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Wednesday 30 August 2023

Reviews: Prime Creation, Shepherds Reign, The Unity, Veritas (Reviews By Mark Young & Matt Bladen)

Prime Creation - Tell Freedom I Said Hello (ROAR Rock Of Angels Records) [Mark Young]

Now for a slice of Swedish modern rock. Prime Creation sit within that funny space between hard rock and metal. For me, the arrangements, singing etc position it more to the rock side than metal although they can and do employ some standard melodic metal attack in their sound, but the overall vibe is more rock. I should point out that this is in no way a slight on their sound. Taking a look at their socials, the bio kind of leaves me cold, and doesn’t really do them or their music justice really.

This is their third full length release from what I can gather online, with their formation back in 2015, so they have some experience under their respective belts. Moving onto the music itself, it’s a collection of well-built and played rock songs for those who like to hear a singer sing, complete with all the energetic solo breaks you can want. As I said above, they do throw in some Swedish melodic metal touches here and there, and they work really well. Keys, pianos are employed as necessary to fill and expand the sound, but their main attack is the twin focus of guitar and voice, which is sometimes all you want with hard(er) rock.

A great example of their abilities is showcased in the album closer, Dystopia which has that epic vibe running through it without an overlong runtime. It has everything in place – properly anthemic singing, solid riffs and foot on the monitor solo breaks so it doesn’t put a foot wrong here, and it is a cracker of a closing song. And in all honesty, the album is pretty good all the way through. There aren’t any real clunkers here but that isn’t to say that everyone hits well (at least with me). 

An instrumental opener, Tell Freedom I Said Hello starts us off with a building movement that gives way to Promised Land which is carved from the same material as the Dystopia. Coming with some neat little riffing going on and that sets the scene for the following songs to come through. The best is that they keep that energy going, Erased is a fast, fist in the air vehicle and State Dominion they drop a belting intro scream that is always welcome and should be mandatory on all hard rock releases.

I think your enjoyment will be derived from how much of a varied musical spectrum you listen to. If you like heavy rock from the 70s with Deep Purple being a good example of this, then by rights you should like this. If you only listen to one sort of heavy music, then this is most likely not for you as you will consider it to be ‘Too light’. For everyone else, give it a go because you will find lots to like here. They just need to change the bio.7/10

Shepherds Reign - Ala Mai (Golden Robot Records) [Mark Young]

Hailing from New Zealand, this five-piece is made up Pacific, Māori and Asian descent and they take these influences and weld it to a modern metal approach. Reading online, they ensure that they continually look to their culture for musical direction, and this includes the decision to sing their songs in Samoan as opposed to English. And why not? When you listen to these songs, I think you would lose something vital if they weren’t in Samoan.

Samoa O La’u Fesili starts us off, with group singing of a traditional Samoan song that fades into a Aiga, with a shouted battle cry into what reminds me of a Gojira type phrasing before the chorus comes in with what should be the crowds to sing back live. What is strange is that it’s not as heavy as I expected, it leans more into that sort of funk-metal side of things…

Le Manu on the other hand comes in with more of a traditional metal flavour, vocal stomping over everything without losing any of the heavy attack, with solo breaks that work really well and support the whole arrangement. Nafanua opens up with a faster tempo, settling in for a riff that builds the groundwork for some impressive singing. Ua Masaa follows the pattern that has been established with the previous, a riff pattern that repeats through a number of bars before kicking in properly. This has a cool wah running in it and has more of a swing to give it a bit of heft but I’m finding that the arrangements so far have been quite similar in terms of how they attack. Ua Masaa has more going on in its sound, but not enough to really grab you.

Ala Mai brings more of the Polynesian influence with a tribal drum pattern starting us off as it kicks off into tight riff, vocals front and centre as they navigate through the title track and it is a cracker, with them finding that balance that the others required. The World Bleeds is delivered in English in the opening sections, and the arrangement behind it seems to be more on that front foot, suitably impressive solo breaks and double bass the order of the day and you think yes, here we go and then they drop into a melancholic affair that just sucked all the energy built from those two songs. I’m sorry but I FF through Cold Summers Night. Sorry.

Finally gets them back on track, but its structure is similar to the earlier half, its difference is the delivery in English. Its simply ok, which I abhor saying. Never Forgotten goes down the piano route, mixing it up between Samoan and English plodding along until the guitars kick in (as expected) to close out with solo breaks and I’m finding that any of the earlier promise is dissipating. Atali’I has a decent riff and build with the vocal attack here occupying a much better space in terms of powering the song along. This should have been presented earlier in the listing because it is a cracker, and my favourite along with Samoa Mo Samoa, with its air-raid siren and spidery riff is also a strong track that evokes an army marching into battle, such is the swing of it. They close out with Mo’omo’ogo Sa Molia, in much the same way they came in.

This is very much a mixed bag in terms of the songs presented. I love the singing in Samoan, I think it lends itself very well to aggressive music and allows them to really go to town in terms of using their culture to write effective songs. The downside is that the structure of the songs are very much in the same arrangement, as well as they feel overlong in some circumstances. The quasi-ballad Cold Summers Night doesn’t fit, and I flat out hated it. There are great songs in here, they maybe just needed a little trimming in length so that they hit harder. The overall sound too just needed to be bigger. I expected it to come in and crush all the way through but it didn’t, but that’s more on me. All in all a 6/10

The Unity - The Hellish Joyride (Steamhammer / SPV) [Matt Bladen]

The Unity have been plying the world with German power/heavy metal for a few years, three studio albums in a row and a live album behind them, The Hellish Joyride is their fourth studio release and it continues with their transition in to something much more melodic. Obviously the comparison is always to Helloween or Gamma Ray as Henjo Richter (guitar) and Michael Ehré (drums) are both Gamma Ray members. The Unity are a bit more towards Pink Bubbles Go Ape or Chameleon than the full on speed metal fests of Keeper Of The Seven Keys, broadening the sound from the power/speed of the Gamma Ray records too. It’s a bit like those latter Edguy records, speaking of Edguy, their former bassman Tobias ‘Eggi’ Exxel joins for this album. 

They have tried to be diverse but it feels as if they have tried to move towards the AOR a bit too much as a lot of an album called The Hellish Joyride sounds more like a trip through the tunnel of love. Something Good is saccharine garbage, Golden Sun is far too sweet. Lots of the tracks using orchestrations or Purple/Rainbow style organ heavy rock on Stay The Fool, Only The Good Die Young and Never Surrender, when they do go full speed metal like on Saints And Sinners, I’m much more invested. Unfortunately they are few and far between, leaving you with a record that sounds more like Europe than anyone else. Trying to be too much for too many, The Hellish Joyride loses its way. 6/10

Veritas – Silent Script (Sliptrick Records) [Matt Bladen]

Following a critically acclaimed EP from 2019 and a debut full length in 2020 Veritas return with their second full length Silent Script. Formed in 2012 by guitarist Greg Wenk, he recruited Geno Alberico on bass, Denny Anthony on vocals and prog/power legend Mark Zonder on drums. Having had years to cultivate the EP and the debut, I was interested to see how they would go about following up with this sophomore record. Well Silent Script feels long, it’s not, for a prog album it’s only 48 minutes or so but it feels longer, this could be because of the amount of things they have stuffed into the record or that a lot of this album drags. 

Major comparisons to Queensryche are abound, especially in the vocals but on Buried it sounds like those last few Ryche record with Geoff Tate where it was prog for prog-sake. Veritas follows very familiar ground, sometimes too simplistic, others far too much going on, trying hard to be many things to many people, but kind of sitting in the middle ground of not inspiring much in me at all. Yeah they’re all good instrumentalists, Zonder even gets a drum solo at one point.

And that’s part of the problem, with like 3 or 4 minute songs, a track such as More Than I Can Say is just boring, sitting towards a much weaker second half. Silent Script was hard work and compared to the other prog metal releases this week just wasn’t even close. 5/10

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