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Friday 23 June 2023

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

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