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Tuesday 27 June 2023

Reviews: Vexed, Mothman And The Thunderbirds, Mental Cruelty, Kapnas (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Rich Piva, GC & Paul Scoble)

Vexed - Negative Energy (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

What will be one of the angriest albums you'll hear this year, the follow up to 2021's Culling Culture, is the next chapter in the unfettered rage of Vexed. The trio of Megan Targett (vocals), Jay Bacon (guitar) and Willem Mason-Geraghty (drums) have sculpted an album that is heavier than its predecessor, more volatile and more personal too dealing with themes of death, betrayal, pain and grief, Megan channeling it all through her beastial roars and screams. Adopting a deliberately negative mindset, Vexed live up to their band name witj an album that is defined by rage at the wider world. Vocally she's terrifying, though she shows her versatility with the clean sections on Default or the emotive parts of It's Not The End.

As the intro track ticks away with samples, a electronic dissonance punctured by a guitar/drum beat that forms into an instrumental, making you very aware that this album is going to be extremely heavy. Anti-F*tish is the first song proper, the Slipknot-like intro moving into huge djent riffs, the use of electronics and atmosphere present on all 13 tracks, behind all the down tuned guitar riffs and frenzied vocals. More Slipknot-isms come on the rapid fire delivery on We Don't Talk About It and the twitchy Panic Attack, as X My <3 (Hope To Die) continues the aural battery, changing into a heavy breathing spoken word middle section which is actually more threatening than the main part of the song.

Willem Mason-Geraghty's drumming is expansive, more technical than it sounds, only with a few plays can you listen past the percussive battery to hear the nuance. A track such as Lay Down Your Flowers mixes the metallic grooves with more twitching electronics, an ambient section in the middle and special guest vocals from Lochie Keogh, There's No Place Like Home, putting The Wizard Of Oz through a some extreme riffage from Jay Bacon and turntables too, Bacon's crowning moment comes on Trauma Euphoria, double kick drums underscoring some killer riffs and leads. Vexed have drawn a lot of influence from the late 2000's sound where Nu-Metal and Alt Metal meet the more techincal sound of the 2010's.

My advice is not to listen to this album if you've got an underlying heart condition as it will set something off with it's hostility. Negative Energy abound but it's focussed, feral and fantastic. Watch out for Vexed as they will soon be stratospheric! 9/10

Mothman And The Thunderbirds - Gazer (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Every time I listen to a Mothman And The Thunderbirds song my immediate reaction is “wow, that was fun!” As we get more drips of new stuff from the super cool one-man band (and really cool dude, he is super nice and a very active on Twitter) you can see how his approach and songwriting is maturing, but not maturing enough to not do a freaking Smash Mouth cover. So here we get three new recordings with one of them being an original.]

First off, the new original track, Gazer, is killer and should be the way more people start to get down with MatT. Catchy, fun, original, a cool riff, and vocals that have improved immensely from the first stuff I heard from him. There is a lot going on, especially during the super catchy chorus with the nice, harmonized background vocals. As usual, always weird but never not catchy. Dig that cool solo with the dual synths too. 

OK, so yeah, a killer new song, but let’s talk about the balls to a cover of one of the most hated songs of all time, All Star. I mean in hell, for me, the original will be on repeat. But MatM makes this shit show listenable again. I especially love the screamed chorus and the robot like take on the vocals. I mean if I must hear this song, please give me this version all day long. But the funniest part (I hope he meant it to be funny) is the whistling part he left as is from the original. Total genius. 

We also get a generally straight ahead cover of the Byrds classic (second review in a row I am mentioning the Byrds, weird) Mr. Spaceman. I mean as straight-ahead as you get from MatT, keeping the melody the same but almost making it sound like something you would hear at an old timey carnival.

So yeah, more fun from Mothman And The Thunderbirds. If you have not heard his work, go check out this and the rest of the discography and I defy you to not to leave with a huge smile. Now let’s get a new full length please!!! 8/10

Mental Cruelty - Zwielicht (Century Media Records) [GC}

Having never heard of Mental Cruelty, I decided to do a quick search online to see what comes up and unfortunately for them the first thing I see is that they had sexual abuse allegations thrown at their old vocalist, which instantly makes me think I should sack this off and not waste my time but, from what I can see they instantly distanced themselves from him and he was subsequently replaced. Not ideal I grant you but, now do they deserve a second chance?

Well starting with an atmospheric intro Midtvinter instantly puts my back up because as usual it does nothing and just annoys me, just get on with it! Obsessis A Daemonio also doesn’t really do much for me, it starts ok with some atmospheric blackened death metal but then about a minute in we get some sort of stupid prayer type vocal that leads into some more fairly standard blackened death metal and then after this we get some brie brie brie vocals that completely drown out the music and just make it sound like this was a joke between friends and I am already thinking this song is at least 2 minutes too long and just as I think that they start to SING and it’s here where I smash the skip button, not a great start! 

Forgotten Kings does fare slightly better and offers a decent slice of blackened death but it’s just that, decent it doesn’t go any further for me and the constant attempts an atmosphere in the song just grates on me, and the vocals quickly start to annoy me as well! I then really hope that Pest isn’t about something from their past as that would seem unwise but as I don’t know I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, and once again its all very competent and heavy enough but it is just missing something for me and the vocals need to be mixed down a bit because they are to loud and almost drown everything else out and he needs to try and calm down a bit because some of the vocal patterns are just plain fucking stupid. 

Nordyls starts off with a twinkly sounding middle-ages type beginning and then launches into the usual blackened death metal that has been the whole story so far, but it also tries to interweave the beginning style throughout the whole song to frankly hilarious effect! I don’t like this album very much already I am only halfway through. Mortal Shells sounds like if Cradle Of Filth decided to go metalcore and if that sounds like your sort of thing then good for you because its not for me and it just sounds awful the whole song has a stop start rhythm and tries to build to an epic conclusion but of course does nothing of the sort, rubbish. 

And speaking of rubbish Zwielicht is a mid-album interlude and we all know what that means? SKIP! Now we finally get a song that is under 5 minutes but unfortunately for Symphony Of A Dying Star the short running time is the highlight here because you would think that they might try and dial up the heaviness to compensate a bit but, instead they just seem to add 800 keyboards and it just ends up sounding like a slightly heavy power metal song. 

The Arrogance Of Agony once again tries to ramp up the spooky atmosphere and male you go ooooooooh isn’t this scary but then the actual song kicks in and it’s just vocals, bass, and drums before the usual repetition of blackened death metal rears its head and tries to rough you up but honestly again some of the vocals on this song make me just piss myself laughing! Another skip worthy number. A Tale Of Salt And Light is the last and longest song on the album at 7:30, its just a long drawn out and familiar sounding ending to a disappointing album.

Usually, I would be a fan of this sort of thing but here, it all just sounded the same and there was far too much keyboard for my liking if you’re Bleeding Through and use it masterfully then ok but you’re not, so y’know stop it! The vocals just really got on my nerves most of the time, like he was trying too hard or something, it was just a mess of an album that never really made a mark on me and was forgotten the minute if finished and I wouldn’t re-visit this to try again, so make of that what you will. 3/10

Kapnas - Kapnas (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

To be honest I don’t know much about Kapnas, the album came with lyrics but no information about the band. I can tell from their Bandcamp that Kapnas are a duo and come from Montreal, Quebec. The music on the bands debut is described as death/doom, and the band describe themselves as a doom metal band, this however is false advertising. The music presented isn’t death/doom or doom metal, in fact it doesn’t sound like metal at all. 

What we get are bass lines that sound processed, as if they didn’t come from a stringed instrument, but from a computer and processed drums, however the drums aren’t in patterns, but are kind of in a line, as if they were programmed by someone who hasn’t done it before. That is a feeling you get from every part of this album, this is learning in public. Guitars appear very rarely, and when they are present they are very badly played, so this is nearly all just bass, badly programmed drums and very odd vocals.

The vocals aren’t odd in a good way either; they are split into two different styles, one a fairly normal death metal harsh voice which is fine except none of the music contains guitars or distortion so harsh vocals don’t really fit. Or, a strange whispering voice that sometimes morphs into a strange, very affected childish voice, that sounds like a child taking the piss out of another child. It’s the kind of voice Robot Chicken would use or a voice from the bloody awful Rick And Morty Inter-Dimensional Cable episodes. The lyrics seem to be all about smoking cigarettes as well, which is even odder, who is impressed by boasting about smoking tabs?

So, what we get is bass lines and drums with odd vocals, it sounds more like incompetent Electro Pop, as if Depeche Mode were 14 year olds who couldn’t programme drums and had very little musical talent. On Kapnas’s Badcamp they describe themselves as: “Kapnas is the collective unconscious of whatever THIS is”. Which shows Kapnas don’t know what this is either.
I do wonder who Kapnas actually are. I have three hypotheses; 1) Kapnas are twelve years olds and are learning to make music in public, this would explain the ‘We don’t know what we’re doing’ feel and how impressed the band are by smoking cigarettes. 2) Kapnas are serious adults with no talent and no self knowledge, who have made a huge error in releasing this album. Or, 3) Kapnas are taking the piss, this would explain the truly awful vocals that sound like a petulant child, the terrible guitar parts, the incompetently programmed drums and all the other stuff that is comically wrong with this.
To be honest, whoever made this and for whatever reason, this is rubbish, and it’s long rubbish as well, with a run time in excess of an hour. A couple of the bass lines are ok, and some bits made me laugh out loud, so I’ll give a four. 4/10

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