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Thursday 28 September 2023

Reviews: Graveyard, Iron Altar, Lightlorn, Semprus (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Erick Willand, Jeremy Silverman & GC)

Graveyard - 6 (Nuclear Blast) [Paul Scoble]

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, Graveyard have been making music together since 2006. In that time the band have released five albums before 6; their self titled debut arrived in 2007, followup Hisingen Blues came four years later in 2011, just one year after came album number three Lights Out, album four was Innocence And Decadence in 2015, and the last album before 6 was released in 2018 and was called Peace. Graveyard is made up of Joakim Nilsson on guitar and vocals, Jonatan Larocca-Ramm also on guitar and vocals, Truls Mörck on bass and vocals and Oskar Bergenheim on drums.

The sound on 6 is broadly similar to Graveyard's tried and tested sound, don’t worry they haven’t messed with a winning formula. The taut blues rock that sometimes drifts into psychedelic rock is still there, however I think this album has a fairly mellow feel to it. The rockers are still there, but about half of the songs have a softer and more dulcet sense that swaps driving rock for warmth and beauty.

The album opens with Godnatt, a gentle blues track with slide guitar, the vocal performance is great, very expressive and affecting, in fact the vocals throughout the album are a thing of beauty. The song does have a section near the middle that builds in intensity, but quickly returns to minimal introverted blues. Graveyard follow the mellow opener with the first taut rocker; TwiceTwice is tight as anything and has a slight Southern rock feel to it, the chorus is cracking, and singalong. The song is short, to the point and absolutely brilliant. I Follow You has a dark and brooding introduction before becoming a great piece of uptempo rock. The song has a fantastically powerful chorus, a brooding middle section before the song builds itself back to a huge, really forceful ending.

Breath In Breath Out is an interesting track. The song starts with the twangiest of twangy guitars, this is channelling Dwayne Eddy, Chris Issak and maybe a little bit of Johnny Cash, with some very good, deep vocals. Backing vocals are added that sound as if they have come from gospel or spiritual music, they are soft and smooth, Lush, Velvet Gorgeousness. The song builds slowly adding Hammond and extra layers of vocals. In the end the song feels like something to wrap yourself up in on a cold winter night, sheer bliss.

Sad Song
 is just that; a sad little song built out of Hammond, piano and clean guitar. It features a great vocal performance and is a wonderful piece of piano and Hammond led blues. Just A Drop is Driving and purposeful blues rock with great riffs. The song boasts some really great energy that keeps everything moving forward and has some great melody leads. Bright Lights has a gentle blues verse that is mellow and introverted, and also has chorus with that twangy guitar that we met on Breath In Breath Out, that is superb.

No Way Out is a blues ballad that starts soft, but builds slowly, and also features those lush backing vocals that have a gospel/spiritual feel to them. There is another really great chorus that stands out on an album of stunning choruses. The song reminds me a little of early Seventies, Mick Taylor era Rolling Stones. The song builds to a huge ending with amazing layered Vocals.

The album comes to and end with the song Rampant Fields. This track is all about ebb and flow. The song starts in a way that is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s song Albatross, with gentle strummed chord and slide guitar, the song then builds in intensity and drive, before dropping back into the gentle blues, which then builds, getting bigger and more purposeful, until once again it ebbs back to soft and beautiful blues. This happens a few times until a melody lead is added that takes the song and the album to a beautiful end.

6 is a stunning album, it might not be full of tight rockers, but the mellow blues, gospel/spiritual and softer material more than makes up for it. The straight rock track are great and of the high standard you would expect from Graveyard, but the softer material makes the album soar. The way all of these songs have wormed their way onto my consciousness is amazing, I cannot stop humming all the tunes, or singing the choruses under my breath. An absolutely brilliant piece of blues rock, wrapped up in beauty and luxurious lushness. 9/10

Iron Altar - Promethean (Trepanation Recordings) [Erick Willand]
Formed in Scotland's Edinburgh in 2016 Iron Altar have perfected a unique form of Sludge/metalcore as they have traversed over Ireland and the UK. This led to 2018s full length release Pillars Of Blood, some more touring and then the world shut down for a bit as we all know. Fast forward to glorious 2023 and Iron Altar returns with a second full length, Promethean.
Oddly enough track 1 is The End, which I take as an inside joke maybe. After some slow guitar intro stuff singer Andrew Callis greets you with an absolutely cavernous bellow and instantly grabs attention. The riffs are crunchy and the howls have just enough echo and a droning sway sets in, then boom! At about the 2 minute 50 mark it blasts off, mmm…tasty. The Hunted follows and does not disappoint, aggressive with a mean vocal approach that you feel it deep.
Iron Altar have seemingly perfected a sludgy aggression that feels familiar yet is unique to them. The rolling crunchy riffs carry you along on tracks like Mortality with it’s sly little Slayer nod and the Doomy intro to Path To Empyrean that opens up to speed and blasts only to shift again back to that characteristic sway. Megalith is a clean, tight 4 minutes and my personal fav track here and will be going right into the playlist. Cataclysmic Imprint swings through with equal intensity and shorter time stamp.
That goes right out the window with the next track, Miasmic Intuition. At just over 7 minutes this opus is a bit rambling, but it’s good rambling, like that good part of a road trip when you just zone out and drive. This is the doomy side of Iron Altar and although this track could use a trim I’m not lost on it but lost in it, and that’s a good thing.
Last two tracks are misplaced and should clearly be swapped around. Shanidar is a slow short instrumental that absolutely should have been the album closer, I feel that in my bones. Last track then ends up being Primal Rites and although this is a tight groove laden song it should have fallen in with Megalith and Cataclysmic Imprint. It’s the biggest fault of this album, pacing. 

The first half is packed with 5 minute long bangers that almost feel like a different album. Then two shorter bangers, noticeably shorter, then…random. For me it’s enough to notice but not enough to damn the whole album, annoying as it is. There are moments of crunchy grooviness laced with just the right aggression that hit just the right points and got my attention. The production is tight and the vocal delivery is tops. I’ll give a point for cover art as well, a very interesting piece that I believe is not AI, so that’s good.
If I could rearrange the songs for a better flow this score would be higher but over all. 6/10

Lightlorn - At One With The Stars (Black Lion Records) [Jeremy Silverman]

Looking at this album cover, you would have no idea what is to come. Lightlorn’s debut album, At One With The Stars, is a cosmic black metal tour de force. With only two members, this band may seem like an unlikely powerhouse, yet they immediately prove that they are going to be huge.
Combining two of my favorite things, sci-fi/space, and black metal, Lightlorn utilized themes of something greater, something beyond to convey a sense of dread yet mysticism. Each song transcends the traditions of black metal, literally and figuratively, as they have sprawling waves of ethereal and calming music smack dab in the middle of an extremely heavy song. 

The lyrical themes of the stars and outer space make for an interesting trip through the cosmos with a kickass soundtrack. If I could simplify this album into one sentence, it would be “It is like lifting off into space, where the serenity of nothingness is intertwined with nightmares.” 8/10

Semprus - A Fractured Reality EP (Self Released) [GC]

It’s been a while since I have reviewed anything, so naturally I am easing myself in with something nice, easy and relaxing, its then new EP A Fractured Reality from Surry based tech-death band Semprus who according to their PR ‘’thrive on crafting music that is challenging, unique, and above all, deeply engrossing’’ time to see if that is a correct statement or not.

Opener Cursed starts off well enough with some impressive drum work from Harry Cook and then explodes into life with some nice blastbeats that unfortunately completely drown out any guitars but when the song forms into a more straightforward deathcore rhythm everything is as you would expect really, it doesn’t really challenge you or do much to make you sit up and pay attention, all the parts are done well enough but it just lacks something to take it to the next level.

Genetic Misery then slows the pace down but in doing so creates a new problem, everything now sounds out of time and messy, its like they all recorded in sperate rooms and didn’t tell each other what they were going to play, it does kind of sync up midway through but again doesn’t really grab my attention and just sort of slowly limps along towards the end. Hatred is next up and it begins with a really cheesy sample which almost makes me now bother but I am glad I do as they seem to have finally hit their peak here, its full of big chugging riffs and another decent drum turn and the vocals really hit home and there is no attempt at slowing down or subtlety its just a full on heads down battering and its needed because it breathes life into what has so far been a very average EP.

Identity Crisis then begins with a slow thoughtful guitar section that mixes in with some good heavy parts to create a new layer and introduce some genuine intrigue as they then weave in and out of this style for the most part of the song to show that they can actually write layered material and it not fall flat on it face like previous attempts have but with a run time of 6:24 it does go on a bit to long and feels bit tedious towards then end. Insanity has the job of closing this mixed bag of an EP and does so in a bit of a meh fashion, there’s nothing specifically wrong with the song its just a bit of a mess and tries to mix everything they have to offer and just makes what has been recorded sound too busy and weird.

After sitting and re-listening to make sure I wasn’t being overly harsh on Semprus, I still stand by what has been said above. I think the whole thing is just a bit of a mess, there are some good bits that I like but there are also some bits that I just wanted to not hear again and that’s what frustrates me the most I think, there’s just no consistency and they try to do too much in not very much time, on an album I think there is plenty of room to try new thing and mix it up but on an EP I don’t. I am sure in the future they will find their feet and style but here it feels like they are still trying. 5/10

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