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Thursday 14 September 2023

Reviews: Blind Equation, Cairn Temple, Omega Sun, Rock Band From Hell (Reviews By Mark Young, Rick Eaglestone, Rich Piva & Alex Swift)

Blind Equation - Death Awaits (Prosthetic Records) [Mark Young]

Cyber Grind. Emotional Cyber Grind

Full disclosure – this is another genre of extreme music I had not heard of before this dropped in my mailbox. Blind Equation are purveyors of Emotional Cyber-grind, which looks inwardly, taking in all manner of personal demons against a backdrop that consists of hardcore, grind, electronica, extreme metal amongst others. The sole songwriter, James McHenry takes all of these and more, bending them to suit a mood or direction. What I am incredibly conscious of is not forming any sort of opinion before listening to it and to make sure it is an objective review as I can do. Here we go. 

Death Awaits is literally extreme vocals set over what sounds to be 8- or 16-bit software playing and you think ‘oh no, I can’t do it’ then they bring the heavy to it. Not a lot, but enough with the drums and vocals to do enough to somehow make it work. Speedrunning Life is in the same mode, with a gothic feel that falls into electro-black Metal. It somehow works, I know I said before, but I cannot think of any other way to describe it. The speed is comparable to Black metal, the arrangements are what you would find on most black metal releases. As a track, this actually kicks ass, as it motors along with absolutely zero fucks given. 

You Betrayed The Ones You Love starts with an incredibly familiar tune, I confess I’m not up on Nintendo games, but it sounds straight from that ilk. Throwing in some Autotune this hits like J-Metal and then just tramples across multiple genres – pop, BM and more. Unless you are listening to this on a regular basis there is a good chance you won’t have heard anything like this before. You can see why Prosthetic are trumpeting these because they are definitely unique and that’s on the strength of just three songs. 

Fade Away is a blast, shrieking vocals, blast beats and that 8-bit backing sound that gives it that sense of something just being wrong. It manages to out-menace those in corpse paint by some degree. Choke is more of the same, in the same mould as Fade Away as it sounds like a demonic remix of a boyband turned metal. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but one thing is certain is that these are not thrown together. They are crafted to an inch of their life with a care that you wish some of the traditional bands would use. 

Never Getting Better has that Eurodance feel, autotuned backing and I’ve got to say I hated it. Insane beats or not. Hated it. Killing Me (ft Rat Jesu) is just as extreme as you get, with the traditional guitars removed in favour of a Casio keyboard. The aesthetic is fine, the attack is something else because it is full-on, 100mph and although I appreciate it, it confirms to me the adage: The reason you don’t like it is because you don’t understand it. And I don’t understand it, I want guitars and I want it to sound like proper metal. See what I mean? But, as Suffering In Silence (ft. Deathrippa) kicks off, I get it. Replace the bontempi with a guitar and you will have a collection of some of the most technical and extreme metal you will ever hear. It’s just how its presented and absorbed by the listener. 

For me, with my appreciating hat on it’s completely unique in approach. Using electronica, it widens the sonic palette further than what they could possibly do with guitar. That I get, and rightfully they should be applauded for pushing that envelope in what extreme metal actually is. And after all, it is what you want to make it, rather than what someone tells you it should be. The closing track, The Last Glimpse Of Me floats in and is really just the closing tune, played over the credits of a game you have just finished. It’s an effective melding of emotion with technology and it is no different than some of the black metal I’ve heard this year. Scoring it is difficult as it doesn’t resonate with me for reasons given above. Its unique, and ultimately, it’s not for everyone. But it will be for someone. 7/10

Cairn Temple - Deadwinds (Engraven) [Rick Eaglestone]

Indiana’s Cairn Temple summon lost souls with new album Deadwinds

Opener Old Fetid Winds is a slow, brooding track that is laden with hypnotic and menacing riffs complimented by matching vocals and drum patterns – its uneasy nature serves as a great introduction for the fury that follows on Wreath Of Dead-Winds. Coffer’s Fumes is an immediate contender for highlight track as it’s stripped back doom tones, prominent basslines oozing with occult vibes combined with the vocal style and complimenting drums really elevate the track as too do the slow lingering solos.

Easily the releases most relentless track and almost straying into Black Metal territory is Orator it’s feral yet abundant with elements in keeping with the previous tracks, this is followed by a track that could almost be the first tracks twin Hinterlands Cairn drives the album back down to its mist swirling and doom-laden roots. Title track Deadwinds is hypnotically captivating with nice built in soundscapes which are really highlighted during the instrumental parts.

Overall, Deadwinds doesn’t stray too far from its death/doom core and because of it the band really demonstrate an ability to focus on the atmosphere that it creates and construct pieces around the album’s aesthetic.

Menacingly laden with dark purpose. 7/10

Omega Sun - Roadkill (No Profit Recordings) [Rich Piva]

Omega Sun is a stoner rock power trio from Slovenia, which is a sentence I have never typed before, but I am here for their second album, Roadkill. I mention stoner, but you get a bit of the doom and the grunge as well, and dare I say a dash of radio friendly alternative rock/metal. It’s been a while for the band, as their first critically acclaimed album dropped way back in 2017, but Roadkill is worth the wait, as you get six killer fuzzy stoner jams that is nothing groundbreaking stylistically but leverages all their influences (Kyuss, Alice In Chains, Down, Sabbath Worship) to provide an excellent stoner rock experience.

The vocalist definitely has Garcia vibes, and that works for me, especially on the opener, The One. A nice riff and some layered, AIC inspired vocals along with something musically that makes this really accessible. Think Sandviess if you are familiar. A band that would not chase away fans of more mainstream rock. The fuzzy guitar tone works very well for me and is the highlight of the band sonically. Black Dust has a Cantrell style riff to open it up and is a mid-tempo stoner jam. These guys don’t pick up the pace too much throughout Roadkill, and it is fine with me. This is some grungy, stoner goodness. 

Survive is another track in the same vein, led by outstanding guitar work and is best described as a heavier Kyuss. Another slow burner, but never a dragger. Another You is like the other tracks, but you get an almost psych feel about halfway through that takes this track to another level and dig that guitar work towards the end. Great song. Early Morning is some serious Kyuss worship, done very well. This may be my favorite track on Roadkill. The closer, Doomer, is an on the nose titled track that brings more of the grunge AIC vibes (but a less produced version, if that makes sense) as well as a early Trouble inspired riff(!) and is an excellent way to finish out the six tracks on Roadkill.

Omega Sun made their fans wait a long time, but the trio from Slovenia delver the goods with Roadkill. With only six songs the album never outstays its welcome, which is hard to do when you don’t veer too far off your stylistic path on a record. With these six you get all killer no filler fuzzy stoner rock that will have fans of the genre burning one to it often. Great stuff and will be around on people’s year end lists. 8/10

Rock Band From Hell – Music For Late Night Activities (Universal/Central Line) [Alex Swift]

Music For Late Night Activities by Rock Band Foom Hell has one of the most deceiving titles ever. I’m tempted to say it’s just as misleading as the band name, except the Finnish trio's breakthrough is neither sinister nor terrifying. They offer peppy, radio-friendly pop punk with some handy contemporary spins on classic concepts like heartache and being considered a failure. Make no mistake, these are concepts which as a dedicated defender of pop-punk, I'm willing to see executed well. Except, these upstarts seem to have neither the ability to craft clever hooks, nor the emotional authenticity needed to carry the style off.

Love Me Till I Die acts as a respectable if predictable lead single for the album. It's a midsummer pop-punk earworm where most of the words help to convey a sense of joyous days spent in the sun, except from the disconcerting "I just wanna pop shit". Problem being, this band’s music is uninhibited and unchanging. It's empty calorie pop punk. Incredibly delightful in the moment or under certain circumstances, but with none of the boyish humour of Blink-182, the emotional complexity of The Wonder Years, or even the adolescent, rose-tinted charm of McBusted!

Perhaps what makes this collection of songs so frustrating is that at some level Rock Band From Hell understand how to make music with some bite, and ferociousness. A lot of the guitar work on moments like Back2Skoool is cleverly structured and detailed. Equally, Kylie Dreams, tells the story of a man who falls in love with a social networking zealot. They've created a strong rock song with enough wit to follow in the wake of so many other pop-punk victories by emphasising the percussion and giving the guitar a little more room to breathe. However, the overall effect is diminished by the fact that the band insist on overly clean production and trap beats in each and every song. By forcing their music to follow these kinds of particular trends, they make what could be an intriguing first album less compelling.

The highlight of this experience is Sex Is On Fire, which is either wisely or unwisely titled, depending on your perspective. It's a creepy nightclub hit with just the proper amount of wailing guitar and sirens. The heavy percussion on Princess Complex is similar in that it nearly makes up for the awkward lyrics. These moments show that when gimmicks and pointless trend-chasing are minimised, Rock Band From Hell have a lot to offer. The instances where they shine, meanwhile, are less common than I anticipated.

After this release, the bands are at a crossroads. They may choose to play it safe, or they could use their musical abilities to produce something authentic. There is a spark of devilish fury inside Rock Band From Hell. If they could channel it, they might develop into the stadium-filling band they want themselves to evolve into. We can only hope that their future work will feature greater risk and intensity. 3/10

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