredibly well received from critics and fans alike, so it’s clearly a risk to change the formula, but change it they have. Anesidora is less heavy than Dystopia and has less reliance on heavy riffs, with more of the work being done by guitar harmonies and melody leads. The Vocals and feel generally is more emotional, and vulnerable with lyrical themes that emphasis the poignancy.
The album opens with The Song Of The Whales which is the closest to standard Isole. The song is a great piece of epic doom, full of guitar harmonies and soaring vocals (both lead and backing). The quality of the melodies is startlingly good, they get stuck in your head almost immediately and are instantly memorable. The song also has a great chorus, and manages to be very immediate, whilst also being a grower. Next up comes the song Forgive Me, as the title suggests this song is very emotional, it feels contrite and ashamed. 

Musically the song starts soft but builds in heaviness to big slow crushing doom, there is a very good guitar solo that fits the emotional sense of the song. Forgive Me builds towards the end to be powerful and dramatic, but the song always has that sad and remorseful feel to it. Monotonic Scream is big slow and sombre. The addition of an organ helps to bring the big sad with this track. The lyrics touch on guilt and self hatred and have an appropriate amount and type of emotion. The second half of the song feels dramatic and intense, and is a natural development of from the slow sombre beginning.

Next comes the song Twisted Games, which is a mix of soft and minimal material and heavier and more tougher material that all feels uncomfortable and brooding. This feel is clearly intentional, an attempt to make the audience tense and on edge, which clearly fits in with the songs title, this feeling of wrongness. The song has less melody than a lot of the other material on Anesidora and Harsh vocals that make this a heavier song and feel more like like standard epic doom.
Next comes In Abundance, a mid-paced piece of melodic doom full of guitar harmonies and great vocals. The song boasts a fantastic chorus that feel huge and has great energy. This is a great song that has a superb guitar solo and despite having more pace and drive than a lot of the other songs, still feels an essential part of the album, and shares the same emotional sense as the rest of the album. Open Your Mind is a more simple and direct song, it’s still full of tunefulness, great vocals and has very strong melodies in it, but the structure is less complicated. The song itself is very powerful, musically and lyrically, and in many ways the simplicity allows this to come through.
Last song on Anesidora is Vanity. The song is sombre and dark, the organ is back helping the subdued feel. The vocals are great and when they are layered this reminds me a little of funeral doom band Funeral. I don’t know who Isole have written this song about, but they must have really pissed off one of the members a lot. The song contains the lyric “You were shining like a diamond, but your soul is made of coal” I think even Carly Simon would think that a little harsh.
Anesidora is a spectacular album, just stunning. Some of you might have noticed that 2023 is turning into a very good year for doom, well this is another amazing album to add to the list. The more emotional style has really worked for Isole, Dystopia was a fantastic album, but this is just as good, the band have shown us a different side of themselves that is emotional, affecting and softer. That added emotive element works so well, the combination of great melodies and very good vocals (such a great performance by Daniel Bryntse) combine to form something that is melodically brilliant and emotionally affecting. 

I loved this album the first time I heard it and every subsequent listen has reinforced that. If you love doom, then this is essential. 9/10

The Cold Stares - Voices (Mascot Records) [Rich Piva]

I have been trolling some of my Twitter friends that are huge The Cold Stares fans about their new album, Voices, with cryptic messages about the quality of their latest album. Well, I am here to say the Evansville, Indiana trio have quite the heavy blue rock ripper with their sixth full length album, Voices. Is it perfect or their best album? No. But it sure does have some killer tracks that are going to sound pretty amazing live and will keep their die hard fans very happy and sweaty.

Right off the bat you get what may be one of my favourite songs in their whole discography, Nothing But The Blues. Damn, what a way to open this record up. Killer blues riffs a plenty and some serious frantic energy. Slowed down just a bit but just as killer is the more straight-ahead heavy blues rock of Come For Me. If you compare these two songs to any of those bands out there playing this style these guys win hands down and leave a band like The Black Keys in the dust (I think this is the second time I trashed The Black Keys in my reviews, come at me bro!). ]

The Joy is next, and would be what would be considered their ballad on this record. Great song with a killer solo, but I prefer when these guys rip it up, like what you get next on Light’s Out. That opening riff is pretty killer and this is what heavy blues rock should sound like (for the most part, more on that later). I have similar feelings about Got No Right as well. There are a couple of tracks that could have been left of to make this record a bit tighter and not drag a bit like it does in the middle, and example being Sorry I Was Late. But the misstep is made up for with the killer title track that has some red-hot guitar work and a track like It’s heavy, which is a prototype for what’s going on in blues rock these days.
Now what would have made me like this even more? Well for one, I would love the band to turn down their production a bit. It is just way to slick for my taste. Give me a little bit of dirty to the bluesy goodness and this would be even more killer. I also think Voices is a bit long too. Taking ten of the most killer tracks would have made this super tight and eliminate any of the drag that you may feel in listening to this end to end. Minor quibbles, but I’m here to review, right?

So rest easy my The Cold Stares loving friends, Voices rips. Killer energy, amazing guitar work, and a mastery of the heavy blues rock thing is what you get from a band that has been pretty consistent over the last ten years or so. I would love to see these guys a bit rawer, but no one will be disappointed from The Cold Stares latest offering. 8/10

Depraved Murder - Unethical Terrestrial Collapse (Comatose Music) [GC]

Depraved Murder are a brutal death metal band all the way from Indonesia and today I have the pleasure of reviewing their new album Unethical Terrestrial Collapse. I have had a scan over the press kit for this and the description of this is absolutely fucking hilarious, Imperative PR deserve some sort of award for the shit they come out with, because honestly, its mental! Anyway, all hilarity aside I have an album to listen to, so game face on and here we go.

Starting off with a little intro that fades into something akin to that of a baseball bat to the back of the head, Entering Into Calamity is a full on barbaric onslaught of blastbeat drums courtesy of Rama, who is clearly not a human being!, then the slicing and vicious riffing, bottom end bass and unholy guttural vocals of Ogy show that there is no time for any politeness or mood setting here and that its straight down to business and that business is brutality.

The Anguish Of Dystopian continues in very much the same way as you would expect and I can already tell that there will be absolutely no variety on this album and at this moment, I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing I wont really know until about track 5 I think, but so far, so brutally delightful. False Adoration almost relents on the pace slightly for the first 30 seconds and you think you might get a bit of a break but then right on cue everything is back to as expected previously and once more there is not one second for relaxation.

Although the tempo does lull in and out it never effects the ugliness and savagery of the song and such is the way on Mass Murder Existence everything is just so full on and there’s no room for relaxation of thoughts, you just have to hold on and hope for the best, but there is another slight slow down in tempo midway but again this is over within the blink of an eye and continues to pummel you into submission for the rest of the songs running time.

Unmanifest Void is unsurprisingly more of exactly the same and yeah, at this point it is actually all exactly the same, you could mix the song titles up and probably not be able to differentiate between them at any time, which is not to take away from the skill its takes to create and perform this way it’s just really doesn’t leave much room for variety??

Past the halfway mark and The Pinnacle Of Vile Conceit, does something slightly shocking and slows everything down considerably for all of 1 minute and although the rest of the song isn’t 1000bpm it is considerably slower then anything else and it allows the music room to breath and show what they can do with a bit of though until the end minute or so descends back into 1000bpm brutal blasting death metal but a slight change of pace benefits this song and album as a whole massively and with that we get the most obvious song title on the album Relentless Brutality, which probably should have been the album title as it sums this record up perfectly! 

And yeah, it’s a good song chock full of destructive drums, harsh guitar attacks and the vocals seem specifically horrible here! It is then actually onto the title track proper Unethical Terrestrial Collapse and finisher Apocryphal Hymns to finish us off once and for all and rather predictably its done in utterly, devastatingly heavy fashion and closed out with the sound that has permeated through this entire album.

If I am 100% honest here, I did enjoy this record and even though I maybe moaned about the lack of variety, I actually think about it now and realise, what would variety offer here apart from maybe making some of the songs sound a bit muddled and confusing? This is unapologetic, brutal, relentless, violent, ignorant, and heavy and it makes no claims to be anything else but that and you know what? Bravo to that! Put it on, turn it up, get a beer and bang your fucking head to this! 7/10

Dirge - Dirge (Impressive Sounds) [Mark Young]

Dirge are a 5 piece from Mumbai, who manage to channel a number of influences into their music and most noticeably for me seem to have settled on raiding the Mastodon playbook up to 1994, as well as the more traditional doom/sludge outfits but it’s the Remission and Leviathan albums that shine through here. Obviously, this is not a bad thing except having 4 songs that each last in excess of nine minutes means they must really work hard to engage you as a listener and in this instance, they fall slightly short.

The four songs themselves relate to the differing measures of pain, finishing in what can be described as the emotional void you might feel during this journey, and it is certainly present within the arrangements here, with quiet introspective moments contrasting with the standard heavy ones that seem to be the standard. It should be noted that they have got a good understanding of putting as much emotion into their music, some of the movements have that uplifting tone to it but as we will discover there is some editing required.

The tone here could be described as Sludge-lite, or doom-lite in that it is not monstrously heavy as you might expect from a name like Dirge. There are hooks in the final song – Grief, which is the best on here, but the problem is that the preceding three songs might sap you from making it to it. There are some great riffs on display, and they show that there is an identity here slowly making its way clear of aping others sounds or ideas.

There is a collection of ideas that run within each song, but they are so long that you do lose interest in them, and in truth could have been trimmed which would have made this a better album and this is apparent in Condemned where two thirds have the same repeating motif until it starts to shift gears towards its end. This is their second effort, and although it really didn’t do anything for me, you can see they have got the tools in place to make some great music, they have some great ideas and it will appeal to those fans of this genre 6/10

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