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Wednesday 6 September 2023

Reviews: Bio-Cancer, Refuser, Forgotten, Sarcovore (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Bio-Cancer – Revengeance (Hammerheart Records) 

Clad in artwork by Dan Goldsworthy (Corpsegrinder, Aborted, Glory Hammer, Xentrix, Alestrom, Accept etc), recorded by George Emmanuel (Rotting Christ, Wothrosch, SepticFlesh) at Pentagram Studios in Athens and mixed/mastered by Pete Rutcho (Revocation/Havok) at Damage Studios. Revengeance is exactly the kind of extreme thrash metal you’d want with all of these men linked to it. 

Formed in 2010, the Athenian band Bio-Cancer were part of the new thrash explosion at the beginning of the last decade, inspired by the Bay Area style while also adding the extreme metal/crossover inclinations of the Germans, the second wave of thrash bands and also Scandinavian black metal, drawing comparisons to Greek bands, Flames, Acid Death, Suicidal Angels, but also Kreator, Testament and Dark Angel. 

Two albums under their belt, the last one in 2015, Bio-Cancer have had plenty of time to redefine themselves and my lord have they done that on this third record. Conceived during the pandemic, the first Greek metal band ever to play China, worked tirelessly to make this the biggest sounding record they have made, meticulously trying to outdo themselves, in every aspect of their sound. 

While highlighting both the thrash and death metal side of their music the latter on the crushing Footprints On My Back and the explosive title track and the former on Citizen…Down and Dream Merchants. The switches between styles, technically gifted playing, foreboding atmosphere and the vocals reminding me of Skeletonwitch. 

Tomek Solomonidis is frightening behind the kit, laying down blasts and double kicks with ease, Thanasis Andreou and Stavros Marinos’ guitars carving up the riffs between them, with speed metal ferocity and technical precision, bursting into flashfire solos as Giannis Lagoutaris’ virtuoso bass fills in any gaps in the musical assault. 

Assault being the operative word for what Bio-Cancer do, if it’s not the explosive instrumentals it’s the frankly terrifying vocals of Lefteris Hatziandreou, I can feel the soreness in my throat just from listening to him scream. Having been accused of being a little one note on previous albums, Revengeance is a true reinvention where musical ambition is met with the experience and maturity. Fantastic! 9/10

Refuser – Refuser (Sleaszy Rider Records)

Another addition to the Hellenic trad/heavy/epic metal scene, this self titled album from Refuser will have you digging out your leather gauntlets and bullet belts as it’s a record inspired by the 80’s glory days where the NWOBHM was looming large and over the pond Manilla Road, Manowar and Warlord were also showing their steel. It’s that latter two and Iron Maiden, that prove to be the biggest inspiration for Refuser as these Greeks lay down some bass heavy trad metal, which reminded me of Cauldron who are also a power trio. 

Tasos Kladas’ bass galloping in unison with Stergios Hatzidiamantis’ drums on Refuser (the song) as Restless adding a touch of sleaze, in the guitar playing, Devil’s Embrace opens with organ, moving into some Mercyful Fate-like schlock. The guitars, keys and vocals all come from Konstantinos Karakitsos, chopping out killer riffs and leads on In The Night while The Blasphemer must be a Metallica song surely? Refuser don’t do short songs, all are over 5 minutes but the album has two historical epics, Jason, which is about and features clips from Jason And The Argonauts and Pompeii which is about the Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD. 

Jason is heavily inspired by Iron Maiden while Pompeii takes more from Warlord or Manowar due to the extensive use of keys/orchestrations. On these two epics Refuser move themselves away from just being another retro metal band, understanding the epic metal sound totally. The only thing I really want is better production to make it sound huge but other than that Refuser will have you shouting yes as you pump your fist! 8/10

Forgotten… – Whispers Of Existence (Self Released) 

Whispers Of Existence, the debut EP from Forgotten... doesn’t hang around; Is This The Gift You Call Life, sets the pace for the remaining 5 tracks with raw, ferocious black metal. This band play music that is grim, frost-bitten and with nihilistic melancholy that is delivered through a veil of bleakness. Now settled on the trio of Retrofornicator (bass), Kostas.B (guitars) and Georgios Chatziioannidis (vocals/guitars), the EP actually has a few extra session musicians, though no one seems to drum, even though these songs clearly have a drum on them. 

Whispers Of Existence is black metal by the numbers, the mix/mastering designed to make it sound authentic to the tape trading days, it’s also a bit all over the place as Bound In Misery sounds audibly denser than The Illusion Of Life. Forgotten… they aren’t just tremolo picking and satan, there’s atmospherics attempted on trebly keyboards, clean guitar on Woods Of Torment and Pilgrims Of An Unknown Future where they try some Opeth but the guitar playing is pretty good overall, weaving in and out of aggressive riffing under anguished vocals. 

Whispers Of Existence ends with a musically backed reading of Edgar Allen Poe, this song following the come down of Pilgrims Of An Unknown Future. It’s an odd thing to do as I’d have put them first as a way to build before smashing into Is This The Gift You Call Life. Still if the bitter black metal is what you seek remember to find Forgotten… 7/10

Sarcovore – The Calling (Against Human Filth Records)

The Calling is 26 minutes of extremely brutal death metal, that I can’t fucking hear! ‘Blessed’ with two vocalists; Greg and Tasos that both gargle marbles, the riffs come from Theo but I’ll be damned if I can hear them as this album is so horribly produced that it’s just a big distorted mess. Occasionally you can differentiate when things stop and restart, or there’s an intro like on the title track but with the Coroner/Cynic reverb on the vocals, the similarity between all nine songs, and the drum programming just sounding like a jackhammer, this is less Uncompromising Death Metal, more unlistenable death metal. 4/10

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