Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Reviews: The Anchoret, AVKRVST, Iron Buddha, Motorpsycho (Reviews By C Hunter, Matt Bladen, Quinn @AV4Apod & David Karpel)

The Anchoret - It All Began With Loneliness (Willowtip Records) [C Hunter]

The Anchoret is a Progressive Metal project that combines Prog Rock sensibilities with Modern Metal energy, featuring members from The Tangent, Aviations, Gargoyl, Heaven’s Cry and Karcius. The Anchoret release their debut album It All Began With Loneliness with Willowtip Records June 23rd.

An Office For…. Is a delicate starter. Santana playing the blues for a melancholic King Crimson played out by a noir sax. A Dead Man starts off feeling a lot like Opeth’s Watershed era to me… plus flute. Just past the halfway point, A Dead Man uses a simple feel good chord progression leaving plenty of room for the keys and lead guitars to shine through. The contrast back to the chorus’ darker and more dissonant chords is very effective. The song culminates with a gospel vocal performance by Nimiwari and another soulful lead from guitarist Leo Estalles. Tapering off into the absurd stocked prog ending of discordant keys and intentionally clunky reverberated percussion.

Until The Sun is drummer James Christopher Knoerl’s queue to go nuts. A much faster almost death metal like piece that settles down for a big chord chorus and heartfelt vocal harmonies from Sylvain Auclair. I especially like that Andy Tillison’s synth solo reminded me of the old Sega game Streets Of Rage, and I refuse to explain myself. Diminished chords hold and drop like a raised sledge hammer waiting for gravity. The song ends like somebody put a dirty sax solo over the breakdown of Black Sabbath’s Children Of The Grave; And that… Is a very good thing indeed.

Someone Listening is musically everything I want to hear; Those mournful and desolate chords, desperation and malevolence and even a few gypsy jazz inspired guitar licks. Jazz section, drum fills with more taste than a Catfish ( Fun fact: The Catfish has more tastebuds than any other animal on earth). However, for this song, the vocals reminded me of David Draiman from Disturbed trying to do his best Micheal Bolton impersonation. Both great singers, but it just took me out of the place that the instruments had brought me to.

Forsaken understands that it was about time that somebody started a song with a sax solo and then switched to traditional thrash. Many songs don’t realise this. The song has more personalities than that geezer from Split and it’s hard to judge in this instance whether that is a good thing or not.

Buried is another beautiful song. A melodic death motif versus a cryptic picking progression. All Turns To Clay is all kinds of yes! Heavy prog groove, well constructed, complex enough yet easy listening for an eight minute plus progressive metal song. Have you ever heard a guitar duel with a flute before? If not, maybe it’s about time you did and listened to their track Unafraid. While Stay is a pleasant winding down from the above. Soothing like an ice cream after a hot curry. Many would stay, but for me personally, I’m not a big fan of desert.

It All Began With Loneliness is an impressive debut! The musicianship is all topnotch. The songs are smart, full of mixed emotions and technique, and catchy enough in places to engage those who are less inclined to listen to more lengthy and indulgent music. However, it is with those catchier pieces that run the risk of cliches. It’s great to give a listener something to feel rather than drowning them out with notes. But within these gentler parts, I can’t help but feel I’ve heard them many times before.

Like the drone shot over a long road surrounded by dense woodland in a horror movie. Is it necessary to set the scene like this? Or could it have been replaced with something more original? It’s hard to gauge. Which is bloody unfortunate, as the album also includes some of the best riffs I’ve heard in ages. 8/10

AVKRVST - The Approbation (Inside Out Music) [Matt Bladen]

Warning! This album is not immediate, it takes a few listens to really open up. Immediately you can hear influences from Porcupine Tree on the opener The Pale Moon, which starts out melodic and heavily augmented with synths, keys and organs and Opeth on the raging Isolation. Both of these bands inspire most of the record but AVKRVST go deeper than that, beauty and anger hand in hand as Martin Utby (drums/synths) and Simon Bergseth (guitar/bass/vocals) create music that is inspired by the bands they grew up listening too.

These of course include Porcupine Tree and Opeth but also stem to Neal Morse and King Crimson (heard on the pastoral Arcane Clouds), their fellow Norwegians Leprous and also Anathema’s use of emotion too from what I can hear. Joining Simon and Martin are Øystein Aadland on bass/keys, Edvard Seim on guitars and Auver Gaaren on keys, fleshing out the music created by the initial duo. The band took their concept of someone being isolated in a cabin in the dark woods to heart by recording the album in a cabin in Alvdal during the autumn and winter.

Hyper focussing on the meaning of the lyrics and influencing the song writing. This immersion allowed them to fully explore the themes of introspection, isolation, remorse and the passage of time that the album deals with, recorded at night under the stars, The Approbation is a dark and sinister album but full of sadness and despair, similar in tone to Steven Wilson’s The Raven That Refused To Sing, that too an album that was heavily steeped in loss. The band are brilliant musicians, melding the instruments into stunning compositions that will appease any fans of the bands mentioned but for me the sequencing makes it just that little bit more appealing than many bands playing this style of music.

The fluidity of this record is a joy to hear, as Arcane Clouds flows seamlessly into the haunting ambience at the beginning of Anodyne before we’re drawn into organ driven prog rock wonder, a 9 minute penultimate movement that is the defining moment of this album, until the 12 minute title track closes things with multiple layers of mellotron, acoustic guitars building into a euphoric final song which closes our descent into a wounded psyche. It’s the heaviest track here, sneered, distorted vocals against walls of guitar riffs, industrial influences bleeding into the drumming and the chugging middle section before the final moments just wash over you with the repetition and beauty of Anathema, the last section a repeat of acoustic intro Østerdalen

So with a few listens The Approbation will reveal plenty of depth, long after you’ve stopped shouting “that sounds like Opeth, that sounds like Porcupine Tree”, it will become stand on its own strength as AVKRVST introduce themselves to the world. 9/10

Iron Buddha - Raze/Repose (Self Released) [Quinn Mattfeld/@AV4Apod]

19th Century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued in his seminal treatise on Hellenism "The Birth of Tragedy– wait- wait- where are you going?! I promise this whole review isn't about Nietzsche… Okay, some of this review isn't about Nietzsche… Alright, fine, I'll just sum it up really fast so we can all get back to Vanderpump Rules. 

One of Nietzsche’s big points was that Greek tragedy was super dark and gruesome because they just loved life so bloody much. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Or, as a metalhead, (presumably as you are reading my review of a Sludge band) does it sound familiar? You love dark, evil shit, right? So how come you’re not similarly dark and evil? You’re actually kind of a chill, happy, well-adjusted human. What’s wrong with you?

In answer to that question, I think there is no better example than Sludge metal. Sludge was born in the Pacific Northwest by bands like (The) Melvins and Blood Circus but mutated into the subgenre we recognize today in the heavy metal laboratory of 90’s New Orleans. Sludge pioneers Crowbar were like if a bunch of your uncles got together to write music about how work sucks and it turned out they were inexplicably great at it. The emergence of NOLA sister bands like Acid Bath, Soilent Green, and EyeHateGod, posited Sludge as a metal movement seemingly devoted to abject nihilism. 

It was a filthy, brutal, self-destructive and regular destructive mirror held up to nature before someone smashed it into your face then used the broken shards to carve "void slut" on their torso and passed out in the corner of an abandoned housing project. Sludge is a subgenre that by all outward appearances, wishes it didn't have to exist; less a creative impulse and more the cancerous inevitability of a world that is truly and deeply fucked.

Enter Iron Buddha and their debut EP Raze/Repose with song titles like Sansin / Echo SummitMara / Tongues and Yama / Sunder. Has Sludge metal, like the Glam rockers Poison before them, actually found something to believe in? In this case, a collection of divine figures from Eastern mysticism like the namesake of their opening track Sansin, a Mountain God, whose cult of tiger-worshiping Buddhists still exist in modern day Korea?

The record opens in typical sludgian fashion with distorted guitar feedback, a calling card for the subgenre as it represents the exaltation of a mistake, a sound that both should not and must be. And from here, Iron Buddha careens violently through thirty minutes and thirty seconds of pure, unadulterated Sludge, lurching somehow deftly from pummeling up-tempo chaos as frontman Emilio Acosta echoes the Cro-magnon battle cries of Liverpudlian Doom outfit Conan, to chugging, deeply downtuned, and crushingly heavy riffs reminiscent of Post-metal progenitors Isis or the inimitable stoner Doom of Yob.

There is a staggering amount of variety here from a subgenre that tends, in its weaker moments, toward homogeneity. Iron Buddha has not only avoided that fate but crafted one of the best releases of 2023, with a debut EP of superlative heaviness, surprising emotional depth, and undeniable musical acumen. But what are they doing to Sludge metal? Have the nihilists gone soft and lost their violent devotion to abnegation in a cloud of Eastern occultism? Or has Iron Buddha dug down into the core of Sludge metal and found something like the opposite of cynicism and degradation… something like the terrifying certainty of belief? 

Or as Nietzsche said (whatever, you’re almost done), “An intellectual preference for what is hard, gruesome, evil, problematic in existence, arising from well-being, overflowing with health, an abundance of life…” 10/10

Motorpsycho - Yay! (Stickman Records/Det Nordenfjeldske Grammofonselskab) [David Karpel]

When a veteran band like Motorpsycho has a history of blessedly strange progressive turns, combining sounds as varied as indie rock, psych pop, jazz fusion, progressive metal, and so much more, their every album comes with expectations for electrified jams, poetic lyrics, and a sense of questing. Only a year since their last album, Motorpsycho have returned with Yay!, an album that just might defy every expectation out there. 

Mostly acoustic and mostly structured around pop dynamics, the thirteen songs on Yay! aren’t exactly a departure for the band. They’ve certainly included these elements in previous albums, as full pieces as well as in parts of their longer jams. Here, though, the focus is consistent, creating a sound that mashes the folksy acoustic practitioners of the 60s and 70s (Simon & Garfunkel, America, Cat Stevens) and modern indie psych folk like Sufjan Stevens and others. 

Cold & Bored includes guitars, glockenspiel, and sweet harmonies through the chorus, recalling the soft hued pop of the golden era of soft hued pop. Lyrically, there’s a melancholic and romantic look in the rearview as well that’s juxtaposed to the lamented reality of a mostly mundane adult life. Sentinels follows with a strong Simon & Garfunkel vibe. It’s stripped down and feels minimalistic, but there’s so much going on in the music. 

A zither, a wurlitzer, an omnichord, and congas are all included in the tapestry that lyrically describes ghosts who, “infused with city stories,” remain in our presence. After two songs, I’m… delighted. I recognize that some of the almost falsetto moments can sound a bit off to some ears, while the pop dynamics song after song might annoy longtime fans. But this vibe is hitting me in all the right places. The production is clear, the songs soulful and real. By the time Patterns hits, I’m hoping for the best. I want all of this to work. 

Patterns, like a mashup of Sufjan Stevens and the Cocteau Twins, is a song about an artist losing their mojo, feeling like their time has passed, that the hour has arrived to pass the torch to the next generation, and it works. So does Dank State, more Simon than Garfunkel, describing a political awakening. W.C.A. (What Comes After) maintains the vibe with some bedroom pop sensibilities thrown in. 

Alluding to the history of 100 years ago, circumstances perhaps getting these “20s roaring again,” and wondering about what follows, bolts these folksy songs into political and social awareness. Real Again (Norway Shrugs And Stays Home), which weirdly reminds me of some songs off of The Weakerthans second album, is about the modern era, the broken hopes of connecting via Zoom during lockdowns and quarantine. And then Loch Meaninglessness & The Mull Of Dull switches lanes and the rest of the album swerves, climbs, and lands in a completely different place than the previous 6 tracks might have indicated. 

Loch Meaninglessness & The Mull Of Dull plays sweet and includes soft congas, guitars, and a mandolin. It’s a love song from the one being loved, the one found by the right person when they’d thought all hope was lost and loneliness was their fate. It’s a beautifully hopeful song. Meanwhile, the longest song on the album, Hotel Daedalus, hits like an epic allegory that Yes might have jammed. It’s about a band locking into finding where they are at the moment. Musically and lyrically, the song finds a balance between the light and the dark of that self-awareness and comes away with hope. 

Scarecrow acts like an instrumental intermission before the last act of The Rapture, a sweet tune about enjoying every moment, concluding, “I'm gonna lay my head back in the grass and count my blessings one by one, and hope it won't be my last.” I’m surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed this album because I’ve never really enjoyed the roots from which it pulls. And yet I’ve listened to it repeatedly for weeks.  Yay! 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment