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Friday 18 August 2023

Reviews: Godthrymm, Reformat, Borracho, Unblessed Divine (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Mark Young, Rich Piva & Evil Spider)

Godthrymm - Distortions (Profound Lore) [Matt Bladen]

The follow up to 2020's ReflectionsDistortions is more misery from Halifax, seemingly the epicenter for death/doom. Inspired by the Peaceville Three, featuring members of My Dying Bride, Anathema as well as Paradise Lost offshoot Vallenfyre, and doom veterans Solstice. Distortions is an hour of introspective, cavernous doom metal. Letting go of the Eldrich Horror approach of their first record, into something that is more earthly, but still as frighting. They do away with Lovecraft for the dark romanticism of Edgar Allen Poe. 

Lyrics etched with sadness and despondency, the vocals of Hamish Glencross, ringing out with sorrow and emotion, joined at times by Catherine Glencross' ethreal soaring, on tracks such as Obsess And Regress. Her keys/synths are an atmospheric companion to Hamish's maudlin guitar harmonies. Distortions expands on the sound of their first album (and their EP) adding the gothic elements you can hear, creating a mood of distance or introspection, but with added complexity to highlight the darker and lighter phases. The direction they are travel in now hinted at by their 7 inch Flexi single from last year. Full realised here as the crushing rhythmic force of Sasquatch" Bob Crolla (bass), and Shaun "Winter" Taylor-Steels (drums) on top form on the evil sounding Devils

Echoes meanwhile is back to the gothic styled doom with plenty of spiraling lead guitars. Follow Me features My Dying Bride man Aaron Stainthorpe reflecting the legacy that Godthrymm come in the stead of. With the third part of their trilogy, Projections, already in the works Godthrymm strengthen their foothold in the UK gothic/doom scene with Distortions. 8/10

Reformat - Precursed (Fearbone) [Mark Young]

Right, so I’ll be honest, I have no idea what is going on here with this. It’s a mix of metal, electronica, auto-tuned voices, despair and hope all put through a manic blender and sent out to an unsuspecting public for consuming. It has those arrangements that seem to have been trawled from classic Science fiction and home entertainment systems of the 80’s and 90’s and once you hear it you will know exactly what I mean by that.

And I’ll tell you something else it is royal. If you asked me what genre this is, you would be met with a shrug and a response like “don’t know. A good one?” because the songs themselves have that little bit of everything that comes together and just works. Whether it’s the urgent Obsolethal or Paroxysms that stomp or the key swells at the start of Detrusa, it’s the soundtrack to the greatest boss fight ever so when the guitar does come in (and it does) it lifts everything up. Put this on whilst engaging some of the bosses in Elden Ring (other epic games are available) and you just go mental.

Each song takes you somewhere, and I get from it a major 80’s vibe in terms of the arrangements the synths take (looking at you J Carpenter, and Vangelis) with no two the same. This is music if it was made by evil geniuses who wear long white lab coats and have taken time off from world domination to scratch an instrumental music itch. Even better is that the level of quality doesn’t drop as we get into the later songs, the one-two of Dead-Place and Astromanx are just spot on, but for me Prince Valium shades it as the best one here (personal opinion and all that).

This is the second instrumental album I’ve reviewed this month, and the two of them could not be more different, but both are superb in their own right. With Din Of Celestial Birds, I talked about how it would be to see them perform live, given the emotion in the arrangements they have. Here, I would love to see HOW they do it live and what reaction they would get, it’s just a quality record that manages to finely balance the guitar with the electronica aspects so that both get that opportunity to shine here. Its 38 minutes of quality music that you should get onto immediately. Going back to Din... these are two of my favourite releases this year because they hit so differently. I’ve no idea if from reading this you are inspired to get hold of this album. But Mr Young tells no lies. Its excellent. 9/10

Borracho - Blurring The Lines Of Reality (Kozmik Arifactz) [Rich Piva]

There are not a ton of protest songs in stoner rock that are not legalize it related or that are political leaning but are more subtle references than flat out political statements. There even less full protest albums in the genre, and maybe zero CSNY Ohio level protest albums. There is a first time for everything however, because here we are with the Washington D.C. trio Borracho’s new album, Blurring The Lines Of Reality

These three dudes are pissed off and are not afraid to air their grievances for all to consume via some killer stoner rock riffage. The last Borracho album was leaning in the political direction, but this is some next level stuff on the new one. I am not going to get into the politics in the review, but let’s just say I am here for everything this album brings to the table from start to finish with Borracho delivering one of the stoner albums of the year.

The first three tracks are like a play in three acts, Architects Of Chaos. I like how this is split into three songs, as the parts work very well separately and gives the listeners with short attention spans the ability to consume one track at a time without the feel of the album dragging. Part 1 is straight ahead stoner riff goodness, with some cool call and response vocals (RESIST) that make this heavy and catchy all at once. Oh, and the riffs remind me of some Wo Fat goodness so there is that too. 

I think Wo Fat is the best comparison here, especially as we move into track two, the song of the year contender and Part 2 of the act. The short attention span crew will have to deal here because this is eleven minutes of some of the best heavy rock you will hear all year. I mean the slow burn into that riff at the three-minute mark is perfection and when the heavy kicks in at around the 4:15 mark look out all of you on the opposite side of what’s about to be delivered, never mind the back-and-forth guitar work around the five-minute mark. Killer. This is all before the vocals kick in and the real anger smacks you across the face (…a plastic deity). Oh, then the last two minutes when the old school dial up freaks me out as I write this just riffs you to death. I am out of breath typing this, that is how impactful this track is. 

Part 3 brings another killer riff and has an almost haunting vibe to it, especially in the vocals. All three acts are very different songs, but they are alike in theme and awesomeness. The quality doesn’t decrease after the first three tracks, as Loaded brings a nice three-minute instrumental stoner jam to the party (rally, demonstration, sit in?) where the guitar work gets to shine through. Loaded seamlessly transitions to This Great War, which brings both the heavy riffs and heavy subject matter (oh, and cowbell). There is Wo Fat/Fu Manchu hybrid action going on here, but only if both those bands read the Washington Post, like a lot. Check out the solo too…so good. Speaking of heavy, check out the closer, Burning The Goddess, which brings the riff destruction like the hurricanes and wildfires they mention in the lyrics.

The only thing that will not make this album a top ten of the year, if you love riffs, is if you cannot separate the politics from the music, either because you don’t like to mix your rock with the news or you don’t feel the same way the band does and can’t get over their leanings versus your own. I have no such issue, because Blurring The Lines Of Reality kicks so much ass nothing else matters. Borracho brings so much awesome riffage and gives zero you-know-whats about what people think about their politics that it makes the point moot. This is a top ten AOTY for me. I’ll proudly stand with Borracho when they burn it all down. 9/10

Unblessed Divine – Portal To Darkness (Massacre Records) [Evil Spider]

This is the first album from this Polish/South African 3 piece and it gives us pure, old-school death metal heaviness but also quite a new school flavour.
Setting the tone for the album is opener, Book Of Lies, supplying us with those chunky OSDM style riffs delivered like a sledgehammer but with precision, couple that with a really strong vocal performance and brief little sample sections, well, you can colour me interested.
To my delight, the onslaught continues, but there’s something more to this. It's not just a throwback to a revered genre and time. The use of keys gives the album an intangible, an atmosphere if you will, that a lot of heavier bands lack. They’re not in your face, but they bring so much to the table, you’d definitely miss them if they were taken away.

Whilst I’m talking about atmosphere I must give a mention to the production, I’m not usually one to comment on such things but at it's core, this is OSDM, but the production choices really give this a modern sound without moving too far away from the blueprint, something I find is hard to come by.

Four tracks in and Blacken The Soul shows us that the band are aiming for something more with their song writing, using the foundations of what they clearly love but trying to push a bit further. This 7.5 minute track has a light and airy solo, a Burton C Bell style clean vocal leading into a hair spinning, circle pit inducing frenzy. And that’s just the first half.
God Of Darkness continues the fury and seems to pull on more contemporary influences. The guitars both batter and caress. The double bass drum pummels throughout whilst maintaining that steady rhythm which brings to mind Demigod era Behemoth. A headbangers dream.
The Glorious Flames really puts an exclamation point at the end of the album by fusing all of the talking points that I’ve mentioned into another 7 minute epic that leaves you wanting more.
This is far from a masterpiece but there are so many exciting talking points and I am firmly along for the ride. 7/10

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