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Friday 9 June 2023

Reviews: Johnny The Boy, Black Rainbows, The Arcane Order, Vomitheist (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, GC & Mark Young)

Johnny The Boy- You (Season Of Mist) [Matt Bladen]

Sludgy, abrasive and evil beyond anything they’ve been a part of before, Johnny The Boy is three people associated with avant garde musical act Crippled Black Phoenix, covering themselves in greasepaint and shouting at the devil or any other tyrant that stands in the way. 

Born out of messing around at CBP rehearsals Justin Greaves (guitar/drums), Matt Crawford (bass) and Belinda Kordic (vocals) aim for a style of music more direct, fuzzier, grimier, brought forth by a shared love of filthy rock n roll bands such as Motorhead, through Venom, first wave black metal and grungy sludge like Greaves’ former band Iron Monkey. Its worlds away from the more esoteric project CBP is now, Johnny The Boy is far more insistent and aggressive, though No Regrets from Banefyre is essentially a Johnny The Boy track and got them the ok to record more from the label. 

What’s striking is Belinda’s vocals, so often used to illuminate the songs for CBP, here she channels the scarred squawks of Nocturno Culto (Darkthrone) or Quorthorn (Bathory) as well as the hardcore shouts of Mike Williams (Eyehategod), doing it all brilliantly, making it all utterly terrifying, the vocals in keeping with the bands ethos to write the bleakest music they could. Grime is Iron Monkey-esque glacial sludge with the black metal haunting, while He Moves somehow gets slower and noisier. Politically charged as all things Greaves/Kordic are, Die Already screams at dictators with a malice that many bands can’t achieve, there’s lots to digest on the album from songs about not dying alone, Polish war heroes and even a cat called Tigger. 

With the chug of Endlessly Senseless leading into the cathartic Crossings, an 8 minute epic song about how no one should die alone, there’s a mix of short and long form until the final song Without You just broke me in the way CBP often does. Three people who are all musically linked, doing something that is a counterpoint to the band they play in normally, if CBP is a protest, then Johnny The Boy is riot, however both are equally effective in making you sit up and listen! 9/10

Black Rainbows - Superskull (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

This is rainbow week, as I am covering the awesome new live record from Rainbows Are Free as well as the killer new album from one of the top bands in the stoner scene, Black Rainbows, who are back with album number eight and are showing no signs of slowing down. The Rome, Italy band are a mainstay in the scene and lead man Gabriele Fiori is a legendary figure, with founding Heavy Psych Sounds and the other bands he plays in. It is amazing that he has the time and energy for a new Black Rainbows album, especially one that is this good.

Kicking us off is one of the best BR songs maybe ever, Apocalipse March, with a killer riff and groove that the band has been known for. If you are new to the band, you get all sorts of worship of bands like Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, etc. These guys hang with the legends, given their untouchable discography, and have created their own lure at this point, with Superskull cementing that legend. More riffs and more boogie with songs like Superhero Dopeproof and Till The Outerspace that provides nonstop stoner rock goodness. 

A song called Children Of Fire And Sacrifice cannot be bad, and it is not, with its upbeat stoner bounce. Other highlights include Desert Sun, because of course this band has a song called that and of course it is an excellent slow burn stoner jam. The closer, Fire In The Sky is another excellent track that has some killer psych synths and guitar work and drives this bay home perfectly. All in all, you get twelve tracks of all killer no filler energetic stoner rock perfection that I could argue is one of their best.

Another gem in the Black Rainbows discography that is already filled with them. Another album from Black Rainbows that will be on year end lists. Let’s not take Black Rainbows genius for granted, however. Let’s give them the respect amongst the giants they deserve, because Superskull is next level awesome and not just another cool stoner record amongst the throngs of other bands. Black Rainbows is a special band, and Superskull is even more special output from them. 9/10

The Arcane Order - Distortions From Cosmogony (Black Lion Records) [GC]

Looking at the line up of members that make up The Arcane Order it really is something to behold there are members of Mol, Hateshpere & Soliwork all included in the lineup for this recording, now that is what you call pedigree! This line up hasn’t always been together and there have been 3 albums prior to new release Distortions From Cosmogony I haven’t heard any of the earlier stuff but having already reviewed and loved the new Hatesphere not so long ago and, I absolutely loved the last Mol album, I am eager to hear this record!!

We open with the atmospheric but slightly pointless intro Distortions From Cosmogony which doesn’t really give you a chance to prepare for what comes next, Cry Of Olympus absolutely explodes out of the blocks and is a dizzy attack of raw blackened death metal savageness from the guitars of both Flemming C. Lund and Kasper Kierkegaard they then combine such a pace and relentless nature to make this song breathtaking, even the mid-section atmospheric and guitar solo sections are still utterly devastating and don’t let up for one second, this is a stunningly vicious start and just what I wanted!

A Blinding Trust In Chosen Kings is more of the same vicious and scathing blackened death metal but here they slow the tempo at the start to extend the way the music twists and contorts in and out and the whole meld of styles with black metal & death metal is intertwined just enough so as not to complicate the proceedings, a special mention so far to both Bastian Thusgaard on drums and vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf as their individual performances have been unbelievable and once again when they actually slow things down all the way it does nothing to dull the force of the song and the mellow section manages to add that extra piece to the puzzle. 

Starvations For Elysium leans heavily on a more straight up death metal style and again manages to absolutely nail the gentler sections to break it all up and give it a bit of unpredictability, because with most songs clocking in at over 6 minutes you need to be kept guessing and not bored to tears, here there is no boredom just pure class! Favors For Significance starts to lean on an atmospheric drenched death metal and now, for once dials back the pace slightly but this again does nothing to distract from the heaviness and just adds a disturbing menace to the song and of course the slowed pace doesn’t last throughout and they still manage to throw in some madness towards the end that just all mixes together to create an epic monster of a track.

At this point you begin to wonder if there is going to be any let up but then The First Deceiver answers that with an emphatic no, it just blasts forward and takes no prisoners they once again do mix in some slowed down parts but again, not for long but the effect these parts have on the whole shape of these songs cannot be undervalued they add a slight glimmer of light into the whole darkness which is needed at times. Empedocles Dream is an instrumental interlude that while nobody asked for it, is almost a welcome break and gives you a chance to re-group for the oncoming storm because of course Ideals Of Wretched Kingdoms the proceeds to rip your head clean off your shoulders again with what feels like a mid-tempo songs by the usual standards but it is still dripping with atmosphere and a tinge of melodic death metal creeps in amongst all the insanity to show yet another side of their imagination and songwriting magic. 

Children Of Erebos probably gets the most straightforward death metal song award and manages to clock in at under 5 minutes for once! As expected, it is a full force and brutal attack on the listener and sets us up nicely for the final assault of Wings Of Duality which is a magnificent and sprawling beast from its ambient and haunting opening all the way through the main body of the blackened death metal that has a special mix of grandeur and savageness and it all combines in a glorious cacophony of noise to close out this masterpiece of an album.

There is so much to take in on Distortions From Cosmogony but once you have done so, you realize just what a special album this is, it keeps you guessing at every turn and challenges you to listen to absolutely everything for fear of missing anything, it’s truly remarkable what they have created here and without a doubt has to be up there in the AOTY lists. I have mentioned before that death metal can be two things stunning or mundane and if you get a death metal album that can make you just sit and marvel at it then you have found something special and trust me this is one of those albums and is truly stunning and breathtaking. 10/10

Vomitheist - NekroFvneral (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Mark Young]

It might not be the best time to review cold, death metal given its a Sunday afternoon and one of the warmest of the year so far. Providing us with their debut slab of death metal is Vomitheist, who are here shake things up by taking that well-worn HM-2 path and resetting it for the modern era, taking influence from the classics without producing a sound alike. Looking online it has garnered a lot of positive reviews for the three-piece from Switzerland so let's put the glaring sun to one side and dive into the blacker than black water and see what we have.

It's dark, low, guttural and will be instantly accessible for those who already have this sub-set of music as their go to choice. It's not subtle but then they don't pretend to be. All you need to know is that it sounds exactly as the cover suggests, there is some heavy riffage right through the entire album, twinned with that death style trem picking, the velocity coming from the guitar as opposed to blast beats from the drums. They look to build on a solid foundation within each song, setting it up for the brutality that follows, and you can see why they have got the reviews they have. 

What we do have is a case of similar sounding tracks that start us off, which within themselves are good but don’t stand out and grab me as you might expect. This is largely the case for a good chunk and I’m not sure if it because of the overall sound. It feels muted slightly and again this is purely personal to me so in some of the faster parts you lose that clarity. Its entirely possible that this was what they were after, but it sounds closer to the American death metal of the early 90s if they were using a certain Boss pedal. Symbiotic Putrefaction is a spot-on example of this, which you may like or not given your taste but what you can’t deny is the fury in which they tear through this one and is a highlight here.

It would be wrong of me to point out the negatives without giving the same attention to the positives. As mentioned above, Symbiotic is a barnstormer and there are some great riffs unleashed here, Strangled By Entrails is a great example of this alongside Morbid Decomposition that nails that slow / fast beat-down we are used to. Tormenting Fungal Infestation has this excellent grind to it that blows up into a blast beat driven pre-verse. It’s another stormer. 

We go out on the one-two of Nekrofvneral and Carnivorous Cult, with the former blasting by in 1.22 like the most possessed death-punk you’ve heard and the latter at 12 minutes coming at you with that grinding intro riff before kicking off properly. This one runs the full gamut of slow, fast, but not in a tacked-on kind of way. The lull at the mid-point almost drops into doom then steps up just enough to bring proceedings to a close.

So, I’m not completely overwhelmed here, but as I’ve said it’s a subjective thing and I know plenty that will love this. For me there is some good stuff on here and the riffing is top class but the whole thing just falls away a little. 6/10 

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