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Friday 2 June 2023

Reviews: Necrofier, Unfurl, Tortured Demon, Saint Karloff (Reviews By Matt Bladen, GC, Mark Young & Rich Piva)

Necrofier - Burning Shadows In The Southern Night (Season Of Mist) [Matt Bladen]

It’s not often you get bands that can play groovy black metal, it’s a skill that transcends the genre. In a style obsessed with rawness, focussing on frostbitten tundra and making the music as abrasive as possible there are a small number of bands that inject the “pitability” of death metal to their sound, which for my money makes the band all the better. 

It’s quite coincidental that two of these bands are Immortal and Cloak, both of whom have recently released records, with another famous example being Rotting Christ, but Necrofier definitely come into this category of bands who are steeped in the linage of black metal but use other genres to widen their horizons. Hailing from the frozen wastelands of…Texas…(it gets cold at night in the desert), Burning In The Southern Night is the second album from Houston quartet Necrofier and they pitch it between black metal and classic heavy metal, using analogue and organic production methods, from Joel Hamilton, to make it sound as real as possible. 

Drummer Dobber Beverly, who is also the creative force behind Oceans Of Slumber, has brought the naturalistic sound of his other band to Necrofier, Hamilton produced the last OOS record. The partnership making black metal sound…warmer…ish. Anyway as the intro (The Fall From Heaven), which like The All Seeing Eye features Cammie Beverly’s ethereal vocals, gives way Total Southern Darkness (see what they did there?) is blistering black metal, Beverly blasting away behind the kit as tremolo picking and raging vocals, the hints of trad metal coming in on the lead breaks as Bakka Larson and Semir Ozerkan trade off, the solos a source of improvement and focus on this record to take that next evolutionary leap, (Call To The Beyond). The grunt of death metal comes on the thrashy To The Wolves, dissonant atmospheres behind absolute frenzy, you can feel the haste at which this album was recorded (in just 10 days straight). It’s brimming with vitriol and viciousness but never shies away from melody. 

On Forbidden Light Of The Black Moon, the sounds of Rotting Christ and Immortal are obvious Mat Valentine’s bass controlling the grooving bounce, as it slows into a deliberate breakdown, Beverly’s drumming given a lot of room, while Whispers That Burn In The Dark has the directness of Mercyful Fate, but with the intensity dialled up, a simalr trick comes on the gothic On Wings Of Death We Burn The Sky. Dealing with the occult and esoteric nature of things rather than just Satanism, Necrofier are obsessed by the nature of the soul, something that also distances them from most of the black metal pack. 

With Oceans Of Slumber now moving away from the metal sound, Beverly and his three compatriots can express his extreme side. Burning Shadows In The Southern Night is a record that has melody fused with melancholy, rage with rapture, a must listen. 9/10

Unfurl - Ascension (Self Released) [GC]

Unfurl describe themselves as an experimental, blackened hardcore band. They are from Pittsburgh and already have a couple of releases behind them and are about to release their new album Ascension upon an unsuspecting world.

A sparse and moody section opens Coiled Serpent before everything kicks off and the gates of hell are opened and the next 6 minutes are a haze of truly unhinged and manic vocals combined with an unrelenting mix of mathcore/grind/death metal and its an impressively violent mix of all the differing styles, and you can already tell that this is not going to be for the feint hearted! 

Gossamer Ladder continues the assault on the listener with another apocalyptic blend of punishing mathcore and death metal and the anti is upped significantly on this track and it just never lets up or gives you a second to compose yourself and just continues to beat you into submission until the final 20 seconds of the song that finally takes its foot off the gas and fades out before Trembling In The Threshold explodes in your face like a pipe bomb, the savage nature and psychopathic force of this song is just unreal, it has a way of wrapping you up and making you feel trapped and surrounded in a huge wall of noise that even has a bit of a slow break in the mid-section but this does nothing to ease the sense of unease or relieve the tension, this is truly remarkably dark songwriting at its best! 

Burning Question is a burst of noise, that manages to also mix in some thick atmospheric guitar work into all the madness, the textures and tones that are shown are a thing of beauty and even though it’s hard to pick out a standout performance, but you must give a special mention to the vocals of Nicky as they are mental all the way through! This Empty Planet finally decides to slow the pace right down and is short but droning and sludgy but doesn’t lose any of the savageness and if anything adds more to the whole feel and tone of the album and then Hyperviolet Estuary continues with the more measured pace to begin with and has a prog type guitar riff and tone throughout and then from out of nowhere we also get a dose of clean vocals that add another texture to the whole song and mix perfectly, this is probably the least heavy track on the album and still it doesn’t suffer or sound out of place. 

Entity Reunion In The Sky clocks in at an eye wateringly long 8:36 and I say that because the levels of insanity and discomfort that it creates is astonishing and to put yourself through this for that long is not an easy thing to achieve as a listener its hard but rewarding, the song itself is a big lumbering beast full again of angular mathcore guitars and insane drumming but it also has another break in the middle of the song that is haunting and serene which helps you to appreciate the amount of work that is going on and of course when this part subsides it back to complete chaos for the remainder of the song and its beautiful anarchy! Closing track and final blast of violence is Longitude_Leylines and it is a thing of absolutely jaw dropping beauty it has an atmospheric and serene opening before the unrelenting savageness is once again unleashed and again, they mix in a clean vocal part and it all just meshes so well to round of a truly remarkable album.

Once you have picked your jaw off the floor and really taken time to think about what has just happened, you realize that you have just listed to something special, to be able to have that much intense violence and hone it to perfection and not just make it all sound like a mess is truly remarkable musicianship and every song has its own unique way of making you pay attention and just sit and listen. This is a stunning album, and you should not just take my word for it, listen to it yourself and thank me later. 9/10

Tortured Demon - Rise Of The Lifeless (Self Released)

Second album from rising UK metallers Tortured Demon with Rise Of The Lifeless which sees them taking thrash and redefining it to suit a 2023 gaze.

First impressions are that this is a very collection of modern-day metal. I’m avoiding tags such as Thrash or death for fear of penning them in one field. They may call themselves Thrashcore but to these ears Each of the tracks are very well built, replete with all of the necessary core parts to function to a high standard. 

I get why they are certainly on the music press radar because they are very good at what they do. There are a lot of online content about them that mention the age which I think is irrelevant. Slayer were 19 with Show No Mercy, How old were Metallica with Kill 'Em All? What counts is do you like it? If you like it heavy, fast, with respectful nods back to a classic period in metal but delivered with contemporary thinking then you will love them. It is that simple.

Following the instrumental intro, they kick in with title track, which is a frantic, tear up that shows their statement of intent is to remove the skin from your face. It is a beast of a thing, and an exceptional start to proceedings. Virtual Death keeps that beat, mixing the brutal and the melodic in equal measure and again it’s a winner. Its reminiscent of later Carcass mixed with Lamb Of God with devil’s own break preceding a step up and a change in arrangement. Just from these two you can get a feeling of why there is a buzz about them.

Global Threat steps into the lower end and throws a measure of shout-along chorus you know is going to be picked up live. The deep breakdown will cause spontaneous pits to break out and then they ping straight into some class soloing. However, with Disfavour with that slower pace that hints of Arch Enemy riffing. It builds into a chorus part that is built for crowd participation, but I found that the phrasing reminded me too much of the previous track probably because they are back-to-back.

Conflict Of Interest just booms out and starts with a class opening that puts the verse riff and overload drumming right in, pummelling including that classic thrash key step up the neck to add that bit of flavour to the sound; Chorus / break to gear up for a classic bit of riffing just before the solo meltdown and next its Erase Your Life, as fast as you like, this leaves scorched earth behind it and is perfect in its execution and is just classic thrash that has been amped up beyond it’s safe working limit.

Working on the premise that the last three songs must be as strong as the first they drop This War Will Come To You which shows that they have it to maintain both the velocity and quality. Its so well put together and keeps that balance on point but leaves space for Eyes In The Fire to keep the engagement high. It has some cool riff moments going in that show the skill they possess and pays a little bit of homage to Megadeth (why not?). Brilliant stuff and pointing to ending the album on a high point.

And here we are with the closer, The Damage Is Done. Occupying that sweet spot as it opens with a nifty riff pattern it is almost derailed by opting for dropping a quasi-clean singing part that just sticks out too far. The song pulls back completely for an acoustic passage which for me is similar in build to Master Of Puppets and it then goes back to the heavy and rapid attack. I’m not against it but that vocal part took me out of the song.

All in all, it is a monstrous release and points to an incredibly successful future for them if they can continue putting out albums of this quality. Closing track notwithstanding, this is quality stuff with a focus and maturity that some veteran bands could do with. If you get chance to catch them live, I would do so because you will witness something a little bit special. 7/10

Saint Karloff - Paleolithic War Crimes (Majestic Mountain Records) [Rich Piva]

It must be so difficult to continue a band after suffering a tragedy like Saint Karloff did in 2021, losing one of the founders and bass player Ole Sletner to cancer. For our sake and most likely as a form of healing therapy, the band is back with their first album since 2018, Paleolithic War Crimes. These guys bring the stoner fuzz heavy, channeling everything from Sabbath, to 60s psych, to Electric Wizard, to Zeppelin, while never sounding too much like any of them. Paleolithic War Crimes takes this to the next level, as you have seven absolutely killer tracks to rock out, chill out, and/or expand your mind to.

It is apparent right of the bat that Paleolithic War Crimes is going to slay with the opener Psychedelic Man. Riffs for days, a nice Sabbath gallop, cool spacey vocals, and synths thrown in for good measure to bring a little space rock to the party. This is one of my favorite tracks of all year so far. I think this album will be more accessible, as the band have been known to do one long song on an album. With Paleolithic War Crimes you get more traditional song structures and lengths, Blood Maridian being a good example. 

Five plus minutes of heavy fuzzy goodness with killer guitar work and excellent use of keys to compliment the guitar. Amazing stuff, like Deep Purple if Matt Pike joined the band. I love the false ending and restart on this track too. A soft interlude leads us to Bone Cave Escape, which is what this song sounds like, if I am imagining what a Bone Cave Escape is. I love the opening of this track and how it kicks to even another gear about 45 seconds in. This is the fastest tempo track on the album, and the oooohs add something super cool to this song. 

The solo absolutely rips and the tempo changes throughout are expertly done. Flute? Acoustic solo? Yup. These guys are not heavy for the sake of it, there is an underlying melody on all these tracks and this record is expertly produced for their sound. Nothing To Come starts out like an epic folk metal journey that turns into a heavy battle of wills with the riffs winning. I did not see the Tull worship coming and I am here for it. Maybe a little Zeppelin on this one too. 

Death Don’t Have No Mercy is the sludgiest track on Paleolithic War Crimes while also somehow being almost bluesy, except when they channel some Children Of The Grave type vibes for two minutes halfway through…and somehow it all works perfectly. The epic closer, Supralux Voyager, is stoner psych space rock done at the highest level and could not be more of a perfect closer.

Well, the New Saint Karloff record is pretty much perfect. From the playing, the more traditional song structures, the use of all sorts of different instruments, and the production, you will not hear anything like this or much better than this all year long. On the short list for album of the year with maybe three other records. This is an absolute must listen. 10/10

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