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Friday 24 March 2023

Reviews: Ne Obliviscaris, Morass Of Molasses, Meg Myers, Maze Of Sothoth (Reviews By Mark Young & Matt Bladen)

Ne Obliviscaris - Exul (Season Of Mist) [Mark Young]

Checking online, Ne Obliviscaris is a progressive metal outfit from Australia who incorporate elements of several different musical disciplines into their music. Their latest, Exul has all of these on show, and they demonstrate this with some outstanding musical proficiency. This is not traditional or paint by numbers metal by any means. 

The six tracks on here range from the epic opener, Equus which comes in at 12 minutes to album closer Anhedonia which on comparison is just over three. It’s not new to have classical / strings within progressive metal, but Ne Obliviscaris use violin as a primary weapon in their sonic assault, and it is refreshing to hear this trading blows with the guitar on an equal footing.

Equus starts us off on this journey, with the violin up at the front and it took me by surprise with clean singing that sounds as though it would not be out of place on something closer to power / traditional heavy rock with acoustic backing before operating the quiet / loud approach with death growls and double bass. It doesn’t rely on this as the heavier side takes precedence as the song breathes and runs towards its end. 

Misericorde I – As The Flesh Falls continues in this approach and as much as I found the clean sound jarring the overall display of music, ideas and riffs pull together to keep you engaged and to gloss over this. I don’t know if it is the way it has been recorded but I felt the same with In Flames last release where I thought that the clean singing just needed some grit, but this is purely personal to me. It is entirely likely that in the live setting, that required dirt could be on display.

Putting that to one side, what we have is a set of finely crafted songs that continue to inspire feelings of awe with some amazing fretwork displays that reward the listener for staying the course. Everything works, everything has a place and is only there to serve the song itself. Of course, with the majority of songs hitting 7 minutes plus you do feel that some ruthless editing of the lengths would have made this a tighter, more cohesive affair but again that is my personal opinion and fans of progressive metal will dig into this and love it. There is a lot going on here and deserves multiple listens to absorb properly.

I’ve said this earlier that it is a finely crafted album and frankly I’m astounded that given the amount of music being released that there are still bands who are able to somehow channel something that original as this with a consistent level of quality that is on display here. There have been some really strong releases so far and its only March and for me this is certainly one of them. 8/10

Morass Of Molasses – End All We Know (Ripple Music) [Matt Bladen]

Clawing their way out of the swamps of Reading, I mean it’s not bloody New Orleans, but it rains a lot. Morass Of Molasses have been churning out heavy blues for nearly a decade and this third album is the trio riding the fuzzy tidal wave of riffage towards the band they have always showed themselves to be. On the back of many great live performances especially at Bloodstock festival, their recorded output came in rapid succession each one composed of songs perfected on the road, which is their home, the dogged road dogs upping their game with each release. 

Signing to the chief label for all things fuzz Ripple Music, End All We know is the first album they have written without touring the material first say the band. This ‘remote’ working experience leading to a bigger level of experimentation than they could have thought about before. I guess it’s a case of write/record it this way and think about how to play it live at a later date! 

Strutting into view with opener The Origin Of The North, End All We Know, gets going with some mostly instrumental Sabbath/Cathedral worship as the pacey riff, slows toward the end into slow, undulating doom the vocals coming in screamed and rabid as it segues into the grooving, urgent Hellfayre, so this third full length unleashes a potent double whammy to begin and from here we delve deeper into the musical vision of the band. Sinkhole gives some hip shaking, with Bones’ baritone guitar used well, Phil Williams’ lead guitar covering the ground between the pulsating baritone and the haywire drumming of Raj Puni. 

Sinkhole’s turbulence gives way to textured, atmospheric opening to Naysayer before more lovely riffage washes over you, leading to a bluesy guitar solo towards the end. The dual vocal shouts are ideal for these riff slinging Brits, even on the more psychedelic tones of Slingshot Around The Sun, they’re replaced by a Billy Corgan sneer, again showing how much time has gone into making this record sound better than any of their previous efforts (not that they are bad). 

While the beginning of this album starts with its heaviest, primordial moments as we move towards the end, the psych and folk influences work their way into Terra Nova, I even hear some flute ala Jethro Tull or Blood Ceremony. Prima Mater continues on an ascent towards the galaxy leading to the space rock jamming of Wings Of Reverie to climb higher into cosmic realms. Sequenced perfectly, with an experimental ear, End All We Know is Morasses Of Molasses most accomplished record to date. 9/10

Meg Myers – TZIA (Sumerian Records) [Matt Bladen]

Something a little different now on Sumerian Records who snapped up alternative artist Meg Myers. Her debut album Sorry saw her skyrocket to fame playing Conan, Jimmy Fallon as well as Lollapalooza and Coachella and tours supporting MCR and Pixies. It must have been a huge amount of pressure for the then 19 year old, her fame again ramping up when her cover of Running Up That Hill hit to #1 42 weeks after its release. However Meg is now more comfortable on a label such as Sumerian where she has free reign to do as she wants, working outside of major label spotlights her last two EP’s have come through Sumerian, with TZIA being the third release for the label but the first full length.

Meg is multi-instrumentalist and uses her music as therapy and catharsis, here she adds to this meaning with a more spiritual pursuit of a higher power through meditation and the transference of energy. But it also dwells amongst the human condition using music as way to explore and heal while also empowering and liberating. A feminist, sexually liberated, album to cleanse her of trauma, PTSD and abuse, it’s the rawest record she has recorded, most of the tracks stripped back to a simple electronic beat and vocals, Meg wearing her heart and more on her sleeve to get her point across. Musically there’s the experimental density of Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel with the honesty of Fiona Apple and the attitude of PJ Harvey and Alanis Morrisette, her grunge/punk credentials creeping into the alternative pop anthems. Even on the harp-driven cover of Linkin Park’s Numb, Meg retains the frustration of the original, the stripped back composition making it more potent.

Her own music is turbulent and terrific, Ovaries Speak screaming stigma and mental health issues that face so many women, HTIS rages with Luna Shadows & Carmen Vandenberg adding their work, I just Wanna Touch Somebody has a longing to it while the title track is all about connecting to something higher than ourselves. 15 tracks long, though a few are under 3 minutes, TZIA is something of a rebirth for Meg Myers, as vital to the scene as Emma Ruth Rundle, St Vincent or those pioneering 90’s artists. This isn’t a metal album but it’s a wonderful record for music lovers. 9/10

Maze Of Sothoth - Extirpated Light (Everlasting Spew Records) [Mark Young]

Sometimes, all you want is old-school, brutality. Insane BPM’s, the deepest growls all wrapped up in a relatively short space of time. And this is what is delivered here. Make no mistake, Italian death metal mentalists Maze Of Sothoth bring brutality, intensity for your listening pleasure. It is like a sonic battering ram, with song after song just coming at you with the intent of kicking you around for 36 minutes. It is unapologetic in its approach, in just going for the throat.

These just blast from the start, with The Unspeakable just flashing past in 3 minutes and the pace just seems to get faster with Eliminate Contamination and The Revocation Dogma both showing enough technical skill to prevent you from becoming fatigued from the sheer velocity. They slow for Blood Tribute which has that Morbid Angel influence all over it until it decides to switch gears and just take off and then slow again with a blistering solo to close it out. It is just spot on and despite being the longest track here it doesn’t feel like it all. They don’t want to let up, as if adhering to the death metal commandments that start with Thou Shall Not Be Slow.

It's strange that with a release like this, that has seemingly one aim but to be as brutal and old-school as is possible (two aims?) and then achieving doesn’t leave you an awful lot to talk about. It is not a disservice to the songs at all as they are all at a consistent level of quality, in performance and arrangement and I would be complaining if they didn’t batter me all over the place. If they can repeat this live, you know for a fact you aren’t coming out of that pit without bruises and blood on you.

They know what they need to do and just do it and are damn effective at it.

Looking online, it is their second full length effort and are garnering good reviews elsewhere. You can argue that there isn’t a lot of variety in the music here, but to be fair are you looking for it? It is heads down, straight ahead death metal which comes in, slays and doesn’t overstay its welcome.

So, to recap: Blast beats – check. Double bass – check. Guttural vocals – check. Guitar solos – check. Is there progressive variety – no. Is it for those who like shouty then softly then shouty parts - no. 7/10

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