Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Friday 30 June 2023

Reviews: Throw The Fight, Raven, None, Death Ray Vision (Reviews By GC, Matt Bladen, Mark Young & Joe Guatieri)

Throw The Fight - Strangeworld (Long Branch Records) [GC]

Post hardcore? What does that even mean? It’s a genre that confuses me as I never know what I am going to get from a band when I listen to them which is maybe a good thing as there are no preconceived ideas of what it should sound like? I say all this as Throw The Fight are described as post hardcore and I have their new album Strangeworld to review today. Time to open my mind and see what we have!

We are introduced to opener Cover Your Tracks with a big chunky riff that then dives straight into an up tempo and urgent song that is full of more chunky down tuned guitars that crush and soothe in equal measure, there is the now seemingly standard electronic sound that so many bands are using at the minute and the vocals here, are slightly to high pitched for my liking but not enough to ruin anything! Obey isn’t too different, it starts with the biff chunky riff and then drops down into a muted verse that lets the vocals take center stage and carry the song forward well as they don’t seem as high pitched this time and there is a nice beatdown chucked in towards the end. 

Lost Without You is an ambient and stripped back song that creates a different feeling and of course it does include the ‘heavy’ bit but for my money I feel they shouldn’t have included it as the song was good enough without it and it just seems a bit forced, Sorry, Not Sorry seems to follow the same path as previously and I kind of get the feeling that most of the songs are going to follow the same path now, quiet/loud/quiet/chuck in riff or beatdown, repeat, end of song, which is fine and they do it well for the most part but I feel that it may get a bit tedious towards the end!? Hourglass then shuts me up and aims straight for the throat and is as full on as you they have been so far its fast paced, urgent and gets the blood pumping, great song and just in time! 

Shadow Self then sort of sounds like if Linkin Park down tuned a few steps and I’m not mad at it, it is clear now that Throw The Fight have a knack for creating big earworm songs that while don’t blow you away you get the feeling that you will be going back to them and re-listening a few times. Lost In The Lies is another familiar sounding song structure wise once again full of big riffs and the band themselves create a glorious sound that has grown on me more as the album has gone on. The next 2 tracks Snake Mountain and Wake Up are both re-recordings of previous tracks and both are in general the same style as what we have had on the album, both are as familiar sounding as you would expect which shows that they have been at a good level throughout their time as a band and they end the release on a high note.

On the whole I really enjoyed Strangeworld, while it doesn’t break any boundaries or push you out of your comfort zone, it sounds familiar and is an enjoyable listen that thankfully doesn’t actually ever get tedious like I thought I might. On future releases it might be a good idea to expand the sound and try to be heavier because I feel it’s there but it’s just being held back slightly, but this is obviously coming from someone who is an extreme metal fan so it would be unlikely they would ever scratch my heavy itch fully. If you take a chance on this and really take the time to listen to it, I feel you will get a lot from it and really enjoy it. 7/10 

Raven – All Hell’s Breaking Loose (Silver Lining Music) [Matt Bladen]

The Gallagher brothers (no not those ones) return with more ‘Athletic Metal’ now I know this is an outdated reference but many of the long term Raven fans will get it. Raven have always been at the faster end of the NWOBHM, edging towards speed and thrash metal, unleashing frantic riffs that would have inspired many Bay Area teenager to throw down their tennis racket and get behind the drum set, or something. Yes Raven are a band that can be considered to be pioneers, from the tough streets of Newcastle John and Mark Gallagher trade off with each other with Mark on guitar and John on bass and shouting, this 15th album full of visceral thrash-inspiring songs that are best played at full volume. 

Screaming guitars, raging bass and some brilliant drumming from Mike Heller make for a breathless beginning as Medieval and Surf The Tsunami are certain to get the blood pumping. The riffs shifting and changing shape with every moment, the bass of John digging in on Turn Of The Screw. All Hell’s Breaking Loose is packed with as much heavy metal as it can be, pioneers of the thrash metal scene, the longevity of Raven is astounding and they sound vital here, nearly 50 years into their career, with only really a four year hiatus back in the early 2000’s, they are a testament to respect metal fans have for these that have inspired some of the perhaps more popular bands around. 

Perhaps not as athletic as they used to be on stage, their songs such as The Far Side, Desperate Measures and Edge Of A Nightmare will be inciting pits, left right and centre when they come to tour again. All Hell’s Breaking Loose with Raven so watch out! 8/10

None - Inevitable (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Mark Young]

And the last one for this week, brings us None with Inevitable, their latest long player that represents their fourth full length effort since 2017. Their approach is to simply devastate with atmospheric and depressive black metal, which wasn’t on my bingo card for reviews this late in the year. Digging a little deeper, there is two members, both listed as Anonymous, and this latest offering has been likened to the final stage of grief and from the outset you can immediately see why they would say this. Each of the songs is lengthy, with the shortest My Gift running at 6 minutes.

Never Came Home starts with a building guitar part that barely registers for the first two minutes or so. Just this piece is haunting, and softly done until it comes in properly with that black metal overload of guitar and drums that seems to have been squeezed together to provide a wall of sound. The main part is that guitar line that started it off, that is the focus here and it anchors the whole thing. This is certainly dark in its feel and rises to a euphoric climax, dropping back to an almost muted melody line.

This is certainly a great start, and they continue with Alone, Where I Can See. This starts on the front foot, but with a controlled almost ponderous riff that favours the buzz saw sound in lieu of the clear melody lines from Never... as they just choke the life out any light that may have come from track one. This one conjures up the blackest period of mourning, of the bone deep pain that is associated with that and with just these first two songs they absolutely nail the atmospheric but cold approach. It also shows that they are not afraid to make the music that they feel representative of who they are, and the ending section here shows that in spades.

However, as A Reason To Be continues this depressive journey there starts to be a bit of fatigue setting in. This one comes out on the attack, but in an almost similar measure as Alone, and has just enough sonic differences to make this a companion piece (of sorts) to that track. I’m not sure if that was intended, but the melodies and attack are almost the same. This is not to say its poor, but with this music there has to be something that grabs you constantly, especially if the run time is 10 minutes plus. My Gift barely registered with me, this is an almost silent, whispered track that seemed to go nowhere and ultimately really put the brakes on proceedings and puts pressure on the last two songs to build something to make it all worthwhile.

Locked, Empty Room starts with a piece of melody that just doesn’t go anywhere and just hangs there, plodding away to its end. Its mournful and at the same time fits in so well with the overall feel of the album, especially with the spoken word at the end but it feels as though it is an idea stretched too far and by the time that Rest chimes in with the admittedly beautiful chords and arrangement, I’m somewhat done in. But something exceptional happens and the song just explodes with a wall of sound – distortion vs melody with the black metal delivery sat on top, pulling it together with a slow, measured percussion that grows until there is a stripped back refrain which makes way for a more urgent attack, not in speed but in approach. This is built for emotional pay off and you can imagine the release of writing and then recording this piece, the effect it would have on them.

Going down the full honesty route, my musical taste sits more on that brighter side (of death) as opposed to the full blackness that is presented here. Personally, I think they could have done without the instrumental and there was a drop in momentum that sapped me and made it a slog to get to the end. The songs are haunting, and beautifully put together but are aimed for consumption within a very specific genre. For me, its not one I would necessarily dip my toes into again. 6/10

Death Ray Vision - No Mercy From Electric Eyes [Joe Guatieri]

Discovering that Death Ray Vision’s new album, No Mercy From Electric Eyes features artists from high-profile Metalcore bands like Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage filled me with pretty high expectations. I expected something with a lot of force behind it but unfortunately that’s not what I got.

The instrumental performances are well-played, especially in the drums which provide a sense of hyper-activity. The fast and frantic verses accompanied with solos and the odd breakdown keeps things from becoming too stale. However by the time I was five tracks in deep, I found myself losing patience with the same few ideas happening again and again.

I really enjoy the introduction to Reaper (track 4) for example, briefly using a lead guitar that sounds very Eastern influenced within its tone. A device which could have meant so much more if the song was built around it, but it just feels like a one and done sort of thing - refusing to take the ball and running with it.

My main point of criticism for the record is with the vocals. This band member is very new, only joining this year so it feels like they weren't involved much in the songwriting process. Therefore, the final product suffers from a lack of cohesion and direction as a result.

Overall, there are only a handful of moments that I really enjoyed with a formula that only stretches out so far. With time, things can potentially expand and become more concrete and fleshed out, making for a more complete experience and the vocalist can find their place within that. I’m underwhelmed by No Mercy From Electric Eyes. 4/10.

Thursday 29 June 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Queens Of The Stone Age (Live Review By Alex Swift)

Queens Of The Stone Age, Cardiff Castle, 23.06.23

Ahead of their already widely celebrated set at Glastonbury, and following the release of new album, In Times New Roman, which carries over the retro throwback of Villains, while featuring the experimentation of albums in the vein of ...Like Clockwork, Queens Of The Stone Age perform to a packed-out Cardiff Castle. Indeed, as frontman Josh Homme points out on stage, not only is this a huge show for Cardiff but it’s their first time in the Welsh Capital since 2002, when they headlined The Great Hall on the Rated R tour! As you’d expect, this concert sold out in an instant, adding to my terrible luck in getting tickets on day of release, while my presence here reinforces my confidence in my ability to get into gigs at the absolute last minute.

“You jammy git!” a friend of mine exclaims when I later tell him the story of how I got in, through befriending a couple standing outside the castle with a sign begging to buy spare tickets, and the incredible kindness of a stranger who gives us all three of their spares without charge. You can put that down to luck and undoubtedly that plays a huge part. Still, with this being the fourth time that has happened to me this year, perseverance tends to go a long way. That’s something the desert rock maestros formed from the ashes of Kyuss are more than aware of, appearing tonight like aged yet skilled masters of their craft, our frontman’s brilliant grey beard adding to that impression.

Before them though, Coach Party are given the job of warming the crowd up. Their anthemic style of power pop proves the perfect accompaniment to the warm evening air, and the sense of excitement present in the crowd as punters shuffle in through the north and south entrances to the medieval fortress. “We’re touring the UK this year, and sadly we’re not coming to Cardiff” they declare at one point provoking pantomime-esque noises of disappointment form the audience, many of whom have been won over on the band’s songwriting, even upon initial impressions. “I don’t think we’re famous enough yet” they add, provoking the notion that someone should definitely tell them about our city’s wonderful small music venues. Irrespective of that though, their forty-minute set is more than enough to satisfy. Hopefully the crowds craving to hear more from the group, will hang on until they eventually decide to make their way back to Wales.

Coming on to a recording of Smile by Peggy Lee and launching straight into Go With The Flow, Queens Of The Stone Age are excellent tonight. Of course, there are the songs which everyone knows like the grove-laden Little Sister and the iconic No One Knows which are incredibly satisfying to hear in a live environment. However, far from just sticking to the songs people know and love, the band play a number of fan favourites tonight as moments like the lovably strange Sick, Sick, Sick and the swaggering Smooth Sailing, both of which engulf the front rows in movement, send a chain-reaction of dancing throughout the crowd. 

Even the new songs, while not causing the same scale of audience participation, give the band a chance to demonstrate their technical versatility, wowing attentive listeners as the sound mixing, it has to be said, is incredibly crip and detailed. Strangely, The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret is omitted from tonight’s setlist, probably because on previous nights of the tour, the bands sound was cut off due to the set running too long. I can’t complain too much however, as I did hear the hit from outside the castle, during sound-check.

Josh Homme meanwhile has seemed to embrace the maturity that has come with age, not saying much at all but seeming utterly bowled over by the venue, and the reaction his band gets. “I just want to Make it Wit Chu, ya know” he confesses at one point, before launching into the song of the same name and leading the crowd in a boys v girls’ competition of ‘who can sing better’, taunting us with jibes like “oooh boys you’re so big and strong”, and finally deservedly handing victory to the girls. Seeing a band genuinely having fun always strengthens a performance, and you can tell the musicians absolutely savoured their long-awaited return to Wales. Poignantly, one of the most moving things our frontman says is not addressed to anyone present in the venue, simply being a “I love you Mark”, before God Is In The Radio, in tribute to his friend and former bandmate, Mark Lanegan.

One of the nights greatest moments, in what is surely one of the most awesome set list decisions I’ve ever seen any band make, is the concluding Song For The Dead. With its slow progression, and the way the final section just keeps going, the piece provides the perfect soundtrack to the last ‘go wild’ moment of the night. And, go wild the crowd do, as we’re left with an unforgettable show from one of modern rock’s most enduring and astounding live acts. 10/10

Reviews: Pale Wizard Records, Khanate, Divide & Dissolve, The River (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Mark Young, Joe Guatieri & Paul Scoble)

Pale Wizard Records - Budgie: Never Turn Your Back On A Friend 50 Years Later (Pale Wizard Records) [Matt Bladen]

The third 50th Anniversary from Pale Wizard Records, is the re-recording of South Wales rock legends Budgie. Following on from Alice Cooper’s Killer in 2021, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars in 2022, in 2023 they celebrate Budgie’s third studio album Never Turn Your Back On a Friend

It’s a record that will have been a bigger inspiration on the stoner/doom bands that cover the songs than the two previous efforts, meaning that the songs here are a lot closer to the originals than the stoner/doom versions of glam rock that have come on the previous two, that being said, all the bands put their own stylistic spin on the tracks they have. Arguably as influential as Cooper or Bowie their songs have been covered by Metallica (who have covered two on Garage Inc), Iron Maiden and even Van Halen. 

Recorded by the classic line up of Burke Shelley (bass/vocals), Tony Bourge (guitar) and Ray Phillips (drums), it features some of Budgie’s best known songs including In The Grip of A Tyrefitters HandParentsYou’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk and of course the evergreen Breadfan. The prog/blues mix coming from that early proto-metal style that inspired not only the NWOBHM but also the stoner/doom scene. 

It’s this classic that kicks off this tribute as Midlands doom rockers Alunah, kicking out that repeating shreddy riff Matt Noble and Dan Burchmore drive home how bloody awesome this song is, the percussion of Jake Mason big and boisterous. No vocalist, except perhaps Geddy Lee comes close to the nasal delivery of Burke Shelley but the closet of the lot are the wails of Sian Greenaway, unlike Metallica, they will add the psych part in the middles before that riff comes back. Probably the best version I’ve heard, Alunah smash it so no wonder it’s the first single, a perfect way to start. 

Baby Please Don’t Go has been done to death, but Budgie thought they’d give it a go on their third album so what we have is a cover of a cover as Sheffield Prog n roll band Firegarden set light to this rollicking blues standard. Then it’s You Know I’ll Always Love You, this sleazy rendition coming from The Admiral Sir Cloudseley Shovell, a band who are heavily inspired by Budgie, visually and in their music, it’s a grimy, slimy cut perfect for The Admiral to play, only adapting a little from the original as Regulus increase the volume of You’re The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk a few times, making it sound like a Sabbath song, part of me is a little sad that Wales’ The Biggest Thing Since Powdered Milk didn’t leave this as their parting gift before splitting recently, but Regulus destroy with a screaming solo and some gnarly vocals. 

More of the great and the good from the underground scene as Mansfield trio Syncolima are In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand, Stoff’s bass getting plenty of chances to show off. The dreamy Riding My Nightmare comes from Great Electric Quest a band who have been called Iron Sabbath and Candle Kyuss, their classic metal meets desert rock ethos ideal for this number again showing that the spirit of Sabbath is strong, with harmony guitars ringing out from the get go. The final album track is Parents, Sergeant Thunderhoof keeping it simple but making it very Hoof with the loud and soft changes and the threat of the original increased too. 

With Never Turn You Back On A Friend finished, we move on to the obligatory extra covers from the bands back catalogue. First Canadian rockers La Chinga play Guts from the self titled debut Budgie with some filthy rock riffs, Low Voltage make Forearm Smash from the often maligned Power Supply record, a AC/DC-like boogie as Scottish prog stoners Solar Sons Melt The Ice Away with the first track from Impeckable

Less high profile than Cooper or Bowie but more influential on the bands featured, Budgie will always be one the rock bands Wales holds dearest, and this tribute showing how far reaching their inspiration is. Another belter from Pale Wizard, can’t wait to see what 2024 brings (LOADS of amazing albums were released in 1974). 9/10

Khanate - To Be Cruel (Sacred Bones) [Mark Young]

This is an exercise in endurance.

For the unprepared, like me Khanate are like nothing I have ever heard before. Three songs, an hour running time and some paracetamol for afterwards. This is so far out of what I usually listen to, I have no idea where to begin or how to describe it. What I am conscious of is not being snarky or dismissive of this because it takes the concept of what extreme music is and feeds it into a grinder, spitting out the three tracks you have here.

Like A Poisoned Frog ushers in proceedings and takes us on this impenetrably slow trip through feedback and some of the most harrowing vocals I’ve heard. It’s the aural equivalent of the worst nightmare you could have, made real. It is deeply unsettling, and as it crawls towards the end it gets harder to listen to it. Whispers in the background, percussion that sounds as though death is calling and yet there is a rock-hard structure to it. The control displayed in committing this to tape is beyond amazing and I really don’t know if I can do this in one sitting, it’s that harsh and unforgiving.

It Wants To Fly Now wants to murder you in the most horrific fashion. Its set against some of the lowest, gnarliest tones that keeps with that almost glacial movement. The vocals here are delivered as if Alan Dubin is hanging on to his sanity for dear life and is not sure if he wants to keep holding on. His shrieks dominate, the music behind it is almost secondary and I don’t mean that with any disrespect. The impact would be less if it was any other case. But let’s be honest here, the instruments sound like they are being put through a mangle, bringing forth some unholy noise, all totally structured to sound as though its literally falling apart.

The final monolith to be opened, To Be Cruel closes out the third act and increases the intensity as they (I think) describe what could either be the worst trip of all time or the fatal break-down in a relationship. The delivery is being pulled, absolutely dragged from him as feedback just hangs until it stops. The middle section of this is horrific, between stretched out noise and the most haunted screams. Ever. After this middle it starts to build once more this time as they fill the air with screams, feedback and short stabs of noise that brings this one to an end.

Trying to give this a rating seems pointless. In all honesty, taking a step back and looking at it for what it is – performance art I guess, and it moves in a circle that is beyond a score out of ten. This is for those who thrive on something that is not conventional, that is not the norm and is as extreme as it gets. I had to look online for some background, and they are tagged as doom metal, as drone metal, as experimental metal. They are all these but much, much more. It’s not for me, in no way, shape or form. But this doesn’t stop me appreciating it as art. It is art. Remember; the chief enemy of art is good taste. And who is to say what is good or bad. Because I’ve NEVER heard anything like this, and I’ll know what to expect next time: 7/10

Divide And Dissolve - Systemic (Invada Records) [Joe Guatieri]

Divide And Disslove’s Systemic is a battle of supremacy between Orchestral/Classical music and Doom Metal instrumentals. The incredibly heavy guitars display shades of hell within its mid-range and low-end grumble and aggressively primal drums produce a wall of sound, metaphorically depicted by the album cover.

Track seven, Kingdom Fear stands out like a sore thumb on this project with its spoken poetry and range of instrumentation. Small splashes of piano are heard alongside focused drums and a guitar that has a very dry tone. Everything compliments each other so well and is very supportive in trying to create a vibe. The song feels natural and enveloping as if the tree that is being described by the words, is being planted and growing right in front of me. This all makes for a genuinely beautiful performance.

One of my favourites is track eight, Omnipotent. An emotionally-charged song with anxiety-inducing guitars paired with a drumbeat. By the end of the track it felt like a switch was turned off and was powering down and fading away, defeated by exhaustion.

The classical sections acted as both a palate cleanser and opposing force between gut punches of distortion. A clear example is track nine’s Desire, utilising nature beforehand to provide some hopeful breathing space. Some parts I enjoyed more than others but in all they don’t really do a lot for me.

Overall this album has a lot of good ideas but suffers from trying too many different things too soon. 7/10

The River - A Hollow Full Of Hope (Cavernous Records) [Paul Scoble]

Formed in 1999, The River are a four piece band based in London. The band have released three albums before Hollow Full Of Hope; their debut Drawing Down The Sun was released in 2006, In Situ followed in 2009, after a ten year gap 2019 brought us the bands last album Vessels Into White Tides. The River is made up of Steve Morrissey on bass, Jasan Ludwig on drums, Christian Leitch on guitars and Jenny Newton on vocals and guitars.

The River's sound has slowly morphed over the years the band have been together. Originally fairly heavy, dense doom metal on their debut, Drawing Down The Sun, moving towards a lighter sound until we reach the style presented on A Hollow Full Of Hope that is softer with a slight amount of distortion on some songs, but mainly clean guitar, strings and beautiful vocals. The River has always used impressive vocals arrangements, but on A Hollow Full Of Hope the vocals aren’t tempering heavy music, so the beauty shines through rather than being a juxtaposition to heavy riffs.

The album is split into five tracks, four main long songs and a shorter instrumental to bring the album to its close. The album opens with Fading a beautiful piece of soft acoustic guitar and staggeringly affecting vocals. The style is very soft, gentle folk or guitar based singer songwriter, with a breathtaking chorus, and lilting piano near the songs end.

Next comes Exits, the guitars have a very slight amount of distortion on them in a way that is a little reminiscent of the guitar sound on 40 Watt Sun’s Inside Room album. This slight reminiscence isn’t surprising as guitarist Christian Leitch played drums for 40 Watt Sun and Warning, however this is just a guitar tone similarity, The River have a sound that is all their own. The song has a fairly powerful opening, before going into a segment with clean guitar and very beautiful vocals. The song builds adding layered vocals and feeling bigger before the song comes to an end with gentle strummed Guitar and piano in a section that feels bathed in sunlight.

Next we get Tiny Ticking Clocks, which is a beautiful little song. Soft, clean guitar with gentle vocals, the song does build slightly with subtle drums, incredibly appealing vocal harmonies and strings. The songs chorus is minimal and arresting.

A Vignette has the slight distortion tone on the guitars, the opening is purposeful and driving, before going into a softer section that is minimal and simple. This song is all about ebb and flow, the song builds and ebbs away several times from soft and lilting to purposeful and taut, the song comes to an end in a soft and gentle way. The album ends with the instrumental Hollow, which opens in a very soft etherial way, and then builds by adding strings, and piano to create a very beautiful conclusion for the album.

A Hollow Full Of Hope is a stunning album. The doomier elements may have taken a back seat with this album, but what The River have put in its place is breathtakingly beautiful. The album is very subtle and exquisite, with vocals lines and melodies that are affecting and stay with you, for the last couple of weeks I have been humming the chorus to Fading non stop. I’m working shifts at the moment, last week I was working the early shift, leaving for work at 5 am, I listened to this album every morning. 

It was a beautiful way to slowly wake up and it totally fitted in with the clean, clear light you get just after sunrise in June. There is something so beautiful about this album that I’m not missing the heaviness of their earlier work, and sometimes you need music that soothes rather than battering you with its aggression. 9/10

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Review: Ofnus – Time Held Me Grey And Dying

Ofnus – Time Held Me Grey And Dying (Naturmacht Productions)

Artwork By Robert F Pangborn
"These are but dreaming men. Breathe, and they fade"

This quote from Dylan Thomas’ collected poems is used throughout the build up to South Wales atmospheric black metal band Ofnus’ debut. The words of Thomas, conjure images of dreamlike states, empty vistas and the fragility of reality, the same kind of high concept, introspection that Ofnus want to portray on their album Time Held Me Grey And Dying (yet again paraphrased from Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill). Formed from members of Agrona, Blind Divide, Black Pyre and Democratus, Ofnus have been mastering the slow build, working on this album before even playing a single show, focussing on getting a full album together, deciding on the right label, drip feed marketing and then performing live. With less than 10 shows under their belt they will perform at Bloodstock this year, which is a testament to the work put in by all the band members.

Now I can probably be accused of being biased as I do know all of the band members, (my wife even took the promotional pictures) but I’ve built up years of journalistic integrity so I’m sure you’ll all allow me to indulge myself, just this once as I’m sure there will be plenty of reviews that will agree with my analysis. I’m approaching this album like any other, I’ve spent a LOT of time with it and I can honestly say I love it. Not because of the connection to the band but because it’s the type of black metal I’m drawn to, atmospheric, evocative and cloaked in maudlin, the fits of sheer rage counterpointed by moments of meditative bliss. If you listen to the album, you will know exactly what I mean but let’s dive a little deeper, into the album itself, embracing the chill of a biting wind across an empty coastline as we walk closer and closer to the winter sea.

Coming to life with dissonant beginnings, the harmony leads begin Burned By The Soul Of The Moon in earnest before the song fully begins, the chugging rhythm guitars of composer Alyn Hunter and chiming leads James Ponsford, pitched against the multiple layers of orchestration as the bass of Richard Rees, does more than, fleshes out the bottom end, keeping a rhythm of its own for the tremolo picked leads to build upon, the furious blast of drummer Ethan Rees-Spargo immense as they shift between furious black metal assaults and the more reserved moments of fury. As the 9 minutes counts down we’re given Iron Maiden-like melodies as choral chants are phrased while the blasts come back into the final solo section as James lets rip with some soulful leads.

You get enough time to breathe, before William Philpot unleashes another fervent roar, evoking the pagan gods of old with his multifaceted vocal style, he is the vessel through which the sadness and despair is siphoned, The Endless Grey slowing into a doomy pace, but still featuring intense drum workouts from Ethan as the raw emotion, is wrung out of every note, the orchestrations that swell throughout the song lifting what is already impressive to higher standing. I actually felt emotion coursing through my body when I listen to this first time, and of course every subsequent time it doesn’t dissipate at all. It’s not longest track on the album but its brevity allows it to hit you hard.

Fading Dreams comes close to the more ‘traditional’ black metal sound, pressing the gas pedal fully and not relenting until the spoken word piece towards the end, it’s a way of letting out the emotion of the previous two songs with in an intense detonation of extreme metal bliss. Now you are probably familiar with the next track, Grains Of Sand was the first single released to promote the album, the video featured Will being buried in sand, the song itself has an agonizing Celtic-inspired motif, that leads into some ambient, melodic lead guitar out of a few prog rock bands, beautiful in their simplicity. As the expressive main rhythm comes back the orchestrations have an industrial quality to them before a hard stop finishes things.

Monody really is an interlude, a glistening moment of clarity, between the ferocious waves of sadness, filled with introspection, its brief but affecting meaning that next song Exulansis (The tendency to give up trying to talk about an experience because people are unable to relate to it) is all the more jarring as the brutish riffs of Alyn, Richard and James break free of constraints, William strikes at the heart with his roars, the choirs and symphonic flourishes broaden the sound of the song completely, like Fading Dreams it’s more towards the traditional sound but has enough of the atmospheric style to give it a frigid intensity right through to the melodic guitar solo at the close. These melodic features are spread few and far between but reappear on the beginning of penultimate cut Echoes.

Again they don’t linger, the potent brew of black metal aggression Ofnus partake in the focus again, though Echoes retains lots of harmonised leads over the tremolo picking and blast beating. Time Held Me Grey And Dying comes to a close with A Thousand Lifetimes, the culmination of all that has come before, this 8 minute final epic, is Ofnus declaring that they are far from finished, a dramatic track with plenty of pace and stylistic changes, weaving its magic upon the listener for the pinnacle of this album. The last soundscape of a grief-stricken expedition. Though with more music coming they haven’t reached the apotheosis of what they can do just yet.

The muscle and eloquence of this album is not only due to the compositions, lyrics and performance, the production from Woodcraft Audio, mix from Will and mastering from Abe Fihemma this dark, pensive, introverted record sound broad and cinematic, like Nordic noir put to Welsh hiraeth, a deep longing and counteracted by sense of disconnection. Ofnus have played the long game and they have made Time Held Me Grey And Dying about as perfect as a debut album as there can be. I’ve been telling for a while not to sleep on this band, they play Bloodstock this year and they will be rapidly rising up the ranks from there. Buy this album! Support Welsh metal! 10/10

Photo By Konstantina Frasia Photography Cardiff

A View From The Back Of The Room: Godsticks & Temples On Mars (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Godsticks & Temples On Mars, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff, 22/06/23

The pilgrimage to Fuel Rock Club for the "hometown" show of Wales' premier prog export is one that I thoroughly enjoy. On every album release they always include a South Wales show and while it's often the smallest on the tour schedule, it's always the most fun with lots of Welsh banter and a looseness that perhaps they don't have elsewhere. That feeling of being amongst friends.

Before the headliners though was Temples On Mars (7), modern prog metal, alt rock with a bit of grunge attitude, I first saw them at Radar Festival last year and in the confines of Fuel their unique blend of music made for a good kick off to the evening playing a few newer numbers that will be on their next record as well as a couple from their debut. As Daz Carikas lays down a heavy groove with his bass, Dean Gibb slams hard on the drums, the heaviness perhaps a little too loud for the Fuel stage as it was sort of distorted.

The guitars of Gerald Gikl and James Donaldson trading riffs and breakdowns. Donaldson is the focus of this band, it's his voice that gives them a lot of power and he moves as much as possible one minute in the crowd the next on top of an amp soloing. The final song he even puts his guitar behind him Bon Jovi style as he takes just vocals before bringing the riffs back with Gill for the final part. More frantic than the headliners but with a different style Temples On Mars' next album will be something to look out for.

Next though it was Darran Charles' prog baby Godsticks (9) with new album This Is What A Winner Looks Like in tow they again graces the stage of Fuel to a partisan crowd, kicking off their 1 hour and a bit set with If I Don't Take It All from the new one, five of the set from there and five coming from Emergence. Charles and Gavin Bushell's guitar playing enticing as it dances between melodic prog rock, classic metal and modern metal on each song. The duo of Throne/Eliminate And Repair came next as Darran's vocal approach was as good as it is on record, giving it a bit of banter before Below The Belt the first off Emergence.

Charles is a great frontman, affable and humorous, cracking jokes about the noise level of the crowd, ranking them out of ten before starting Surrender one of three from Inescapable, or as one of the crowd put it...the blue one. Behind Charles and Bushell is the rhythm section Francis George on bass, augmenting the heavier end of the music while Tom Price plays some intricate percussion but is chastised by Charles for not being able to push a button of a taped intro. Building up their set so it ebbs and flows countering their new music with older music to great effect, the excellent Hard To Face, one of only two from Faced With Rage signalled that time was nearly up as the main set finished with We Are Leaving and Lack Of Scrutiny.

After putting down their instruments and then picking them back up for the 'encore' of Exit Stage Right (luckily not persued by a bear) which got Fuel finally to a 10/10 out of noise, according to Charles. Godsticks are one of Wales premier bands, see them when they next come around as you'll be in for a heck of a night of music.

Tuesday 27 June 2023

Reviews: Tsjuder, High Priest, Midnite City, Nocturnal Breed (Reviews By Erick WIlland, Rich Piva, GC & Matt Bladen)

Tsjuder - Helvegr (Season Of Mist) [Erick Willand]

At this point Desert Northern Hell, Tsjuder’s 2004 album has entered into the vaulted halls of Black Metal classics, one of those albums old timers deem a “must listen”. There is truth in that I can swear to, I am one of those old timers that will insist new comers cram their ears with it on the asap. Now in 2023 we have marched through 1 opening EP, 5 full albums, a live album 2 deluxe reissues, a live DVD and one Bathory covers EP to land here at the newest attack, Helvegr.

Opening salvo Iron Beast sets the pace and gives you fair warning that there will be no mercy here. Blasts accompanied by an unholy roar herald the beginning of this ruthless assault, “Black Metal razor blades!” is the very first lyric line. It’s an instant classic of the genre. Prestehammeren just keeps the vibe going, opening with vile gurgling and an actual dive bomb run and then this riff is dropped right on your trench and there is no escape. Surtr opening like soldiers slowly taking up positions before an attack is masterful song construction. The drum work by well known session dude Jon Rice is at epic, beastly levels. This all out drum and riff siege continues, Gamle-Erik making you feel like you’ve been suddenly dropped into a chaotic battlefield.

Chaos Fiend is the absolute ripper of this album with its shotgun blast opening and full speed, all guns blazing forward attack on the core of your senses. Rolling over your mind with spiked treads and screams of “Total Fucking Darkness!”. Easily my favorite track and was added to my personal playlist immediately. This album doesn’t let up though and Gods Of Black Blood and title track Helvegr keep the advance going in good order. Thundering and menacing ‘Black Blood is a declaration, “We stride triumphant, Hellspawned demon lords” is a great line. 

If ‘Black Blood is a menacing anthem song then title track Helvegr is the stadium song with equal parts grandiose musical elements and evil crowd chants. Helvegr suffers a bit here though as it clocks in at over 7 minutes and although I like it, my mind did start to wonder a bit. As if in answer to this the last two tracks, Faenskap og Dod and Hivt Dod are both under the 4 minutes mark. Faenskap og Dod is a vicious song with pieces of the meaner side of punk mixed in and the angriest vocals of the album. Hivt Dod is the short instrumental album closer and it fits, like being acoustically accompanied off of a battlefield you just helped conquer.

This album is aggressive, relentless and packed with riffs and evil and topped with great cover art that is clearly hand drawn. Tracks 3, 6 and 7 could have used a bit of a time trimming but that is really the only complaint I have here. 9/10

High Priest - Invocation (Magnetic Eye Records) [Rich Piva]

When I saw the notification that there was a new High Priest album I rejoiced and hit the pre-order button as fast as I could. It was then pointed out to me that this was actually the debut full length from High Priest who up until now only had two EPs, both excellent, that came out in 2016 and 2019. So, the Chicago band takes their time and are meticulous with what they put out, which really shows with how freaking awesome Invocation is. This is fuzzy, grungy, doomy, spacey awesomeness that will hang with anything that has been put out this year so far.

Take the opening title track, which starts you off with some doom in space vibes until it kicks in and kicks you in the head with some heavy, fuzzy stoner grunge. Yup, all of that. Seamlessly we go to the next track, Divinity, which is some Sabbath meets Seattle goodness. The record sounds amazing, and while I have heard debates on the vocals, I think they are killer. Oh, yeah, this shit is catchy as hell to boot, so you get it all here on this track and throughout Invocation. So, while this album is filled with amazing songs, it flows like one stream of consciousness with no real pauses between tracks, and it works perfectly as the riff from Ceremony demolishes you. AIC vibes alert!!! The AIC that crushes your soul version. 

Cosmic Key brings the soul crushing doom riffs up next, with an urgency to the layered vocals that you can feel in your bones. Haunting heaviness perfection. This song picks up nicely towards the back end to show that the 70s live in High Priest with their Thin Lizzy, NWOBHM call out, until that crushing riff returns to end you. Soundgarden riffage drives Down In The Dark, and I can even hear a bit of Hum on this track, with the vocals really shining on this one. Universe brings more of that heavy grunge vibe with a riff that would make Buzz proud. 

The more I listen the more I feel like these guys really dug Hum’s Inlet from a couple of years ago, but a heavier version but with that same kind of atmosphere. Oh, and with an Iommi style breakdown that leads to a Maiden style solo. All of that. Conjure has an opening riff borrowed from early Trouble (Chicago connection!!!) and includes the great line “It turns out demons are angels dressed in drag…” with more of the urgent vocals that lead this one, almost like we are at the doom mass at metal church., until once again the pace picks up and shows that High Priest could also be an excellent, fuzzy stoner band if they wanted to be. But the pièce de resistance is the closer, Heaven, which I am not going to try to describe, just know it is perfect.

My album of the year list is very top heavy, with about ten records that stand out amongst the thousand plus I have heard so far this year, and Invocation is one of those right up there. While it took a long time to produce, High Priest, in taking their time created their masterpiece. This is mandatory listening for anyone who wants to hear heavy music at its absolute best. 10/10

Midnite City - In At The Deep End (Pride & Joy Music) [GC]

Sometimes reviewing all the latest extreme metal albums gets a bit much and I need a break from time to time so decide to pick something so far out of my comfort zone as a bit of a challenge, it usually ends in absolutely scathing reviews and very low scores, so naturally today I have decided to cleanse the musical palette with the new Midnite City release In At The Deep End, I am as usual slightly weary of what I am about to hear, but he who dares and all that!

Outbreak is an intro, so I don’t waste my time with that and dive headfirst into Ready To Go which in all fairness isn’t that bad! It has a decent upbeat guitar tone and a decent pace to the main body of the song and the vocals are also a decent mix of Jon Bon Jovi and Sebastian Bach at times, the main thing I’m not really sold on is the actual lyrics because they are a complete cheesefest but you can’t have everything I suppose? Someday is another upbeat and summery tune full of delightful guitar work and the electronics really shine through here as well and it doesn’t make me feel sick when the big floaty chorus kicks in, which is a bonus! Also, a note must be made about the guitars, there is a crunch mixed into sugary 80’s melodies and that makes for a refreshing experience! So far so good! 

And here is the ballad! Hardest Heart To Break does make me feel a little sick but I think that’s what ballads are meant to do right? I mean, it’s not completely horrible and has some great vocal work, the bass really stands out in the mix well and it uses the electronic elements well but it’s all just a bit too much for me this early into the album in all honesty!? Anyway, I’m back from the toilet and Good Time Music is up next, with its heavily electronic feel it successfully carries on the upbeat tempo and makes for another good listen, but I am struggling with the lyrics again, best just to focus on the music, I think! All Fall Down sounds like it could have been lifted directly from Bon Jovi’s New Jersey album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I guess if you’re playing 80’s throwback stuff its going to be difficult to sound original but, this is just too similar! Decent song though! 

Now for probably my least favorite song of all Girls Gone Wild its just plain awful, I’m sure Motley Crue would be pleased with a song this awful but, its really not for me and probably has the worst lyrics so far, anyway I would advise you skip this track! Beginning Of The End is the standard 2nd ballad and its not as good as the first one, its really stripped back and does have some nice vocal melodies but the whole song just feels a little too empty and plods along rather than lifting you up, I now feel that it’s all starting to go a bit wrong! 

Until Raise The Dead kicks in and is probably the heaviest, most full-on track on the whole album, it has a dark feel to it and the keyboards seep thorugh and mix perfectly with the darker guitar tone, and it has a killer solo in it too! a well-placed track to really shake things back into life when all seemed lost! And then just like that we get a third ballad!!?? In the shape of It’s Not Me It’s You which is probably the second best out of the 3 on offer so should have just been the second ballad because here it drops the pace again and seems like an out of place choice!? Like There’s No Tomorrow is the last track and is also on par with Girls Gone Wild as the poorest songs on offer, and really just ends the album on a bit of a disappointing note!

Shock horror, I didn’t hate this album! I didn’t love it and it certainly won’t make its way into my usual rotation but that is not the point! It’s an upbeat and fun listen with a couple of throwaway tracks here and there but overall, it didn’t make me want to give up and just slag it off like I normally would with this type of album, which must count as a win for Midnite City! 6/10 (Well bllody hell! - Editor)

Nocturnal Breed - Carry The Beast (Dark Essence Records) [Matt Bladen]

I'll admit I didn't know what to expect with this album. The Norwegian band are called the kings of denim and since the mid 90's they have been playing what they called blackened thrash, but a particularly aggressive version of blackened thrash metal.

Now a trio they are akin to Venom, Deströyer 666, Aura Noir and even Celtic Frost, razor blade riffs, screeched vocals and speed metal drumming are all present on Carry The Beast. Recorded without modern equipment this is the sort of music that came on cassette and was traded between dudes wearing corpse paint and upside down crucifixes.

Unfortunately Nocturnal Breed fall at one crucial hurdle with this album, it's too long, this raw, extreme speed metal should be around 40 minutes with songs that are 5 minutes maximum. Carry The Beast is over an hour with the bonus tracks. The third song is 8 minutes, the fourth 7 minutes and two of the bonus songs are over 7 minutes, that's too long, way too long and it means that I became weary of it quite quickly, only the Motörhead stomp of I Ain't Marching No More gaining my attention again.

There will be many that will love the mix of raw production with more expansive songs but this seventh album hasn't made me want to check out any other albums from these Norwegian veterans. 5/10

Reviews: Vexed, Mothman And The Thunderbirds, Mental Cruelty, Kapnas (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, GC & Paul Scoble)

Vexed - Negative Energy (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

What will be one of the angriest albums you'll hear this year, the follow up to 2021's Culling Culture, is the next chapter in the unfettered rage of Vexed. The trio of Megan Targett (vocals), Jay Bacon (guitar) and Willem Mason-Geraghty (drums) have sculpted an album that is heavier than its predecessor, more volatile and more personal too dealing with themes of death, betrayal, pain and grief, Megan channeling it all through her beastial roars and screams. Adopting a deliberately negative mindset, Vexed live up to their band name witj an album that is defined by rage at the wider world. Vocally she's terrifying, though she shows her versatility with the clean sections on Default or the emotive parts of It's Not The End.

As the intro track ticks away with samples, a electronic dissonance punctured by a guitar/drum beat that forms into an instrumental, making you very aware that this album is going to be extremely heavy. Anti-F*tish is the first song proper, the Slipknot-like intro moving into huge djent riffs, the use of electronics and atmosphere present on all 13 tracks, behind all the down tuned guitar riffs and frenzied vocals. More Slipknot-isms come on the rapid fire delivery on We Don't Talk About It and the twitchy Panic Attack, as X My <3 (Hope To Die) continues the aural battery, changing into a heavy breathing spoken word middle section which is actually more threatening than the main part of the song.

Willem Mason-Geraghty's drumming is expansive, more technical than it sounds, only with a few plays can you listen past the percussive battery to hear the nuance. A track such as Lay Down Your Flowers mixes the metallic grooves with more twitching electronics, an ambient section in the middle and special guest vocals from Lochie Keogh, There's No Place Like Home, putting The Wizard Of Oz through a some extreme riffage from Jay Bacon and turntables too, Bacon's crowning moment comes on Trauma Euphoria, double kick drums underscoring some killer riffs and leads. Vexed have drawn a lot of influence from the late 2000's sound where Nu-Metal and Alt Metal meet the more techincal sound of the 2010's.

My advice is not to listen to this album if you've got an underlying heart condition as it will set something off with it's hostility. Negative Energy abound but it's focussed, feral and fantastic. Watch out for Vexed as they will soon be stratospheric! 9/10

Mothman And The Thunderbirds - Gazer (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Every time I listen to a Mothman And The Thunderbirds song my immediate reaction is “wow, that was fun!” As we get more drips of new stuff from the super cool one-man band (and really cool dude, he is super nice and a very active on Twitter) you can see how his approach and songwriting is maturing, but not maturing enough to not do a freaking Smash Mouth cover. So here we get three new recordings with one of them being an original.]

First off, the new original track, Gazer, is killer and should be the way more people start to get down with MatT. Catchy, fun, original, a cool riff, and vocals that have improved immensely from the first stuff I heard from him. There is a lot going on, especially during the super catchy chorus with the nice, harmonized background vocals. As usual, always weird but never not catchy. Dig that cool solo with the dual synths too. 

OK, so yeah, a killer new song, but let’s talk about the balls to a cover of one of the most hated songs of all time, All Star. I mean in hell, for me, the original will be on repeat. But MatM makes this shit show listenable again. I especially love the screamed chorus and the robot like take on the vocals. I mean if I must hear this song, please give me this version all day long. But the funniest part (I hope he meant it to be funny) is the whistling part he left as is from the original. Total genius. 

We also get a generally straight ahead cover of the Byrds classic (second review in a row I am mentioning the Byrds, weird) Mr. Spaceman. I mean as straight-ahead as you get from MatT, keeping the melody the same but almost making it sound like something you would hear at an old timey carnival.

So yeah, more fun from Mothman And The Thunderbirds. If you have not heard his work, go check out this and the rest of the discography and I defy you to not to leave with a huge smile. Now let’s get a new full length please!!! 8/10

Mental Cruelty - Zwielicht (Century Media Records) [GC}

Having never heard of Mental Cruelty, I decided to do a quick search online to see what comes up and unfortunately for them the first thing I see is that they had sexual abuse allegations thrown at their old vocalist, which instantly makes me think I should sack this off and not waste my time but, from what I can see they instantly distanced themselves from him and he was subsequently replaced. Not ideal I grant you but, now do they deserve a second chance?

Well starting with an atmospheric intro Midtvinter instantly puts my back up because as usual it does nothing and just annoys me, just get on with it! Obsessis A Daemonio also doesn’t really do much for me, it starts ok with some atmospheric blackened death metal but then about a minute in we get some sort of stupid prayer type vocal that leads into some more fairly standard blackened death metal and then after this we get some brie brie brie vocals that completely drown out the music and just make it sound like this was a joke between friends and I am already thinking this song is at least 2 minutes too long and just as I think that they start to SING and it’s here where I smash the skip button, not a great start! 

Forgotten Kings does fare slightly better and offers a decent slice of blackened death but it’s just that, decent it doesn’t go any further for me and the constant attempts an atmosphere in the song just grates on me, and the vocals quickly start to annoy me as well! I then really hope that Pest isn’t about something from their past as that would seem unwise but as I don’t know I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, and once again its all very competent and heavy enough but it is just missing something for me and the vocals need to be mixed down a bit because they are to loud and almost drown everything else out and he needs to try and calm down a bit because some of the vocal patterns are just plain fucking stupid. 

Nordyls starts off with a twinkly sounding middle-ages type beginning and then launches into the usual blackened death metal that has been the whole story so far, but it also tries to interweave the beginning style throughout the whole song to frankly hilarious effect! I don’t like this album very much already I am only halfway through. Mortal Shells sounds like if Cradle Of Filth decided to go metalcore and if that sounds like your sort of thing then good for you because its not for me and it just sounds awful the whole song has a stop start rhythm and tries to build to an epic conclusion but of course does nothing of the sort, rubbish. 

And speaking of rubbish Zwielicht is a mid-album interlude and we all know what that means? SKIP! Now we finally get a song that is under 5 minutes but unfortunately for Symphony Of A Dying Star the short running time is the highlight here because you would think that they might try and dial up the heaviness to compensate a bit but, instead they just seem to add 800 keyboards and it just ends up sounding like a slightly heavy power metal song. 

The Arrogance Of Agony once again tries to ramp up the spooky atmosphere and male you go ooooooooh isn’t this scary but then the actual song kicks in and it’s just vocals, bass, and drums before the usual repetition of blackened death metal rears its head and tries to rough you up but honestly again some of the vocals on this song make me just piss myself laughing! Another skip worthy number. A Tale Of Salt And Light is the last and longest song on the album at 7:30, its just a long drawn out and familiar sounding ending to a disappointing album.

Usually, I would be a fan of this sort of thing but here, it all just sounded the same and there was far too much keyboard for my liking if you’re Bleeding Through and use it masterfully then ok but you’re not, so y’know stop it! The vocals just really got on my nerves most of the time, like he was trying too hard or something, it was just a mess of an album that never really made a mark on me and was forgotten the minute if finished and I wouldn’t re-visit this to try again, so make of that what you will. 3/10

Kapnas - Kapnas (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

To be honest I don’t know much about Kapnas, the album came with lyrics but no information about the band. I can tell from their Bandcamp that Kapnas are a duo and come from Montreal, Quebec. The music on the bands debut is described as death/doom, and the band describe themselves as a doom metal band, this however is false advertising. The music presented isn’t death/doom or doom metal, in fact it doesn’t sound like metal at all. 

What we get are bass lines that sound processed, as if they didn’t come from a stringed instrument, but from a computer and processed drums, however the drums aren’t in patterns, but are kind of in a line, as if they were programmed by someone who hasn’t done it before. That is a feeling you get from every part of this album, this is learning in public. Guitars appear very rarely, and when they are present they are very badly played, so this is nearly all just bass, badly programmed drums and very odd vocals.

The vocals aren’t odd in a good way either; they are split into two different styles, one a fairly normal death metal harsh voice which is fine except none of the music contains guitars or distortion so harsh vocals don’t really fit. Or, a strange whispering voice that sometimes morphs into a strange, very affected childish voice, that sounds like a child taking the piss out of another child. It’s the kind of voice Robot Chicken would use or a voice from the bloody awful Rick And Morty Inter-Dimensional Cable episodes. The lyrics seem to be all about smoking cigarettes as well, which is even odder, who is impressed by boasting about smoking tabs?

So, what we get is bass lines and drums with odd vocals, it sounds more like incompetent Electro Pop, as if Depeche Mode were 14 year olds who couldn’t programme drums and had very little musical talent. On Kapnas’s Badcamp they describe themselves as: “Kapnas is the collective unconscious of whatever THIS is”. Which shows Kapnas don’t know what this is either.
I do wonder who Kapnas actually are. I have three hypotheses; 1) Kapnas are twelve years olds and are learning to make music in public, this would explain the ‘We don’t know what we’re doing’ feel and how impressed the band are by smoking cigarettes. 2) Kapnas are serious adults with no talent and no self knowledge, who have made a huge error in releasing this album. Or, 3) Kapnas are taking the piss, this would explain the truly awful vocals that sound like a petulant child, the terrible guitar parts, the incompetently programmed drums and all the other stuff that is comically wrong with this.
To be honest, whoever made this and for whatever reason, this is rubbish, and it’s long rubbish as well, with a run time in excess of an hour. A couple of the bass lines are ok, and some bits made me laugh out loud, so I’ll give a four. 4/10

Monday 26 June 2023

Reviews: Gov't Mule, Dayshifter, Saturnus, The Final Clause Of Tacitus (Reviews By Rich Piva & Matt Bladen)

Gov’t Mule - Peace…Like A River (Fantasy Records) [Rich Piva]

I think at this point with a band like Gov’t Mule you know what you are getting, and it is usually a lot. A lot of music. A lot of jamming. A lot of guests. A lot of styles. A lot of time required to listen to the whole album that usually comes with some like of deluxe version with bonus songs. A lot of patience, because the Warren Haynes/Matt Abts lead band (other founding member and legend Allen Woody passed in 2000) can be inconsistent across a single album, let alone their huge discography. The new record is right there with all the other things that are a lot. Peace…Like A River is more of the same for The Mule, where we get some genius, so amazing instrumentation work, and some songs that just swing and miss.

Let’s start with the good. These guys are all next level players, and when you invite Billy F’ing Gibbons to play with you there is a reason for it, like the track Shake Your Way Out which is the Texas blues ass shaking track you would expect when you have Mr. Gibbons guest appear on your record. Great riff and great feel to this one, and obviously next level guitar work with Billy and Warren going at it. The opening track, Same As It Was, is The Mule at their best with its chill yet jammy bluesy vibes and killer keys work by Danny Lewis who has been with the band since 2002. There is an almost CSNY vibe to this one and it works. 

Made My Peace is a fun little blues rocker (by little I mean under ten minutes, which is about the median song length from these guys…) and I love how we get some harmonized vocals as we move into some late 60s Byrds territory. After these three it is a crapshoot for me. Peace I Need is another cool rocker but nothing too out of the ordinary for the band, a solid Mule track. Your Only Friend is the band’s Eagles attempt and I take a pass. The guys get funky with Ivan Neville guesting on the track Dreaming Out Loud, and it is fine but nothing I will ever want to go back to. We hear all sorts of call outs, including an attempt at some Pink Floyd worship. After The Storm on the other hand is a killer track and the best on Peace driven by a killer bass line and some more of that excellent work on the keys.

Look, if you like Gov’t Mule and have almost two hours to spend, have at it. For me on Peace…Like A River, give me the first four tracks and After The Storm and call it a day. But hey, these guys are a jam band, so they gonna do what they gonna do, but for me, this could be severely condensed and focused but then it would not be a mule record. I much prefer the live Mule experience, both in person and recorded. If you dig them, go listen. If not, then go listen to the new Church Of Misery instead and tell them Rich sent you. 6/10

Dayshifter – Hiraeth (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Newcastle based band Dayshifter have finally dropped their debut album and if you’re a fan of the more melodic, metallic style of hardcore, which brings in metalcore and even djent then you’ll definitely have a longing for this album. 

Hiraeth is a slow burn, echoed, electronic intro Emerald Green, segues into the euphoric melodies of Holy Ghost, the quiet/loud rule used well as the clean verses leads into screamed pre-choruses and the chorus itself. The influence of hardcore is obvious from the off the songs detailing the usual inspiration of love, loss, death and mental health. Catharsis and defiance abound, Hiraeth is bludgeoning and brutal, the lyrics wanting to breakdown the stigma around mental health, depression and grief. Vocalist Nathan Dillon wearing his heart on his sleeve as he croons and rages across 10 tracks. 

Categorised by the melodic/heavy switches, Tom Simpson and Kyle Fosters guitar playing making Rain (Forever) feel a little like early Architects. Old Souls, Young Hearts bristling with electonica and echoes. Rosé brings more metalcore emotion Liam Robson's drumming propulsive while James Taylor's bass lays down dense grooves on the final song Fever Dreaming amongst many others. Hiraeth is a debut album that will establish Dayshifter on the UK scene, hardcore and melody making for good bedfellows its a positive start. 7/10

Saturnus - The Storm Within (Prophecy Prodcutions) [Rich Piva]

OK so this is going to be the first review that I right that I know people are going to vehemently disagree with me, because the new album from Danish death-doom band Saturnus did absolutely nothing for me. I have heard the Paradise Lost comparisons, words like Type O thrown around, but to me, The Storm Within has none of the excitement those bands bring for me. Look, I knew going in the vocals were not going to agree with me, but I can still deal with some harsh vocals in my death/doom, it is just it didn’t grab me.

Take the opening title track, that musically is a pretty great depressing PL/DT kind of mash, which usually works for me. But the heavy vocals and the spoken word parts just are not working for me. I feel the same about Chasing Ghosts, which is musically haunting, but I feel like you are losing something with the vocals. I am not saying Saturnus goes away from their growls, but I am imagining this record with some clean singing and loving it, rather than just waiting for the musical parts, which are not the most dynamic of their past offerings. The song is super long too, which again I am fine with, but the ten could have been six and still work. Even Tide almost put me to sleep. 

The Calling is my favorite track on The Storm Within as it reminds me of Woods Of Ypres and that is always a really good thing, but after that I am not left with any tracks that jump out to me or I would go back to. The harsh and spoken word combo while on paper sounds like it would be good just doesn’t work in my head. I know for sure some people are going to be mad, but The Storm Within did nothing for me. I have heard death/doom that has grabbed me much harder, with both clean and harsh vocals, but to me I was a bit board with this one. I apologize in advance, and I am glad that a lot of people are digging this, I am just not one of them. 5/10

The Final Clause Of Tacitus – The Oxygen Is Killing You (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

If you put P.O.D, RHCP, Limp Bizkit and RATM in a blender then you’ll get the sound of Reading band The Final Clause Of Tacitus. I honestly thought this style was dead in the water. Funk rock riffs, turntable scratches, rapped vocals and singing about being rockstar went away with wallet chains and sidewalk sweepers. But no here it is live an in colour as TFCOT play music for you next Tony Hawk’s marathon.

Unfortunately when all this music was at its peak I was knee deep in prog and classic rock so never really had an interest in it, will The Oxygen Is Killing You change my mind? Short answer? No. While I can appreciate what they do, 90’s Korn grooves, Anthony Kiedis-like vocals and rapping does little for me (except for Body Count because they’re fucking Body Count).

The worst culprit is I Know You Are, You Said You Are, But What Am I, an amalgamation of several of my least favourite styles. I don’t want to rag on the band, they’re musicians and can play/write songs, they’re up front and frank about their influences but this oxygen was sucked out of the room on the first song. 5/10

Sunday 25 June 2023

Reviews: Structural, Forged In Black, Crepitation, Polymearse (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rick Eaglestone, Charlie Rogers & Rich Piva)

Structural – Decrowned (ViciSolum Productions)

Israeli tech death mob Structural return after a long gap with their sophomore album Decrowned. Having supported the likes of Semblant and Fleshgod Apocalypse after the release of their debut album Metacognition in 2018. Decrowned sees the band again bringing the wow factor for anyone that likes their death metal full of intense heaviness and brain melting virtuosity and guttural roars from the bowels of the earth. Angular, extreme metal riffs come from guitarists Shani Friedman and Tomer Dembinsky, after an orchestral intro to build atmosphere, as Your Damnation hits, Shani and Tomer trade six string wizardry, settling into a groove for the first track proper.

As My Grass Is Greener showcases the mechanical drumming of Vadim Sergyenko against the fluid leads. So far so tech death as they don’t stay around in one groove for too long, Koren Esco’s basslines the lynchpin for the furrows ploughed by the riffs. Having drawn comparisons to Obscura, you’ll know what you’re going to get; complexity but with brutally simplistic guttural vocals from Nadav Zaidman. Tech death can be quite hit and miss with me, if I was a guitar player I’d be salivating over this record, but there are a number of bands in the genre that I’m a bigger fan of. Structural’s music will incite pits and get you throwing odd shapes in the living room so they can’t be all bad right? If you have tech death tattooed on your heart then you’ll love Decrowned. 7/10

Forged In Black - Lightning In The Ashes (Fighter In The Ashes) [Rick Eaglestone]

After four years Forged In Black return with their second album Lightning In The Ashes.

Energizing opener Be One With Fire not only incorporates various styles in the genre but is a re-introduction to Storozynski’s impressive vocals diversity which flows into the album’s title track Lightning In The Ashes. Prominent bass lines lead the band down a doomier side with Dusk Breather which then morph into more of an upbeat tempo laden with atmosphere and purpose – Early contender for track of the album right here.

Dominant drum patterns penetrate Dark Lord Requiem which has a nice flowing chorus, but the short sharp tempo changes are a little off putting, fortunately the acoustic start of War Torn Skull then turns into pure 80’s thrash more than redeem it, absolute gem of the album. The album moves into Chains Of The Damned which has a very Maidenesque undercurrent into Building A Beast and Brother’s Keeper which all blend into each other effortlessly creating an unholy trinity which really is the heartbeat of the release.

Penultimate track Hellucinator gallops into final offering the surprisingly atmospheric Detonation Ritual encapsulates the aesthetic and ties in the fab Dan Goldsworthy artwork perfectly forging another remarkable release. Bringing down the heavy metal hammer with purpose. 7/10

Crepitation - Monstrous Eruption Of Impetuous Preposterosity (Vicious Instinct Records) [Charlie Rogers]

Northern noise peddlers Crepitation have long threatened us with a second full length album, a follow up to 2015’s Violence Of The Slams, and what better time than 2023 when the world seems to be getting as absurd as their appropriately titled Monstrous Eruption Of Impetuous Preposterosity. What does it mean? Not a clue, but that’s going to be the theme here.

Setting the scene for the 37minutes to follow Carcinogenital Space Hopper opens the album with a sample, followed by a brain blistering combination of frantic technical riffing, machinegun drumbeats, and furious yet wacky vocal duelling. Smearing themselves over the borders between technical death metal, grindcore, and slam, Crepitation occupy a truly unique place in the heavy universe, and their approach to naming tracks while disregarding any attempts to write lyrical content is testament to this. What is Molecular Testicular Spectacular Dracula Vernacular about, for example? Again, no idea. Good song though - unless you’re the type that likes heartfelt singing and meaning in your music.

It’s hard to understate the scale of absolute chaos that the band put into sonic form with this record, with very little in the way of recognisable song structure, and the absence of lyrics to grab the listeners memory makes for a very high bar to entry into the old noggin. Often when I’ve sat down to listen critically to the album, I find it very easy to get lost in the aural maelstrom, while barely remembering how any of the tunes went barely an hour later. Ironically the main parts of the record that stick to the memory are the amusing samples, in particular Matt Berry’s amusing anecdote at the start of Priapismic Whisking Of Mucilaginous Concrete Slurry.

That’s not to say the songs aren’t enjoyable in the moment, because if you’ve got the palette to enjoy high effort nonsense there’s definitely a lot on offer here. Small doses might be key however, as by the time Superkalifragelisticexpibabyshakeus closes the album, I’m definitely in the mood to listen to something with a more obvious melody. 7 dictionaries out of 10. 7/10

Polymerase - Dreams & Realities I & II (Sliptrick Records) [Rich Piva]

So, Polymerase is a one or maybe two-man project from the Philippines who in their Bandcamp bio says, “Just some dudes trying to jam and create stoner music.” That kind of bio makes me what to like these guys right off the bat, but parts of their Dreams & Realities series is a really tough listen. Like really tough.

Why is it so tough? A few reasons, but the number one this is the vocals. The vocals are off the charts bad. I am sorry, I hate being so negative, and musically these guys are alright, but please find a singer. I am not sure I can properly explain why I feel so negatively but give it a whirl and tell me I am not right. Painfully bad to the point that I cannot believe they are not hearing it themselves. The good news (if there is any) is that on both albums they include instrumental tracks of all the songs, which is a much more enjoyable listen, but still with some issues, like the very, very obviously programed drums that makes Dreams & Realities sound like someone’s Pro Tools failure. There are some cool sounds and guitar work on the track Dreams And Reality, but it is impossible to get past the vocals. They should have led with the instrumental tracks because they are unlistenable with the singing.

I really feel bad writing this, but this is not good. The vocals are terrible, and this sounds like amateur hour. Polymerase seems to have a passion and love for music, but this one should have been kept on the hard drive instead of shared with the world. I feel like a bad person but would feel worse if I asked you to check this out for any extended period. 2/10

A View From The Back Of The Room: Depeche Mode (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Depeche Mode & Young Fathers, Twickenham Stadium, 17.06.23

My first foray to Twickenham since watching Iron Maiden’s Somewhere Back In Time Tour in 2008 was to witness the kings of synth pop Depeche Mode (10) who happen to be my wife’s favourite band, of all time, ever. So as you can appreciate we were at “The Home Of English Rugby” pretty early, after sorting our hotel etc getting to the stadium (thank god for Uber), meeting friends and then queuing up to get in despite having seats. Once inside we got our bearings indulged in some food and a few very pricey beers and it was up into the stands for the show to begin.

Before we all could get our groove on though it was support act Young Fathers (5) who were first on stage. Trio of vocalists (well four really) front this band, and the music is a fusion of indie rock, soul and world music rhythms. All well and good if it wasn’t so badly mixed that the music was too loud for me, and I’ve been front row at Motorhead, the sheer volume meant you couldn’t hear the voices even if you wanted to. This left a lot of the crowd, including myself bewildered. A polite applause and they returned backstage as the anticipation increased and the stadium floor started to fill.

A minimal stage was unveiled with just the two keyboards now (more later), a drum set and mic stand all in front of a giant M as this was the tour to support their latest album Memento Mori. The tape of Speak To Me played, a roar went up and My Cosmos Is Mine from the new one began. Martin Gore on keys, flanked by long time live musicians Peter Gordeno (keys/bass/piano) and Christian Eigner (drums/keys), the song began waiting for frontman of frontmen Dave Gahan to arrive and we were off, the chalkboard video screen painting the M as that mid-range baritone crooned. From here it was another new one in Wagging Tongue, both greeted well, I noticed that the tracks from Memento Mori are much more suited to a boisterous live show than the ones on Spirit, played when we saw them at the London Olympic Stadium.

Still Walking In My Shoes got a bigger response as they dove into Ultra with It’s No Good and Sister Of The Night, Martin Gore moves his way between keys and guitar, defying the misnomer that Depeche Mode are a synth-pop band, I’d say they draw a much bigger influence from industrial/dance and rock music and have done for most of their career. I particularly liked the way they played a fair few songs that featured guitar solos, even the blueprint synth pop of Just Can’t Get Enough is played as a rock song. As one of my gig companions put it, their fanbase is very eclectic as goths rubbed shoulders with ravers, rockers with popsters, there seems to be broad crossover appeal for the band, obvious really when they only play stadiums.

The duo of In Your Room and Everything Counts, (a song for their merch prices maybe?) highlights what Gahan brings to the band, his voice is lustful, like poisoned honey to the ears inciting you to do bad things, his stage presence too is captivating be it the bedazzled waistcoats, the bravado or the perpetual motion, you can’t take your eyes off him. So much so it’s noticeable when he ducks backstage for a breather and Martin takes lead vocals on A Question Of Lust and Soul With Me. That’s not to discredit Martin at all, as his more fragile higher vocal adds emotion to these two ballads, a hush falling on the crowd as they sing along to every word. The beat kicking back in for Ghosts Again, a small costume change for Gahan and back to it.

Throbbing bass from Gordeno and electric/acoustic drum mix from Eigner driving the dark country of I Feel You and the remix of A Pain That I’m Used To which turns Twickenham into a massive club. With the dub still driving the beats, it was an emotional version of World In My Eyes that made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as pictures of their fallen brother Andrew Fletcher came on the big screen. Dedicating the song to his memory, the shout of his name at the end from Gahan made sure to stop the momentum just before we raced to the end.

Yep it was nearing the close of the show so the big hitters were brought out, the gruff and abrasive Wrong followed by the pumping Stripped and John The Revelator, the seats nearly all standing and dancing, as they had be for most of the show to be honest, as that reverbed riff of Enjoy The Silence closed the main set. I could have left then a happy, happy man as this was the best I’d seen from Depeche Mode, but of course there was more to come. The four song encore starting with a brilliantly stripped back rendition of Waiting For The Night as Peter and Christian took to the keys and Dave and Martin sang in duet at the end of the stage ramp. This moment of beauty rapidly shifted into one of jubilance as the “dun dun du-dun du-du-du-dun” of Just Can’t Get enough belted through the venue PA (the sound was immaculate), making for shape throwing all over the place.

The last two songs were the mechanical Never Let Me Down Again (heard recently on The Last Of Us), Gahan’s line of “Taking a ride with my best friend” hitting a bit harder without Fletch on stage, as both Gore and Gahan are now in their 60's so you do wonder how much longer this ride will last? More grooves, more moves and the powerful riff of Personal Jesus made sure everyone went home happy. 

So often put in the category of being synth-pop, there is so much more to Depeche Mode, they’re more metal than many metal bands, I defy you not to get up and groove to at least one of their songs. On a Saturday in London, coming after the trooping of the colour, this was probably the most triumphant celebration you could have. A perfect demonstration of how to make an arena feel like a Berlin nightclub, I think next time a trip to Germany is in order to see them in front of their most rabid fanbase.

Friday 23 June 2023

Reviews: Power Trip, Degrees Of Truth, Bloodyard, Phantom Corporation (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Matt Bladen, Rick Eaglestone & GC)

Power Trip - Live In Seattle (Southern Lord) [Paul Scoble]

Power Trip shouldn’t need much introduction to anyone who is a regular reader of these pages, or any heavy metal fan. Obviously the best thing to come out of the Noughties Thrash Revival, and possibly the best thing to come out of thrash metal full stop, Power Trip were close to being the perfect Crossover Thrash Band. Founded in Dallas, Texas in 2008 the five piece built a name for themselves as an amazing live act, in 2013 they released their first album Manifest Decimation, which received very positive reviews. 

The success of Manifest Decimation allowed the band to tour more which meant more people got to see how good the band were live, which helped to build a huge following. In 2017 Power Trip released Nightmare Logic which is a staggeringly good piece of crossover thrash, with an amazing production job that sounded so good! (that perfect guitar tone!). It felt as if Power Trip, made up of Chris Whetzel on bass, Blake Ibanez on guitars, Nick Stewart on guitars, Chris Ulsh on drums and Riley Gale on vocals were on a trajectory strait to the top, they followed the release by touring and tearing venues apart, building their reputation as an incredible live act.

This all came crashing to a halt on August the 24th 2020 when Riley Gale died aged just 34. The outpouring of grief from the metal community showed just how respected and loved Riley and Power Trip were, I and pretty much everyone I know who has ever had a passing interest in heavy metal was deeply saddened and shocked at this loss. Nearly three years later Southern Lord are releasing this live recording of Power Trip playing live in Seattle on the 28th of May 2018.

Obviously this a difficult album to review objectively, I have been a big fan of Power Trip since I picked up their debut in 2013, and I thought Nightmare Logic was a pretty much perfect album, so a live album by Power Trip would always have got high praise from me. However, I don’t think I was ready for just how good this is as a live album, or just how powerfully this hits, with the tragic context it now has.

Firstly, this has been brilliantly recorded. As I mentioned before Nightmare Logic had a reputation for how good it sounds, from the guitar tone, to the wonderful drum and bass sound that gave it such a punch and on to Rileys great vocals, and this has clearly been carried across to their live sound, I’m not sure if there is a Nobel Prize for recording bands live, but if there is then whoever recorded this album deserves it. Everything sounds wonderful, and that makes the setlist shine through as this is as good a set as I can think of. 

Divine Apprehension is absolutely battering, Suffer No Fools mixes fast hardcore and an absolutely savage stomp, Soul Sacrifice is a fast, tight thrash masterclass, Executioners Tax stamps on every face, and is exactly as good as you are imagining it to be right now, Crucifixation is high speed flowing thrash, Heretics Fork is tight as fuck clinical savagery, Conditioned To Death mixes slow and grinding with a high speed hardcore blast, Firing Squad is introduced as a Slow Jam, and is the fastest song on the album, Manifest Decimation is a high energy battering, and the midnight snack (the encore) is Crossbreaker which is mid-paced., and utterly relentless and unstoppable. Other than the band playing every song they know I can’t think of a better set-list.

This is a high velocity adrenaline fuelled blast of a live album, it also gives us a reminder of how good a frontman Riley Gale was. He dedicates most of the songs to someone, gets circle pits going, and is the ring master of an amazing crossover thrash circus. Everything he says is positive and life affirming. He dedicates two songs to the support bands Sheer Mag, Red Death and Fury, making sure he talks about how good they were to tour with, at one point he dedicates a song to “Anyone who has ever lost someone, I know we all have”. In some ways he reminds me a little of how Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies is on stage, they both had their own style of fronting a band, but that positive energy feels very similar. Right near the end of the album/gig he tells the audience “We’re Power Trip from Dallas Texas, take good care of each other tonight,”

I’m not sure how to come to a conclusion about this album. As I hope you have already realised this album judged solely on the music is a fantastic blast of energy and perfect thrash, it makes me want to punch the air and scream its so good. Then I remember Rileys death and it makes me so sad, no brilliantly energetic music like this has ever made me feel this full of sorrow. Its amazing and wonderful, but it is also heartbreaking that Riley is gone. Context has never felt so cruel. 10/10

Degrees Of Truth – Alchemists (Scarlet Records) [Matt Bladen]

Having not heard Degrees Of Truth before, I came into this album expecting baroque symphonic metal with operatic vocals and cinematic orchestrations. Lo and behold I was dead on but this Italian band do add some prog influences from the 80's to now. 

First thing you have to comment on is the orchestral arrangements, they are really impressive, a broad, exciting score, pierced by fragility from the piano and the ukulele, but mainly theatrical and powerful. Setting the tone with Imperfect Concoction which is an overture to begin the performance, it’s the sort of music a band such as Epica and Nightwish deal in, a galactic scope put with some tough metallic riffs and those brilliant operatic soprano vocals from new singer Claudia Beltrame. 

Alchemists is the band’s third album, the first with Claudia behind the mic as Lorenzo Corsalini moves from guitar to bass to give tracks like Over The Tide their nautical chug as Daniele Brianza’s guitars riff and soar, the solo coming from special guest Khaled Abbas. He adds a technicality to the pop influenced Bound To Rise, a song that to me has to have a bit of latter day Genesis as an inspiration in the drumming and use of synth brass, the stunning solo here from Richard Henshall of Haken. 

The Luca Ravezzani’s drumming hops between blast beats and funky grooves, though the key moments of this album are created by Claudia’s vocals and the keys of Gianluca Parnisari, he also engineered, produced and mixed the album so is musical might behind the colossal sound of this album. Have I heard it before? Yes Alchemists is symphonic metal from the early days of the genre. Does that matter? No as Degrees Of Truth have incorporated progressive metal nuance to make this third album their best yet. 8/10

Bloodyard - Distilled Aggression (Self Release) [Rick Eaglestone]

Lancashire’s Bloodyard journey down an angrier path for their latest album Distilled Aggression. There’s no gentle instrumental introduction as the album opens intent of removing brain matter Zoophagous Philosophy is a carnivorous outpouring of skill and severity which also has an accompanying video. This is followed by prominent bass lines and brooding undertones for Thought Criminal. Abracadaver has the bookworm in me thinking of the Peter Lovesey book of the same name throughout which is followed by the real gem of the album Trephination is not only a brutal surgical procedure but the combination of tempos that run throughout are an absolute treat. 

As the album moves into Surface Lies Silent and my highlight track Then Came The Wolves I find myself thinking back to the bands 2020 offering Orchard Of Corpses I can’t help but appreciate the maturity that Distilled Aggression already contains. This is then immediately cemented than thirty seconds into Deamonology which at times especially with some of the guitar tones could’ve been lifted from Paradise Lost’s Gothic but of course the nails would be rusty and crawling with maggots. Bloodshed Personified features the albums most aggressive vocals and most technical musicianship, followed a close second by Corpse Eye View

The album concludes with the groove laden Bloodborne which has more of flesh stripping approach and out of all the tracks before it is most in keeping with the album’s artwork and overall aesthetic. Abrasive and unrelenting aggression. 7/10

Phantom Corporation - Fallout (Supreme Chaos Records) [GC]

This week’s first review from me is the new album from Phantom Corporation, Fallout. There seems to be a lot of things I like here, D-beat, crust, death meatal and some old school thrash and punk, I know what I expect and want it to sound like so let’s find out if it does!

We begin with Dead Inside which wastes absolutely no time introducing itself with its brash and snotty mix of hardcore punk and thrash that thunders and crashes along at a relentless and breakneck pace and has a couple of apocalyptic sounding solos thrown into the mix to freshen everything up, it’s a suitably violent beginning that’s for sure, Left To Fate seems to be more measured and has the thrash metal influence running throughout, the speed is still there and the punk essence is bright and noisy again but you feel this is a more metal song than a punk song. 

Gridlock has some absolutely filthy groove metal thrown into the picture and combines nicely with the now already familiar thrashy feel but they manage to put in a slower pace to this song in places and it benefits hugely from the change in tempo’s because it breaks everything up and adds another level of intensity to everything, Alongside Hell is an absolute rip-roaring d-beat punk delight its fast, loud and violent in all the right ways and it’s all wrapped up in just over 2 minutes which is exactly what you want! 

Vortex Of Torment in contrast has a slow and menacing pace, that puts in some sludge metal, but, and this is my problem here, you are never too far from them abandoning a different style and blasting straight back into the thrashy punk again, which while it is done well is of course a bit one paced and leaves no room for variation and then unfortunately Terminal Darkness is a minute of acoustic interlude that is completely out of place and utterly pointless, not really sure why they included this? 

Spiritual Arsonists has a definite old school death metal vibe mixed into the thrash and some more of the groove metal introduces itself about hallway through to try and switch everything up a little and there is even a little sprinkle of hardcore for good measure which would usually make me sit up and pay attention but, by now I’m just getting a bit jaded by it all. By the time No Tomorrow rears its ugly head I’m starting to feel a bit of hesitance towards everything because as much as I appreciate what I am hearing it all does sound very samey at this point and nothing is really standing out from anything else, everything is done very well but it’s just all too familiar. Echoes Of Doom follows the well-trodden path of thrashy punk violence and again does it well but I’m just getting a little bit bored of it all now to be honest?! So, it’s on to Excessive Force and Fire And Fury to bring things to a predictably suitable, fast and thrashy end but, in all honesty, I lost interest a while back as it all just started to meld into one song!

This all started out so promisingly well but just then very quickly became a bit of a drag, its not that I didn’t enjoy it because I did but for me that lack of variation is the main issue here, there was very little of the death metal influence that was mentioned and they always fell back on the thrash aspect of the sound which again is fine but it all just got to predicable to quickly which is a real shame because I can feel there is something there but I just couldn’t connect with what it was. 6/10

Reviews: Pyramaze, Jag Panzer, DeathCollector, Loather (Reviews By Richard Oliver, Matt Bladen, Rick Eaglestone & Loather)

Pyramaze - Bloodlines (AFM Records) [Richard Oliver]

Danish progressive power metal band Pyramaze are a band that don’t seem to have much of a following in the UK apart from the devoted few which is a shame as the band have been a real force to be reckoned with in recent years with a purple patch of albums. The band had a fairly significant line up shift with both vocalist Terje Harøy and guitarist/bassist/producer Jacon Hansen joining the band as full time members alongside keyboard player Jonah Weingarten and drummer Morten Gade Sørensen. This is where the purple patch of albums started with Disciples Of The Sun released in 2015 and Contingent in 2017 culminating in Epitaph in 2020 which was easily one of the finest albums that the band has released. Coming out the other side of the pandemic, the big question is can the band pick back up the momentum with their seventh album Bloodlines?

Not to leave you in suspense but the answer is a resounding yes. The purple patch very much continues with Bloodlines which is a very worthy follow up to Epitaph working to all the bands strengths and containing elements of the bands sound throughout their career. The album is a glorious mix of power metal, progressive metal and symphonic metal sounds with ten songs that mix high energy, high emotion and high theatrics in thrilling style. The keyboards from Jonah Weingarten add a layer of epic atmosphere with symphonic, piano and electronic sounds forming the backbone of the songs whilst the guitar and bass work from Jacob Hansen is excellent from start to finish with the drum work from Morten Gade Sørensen holding everything together. 

The star of the show though undoubtedly is vocalist Terje Harøy who has an incredible voice suited for power and progressive metal music. The songs are all geared to his strengths as a vocalist with even Jonah Weingarten stating “Terje has an incredibly powerful voice, so it’s always fun to write material for him”. The results speak for themselves in incredible hook laden songs such as Fortress, Even When You’ve Gone, The Midnight Sun and my personal favourite Stop The Bleeding with the only weak link being the sappy power ballad Alliance which also features guest vocals from Melissa Bonny of Ad Infinitum.

Bloodlines is another excellent album from Pyramaze and is evident that the band have something special going on with this line up. This album won’t win over any naysayers of power metal but I do recommend that any fans of melodic metal give this a listen plus any of the prior albums from the band. Bloodlines is another excellent entry in the Pyramaze discography and furthers my belief that they are one of the finest progressive and power metal bands out there right now. 8/10

Jag Panzer - The Hallowed (Atomic Fire Records) [Matt Bladen]

Having been a fan of the American Power/Heavy Metal scene for a while, I’ve always felt that Jag Panzer never got the recognition they deserved over here in the UK. Now on their 11th album and following their acclaimed last record The Deviant Chord, the US veterans have turned their focus to a concept album (preceded by a comic book), writing things in a new way to make a more cinematic record that still has the trademark Jag Panzer toughness, but with the conceptual element being the focus as they hit the studio with the whole record in demo form before recording meaning they could expand on it from there so it fit with the storyline of the album. 

The storyline concerns 5 people who are crossing a frozen wasteland in search of a new home, and the creatures they face along the way, mixing sci-fi and horror Produced by Fifth Angel drummer Ken Mary, and mixed by Jim Morris at Morrisound (as all American power metal bands should be), it sounds big and broad the meaty thrash-like riffs of Jag Panzer muscular and macho, the lead-lined rhythm section of Rikard Stjernquis (drums), founder members John Tetley (bass) and Mark Briody (rhythm guitar) provide the heavy riffs and bottom end power on track such as Bound As One, Prey and the frenzied Stronger Than You Know where new guitarist Ken Rodarte makes his mark as a permeant member (he was previously a touring only member). 

Elsewhere on this ten track record, Edge Of The Knife gives us a hell of a gallop while Dark Descent rampages the voice of Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin screaming like it’s the 80’s all over again, though on the swashbuckling Weather The Storm he tones it down to great effect. The Hallowed is a reminder that Jag Panzer are still not only one of the originators of this American Power Metal Scene that features Nevermore, Iced Earth etc etc but they are also still one of the leaders. Dramatic, chest beating heavy metal from Colorado. 8/10

DeathCollector - Death’s Toil (Prosthetic Records) [Rick Eaglestone]

After an explosive, well received debut EP, DeathCollector prepare to summon up even more ear rotting soundscapes for Death’s Toil. The album’s opening title track Death’s Toil wastes little time in laying down the foundation from pulverising drum patters, cold blooded riffs and a soul shattering vocal delivery, which races into Mental Hedonist at a maniacal pace. 

All three tracks from the debut EP feature on the album and I for one personally have no problem with that at all, as they all work well within the context of the album, they aren’t in the order of the EP and their placement within the album give them a new dynamic – up first is Deathcollector which has been perfectly paired with quite possible my favourite newer track Coarse Visions. Terrorizer steps up and offers more technical brilliance, still laden with unrelenting purpose again the balance of old and new is once again effortlessly blended with A Taste Of Ichor which has some nice prominent basslines. 

The album then moves into its final trilogy starting off with Internal Expansion which still makes me scream like predator after a particularly satisfying kill, even after this the aural delights keep coming with Revel In The Gore and final stake through the heart the absolutely blistering Rearview Guilt. This album was everything I wanted it to be, a disgustingly slab of heaviness that I couldn’t stop pulling faces throughout but just wanted more and more. A deliberate, yet measured bludgeoning. 9/10

Loather - Eis (Vendetta Records) [Mark Young]

Active since 2016 or so Austrian 4-piece Loather present their debut full length album, Eis and it certainly lives up to its name, as this is an ice-cold delivery of Blackened / doom / black metal / post-metal as you could want.

Kicking off with the anguished screams, Ephemeral has some good melodic parts that feel as though they were recorded in a different time from the vocals. Instead of detracting, somehow it works as this relationship brings a hypnotic spell to proceedings. With this they have set their intent out as it feels almost glacial whilst maintaining a sense of momentum. Changing their attack, Holler Your Name is delivered beautifully, fully embracing the doom tags despite its speed. Its more the feeling I get from the vocals, as they are sung so to fit the song. 

Its fantastic stuff as it really shows their range. Mortuary has that whispered start with guitar that barely registers, before breaking out into controlled burst riffing, all the while continuing with that ethereal, almost hidden singing. Continuing with that genre bending they unleash some black metal to add a dynamic range. It never reaches a boiling point, which is to say they avoid going all out and are content to stay within that lo-fi spectrum that anchors their overall sound. Its this control that really strikes me as others might have seen that as an opportunity to bring out the blast beats.
Title track, Eis is as chilling as the album, artic melody and those cold, ethereal vocals again that stretches over its 5 minutes, its as minimalist as it gets. Lost Sight comes out swinging, this time bringing the blackened metal to the front. Coming after Eis, this really kicks things along, mixing in Black Metal vox and those spot-on singing parts once more. For me I would have liked it to have been a shorter, more visceral song but being true to their vision they take in those different styles once more returning back for more traditional Black Metal. Proper Burial brings the curtain down on a very strong album, using almost Viking melody line as a base for the underpinning melody that is repeated with a more muscular attack as it progresses to the end. Here the vocals are screamed but muted, looping back to the album starter.
As the album moves from track to track you get a feel that they are not content to stay bound to a genre or style of music. They cross lanes frequently but do it in a seamless fashion. As the title suggests this is a cold invitation to a dance that you might not want to go to. Its not an instant album and it will take a few listens for it to really dig into you, especially if you lean more into the faster, more immediate genres of metal. What is impressive is that with it being their debut, there is more to come, and this is a very powerful first release. 7/10