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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

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