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Thursday 28 September 2023

Reviews: KK's Priest, Obsidian Tide, Disguised Malignance, TheFalls (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Mark Young)

KK's Priest - The Sinner Rides Again (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

The Sinner Rides again follows very quickly on the heels of 2021's Sermon Of The Sinner and it sees KK's Priest doing what they do best, play music that is Judas Priest, but under a different name. With the Flying V of ex-Priest axeman KK Downing still carving out those riffs made of British Steel and ex-Priest vocalist Tim 'Ripper' Owens Screaming For Vengeance, KK's Priest are a band who take the idea of being Defenders Of The Faith seriously, rather than just falling back on being covers act they are actively writing new material.

This second album doesn't vary too much from the first luckily it still sounds like 'classic' Priest rather than the two albums they made with The Ripper, The Sinner Rides again features a twin axe attack from Downing and A.J Mills, while the bottom end of Tony Newton (bass) and Sean Elg (drums) are retained from debut. As a Point Of Entry, Sons Of The Sentinel carries with it an orchestral swell then some speed metal thrust, the dive bomb guitars and shredding a powerful opener. Because of Ripper's vocals, KK's version of Priest leans more on the thrash/speed/power metal style Priest inspired, the mixing and mastering of Jacob Hansen giving it a modern sheen. 

From here it's a Sin After Sin as Strike Of The Viper adds a chug, while Reap The Whirlwind is a heavy metal Killing Machine, from those 80's glory days, the riffs coming in fast leading to trade off solos. One More Shot Of Glory goes fully into the power metal mold ready to Ram It Down your throat with some brilliant drumming. You can't really say too much negative about this album, yeah it sounds like Judas Priest but that is sort of the point, it shares DNA so it will inevitably share musical similarities too. It would be stupid if it didn't. The debut was good and The Sinner Rides Again keeps them in a purple patch. 

From the fist pumping Painkillers such as Hymn 66 and the riffy title track and the ominous Keeper Of The Graves which harks back to the 70's and even a bit of fellow Midlander's Black Sabbath. This second album is more classic heavy metal from KK's Priest, a Turbo charged record that closes out proudly with Pledge Your Souls and Wash Away Your Sins, classic heavy metal from one of the original Metal Gods. 8/10

Obsidian Tide – The Grand Crescendo (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Imagine if the trio of Rush played the music of Opeth and came from Israel, that’s the concept behind Obsidian Tide. Now on their third full length album, The Grand Crescendo is an hour long progressive metal opus where, virtuoso playing meets eclectic song writing, the extreme and non-extreme styles of metal music blended brilliantly, track by track, unfolding into a opus of epic proportions. 

Formed back in 2012, the core trio of Oz Avneya (guitar/clean vocals), Erez Nadler (drums/percussion/programming) and Shachar Bieber (bass/harsh vocals) are still the driving force behind this magnificent musical machine. Like the previous album Pillars Of Creation, The Grand Crescendo features some guests with Danielle Sassi (Yossi Sassi & The Oriental Rock Orchestra) returns with both flute and ney to give it the Middle Eastern flavour of Orphaned Land, Subterranean Masquerade, Myrath and the Oriental Rock Orchestra while Nimrod Adar adds some excellent contrabass (double bass) to the albums heaviest moment The Undying Flame, and Roy Chen adds additional blast beats to the finale. 

The Grand Crescendo builds on what Pillars Of Creation offered with a broader scope, taking their cues from modern day Opeth on The Invasion Of Paradise, where the jazz influence is clear, haunting melodies and a slow build, the post rock ambiance shifting to heavier riffs and growled vocals, as the guitar solos linger heading back to jazz strength. It’s very impressive musically, but never suffers from being inaccessible, even with extended run times (most are over 8 minutes), and the wealth of musical endeavour keeps you listening. 

Halo Crvsher takes a darker turn as the crunchy guitars and Steven Wilson-like introspection is bolstered by that excellent flute and the sparse drumming. The Grand Crescendo is an album, designed to be listened too from start to finish, there’s no chopping and changing here, a full 62 minutes of music to lose yourself in, the inauspicious beginnings of Clandestine Calamities and Beyond, building into the frankly epic duo of the doom metal meets classical, guitar driven The Undying Flame and the 13 minute marathon of The Field of Reeds: Part I - Far from the Sun, Part II - The Riverbed, Part III - Paradise Of Deceit)

Tthe albums focal point coming in like a mixture of Jethro Tull and Camel albeit if they evolved into crushing death metal, before falling back into acoustics (so Opeth), leading into the outro of sorts Miracles (The Field Of Reeds Part IV)The Grand Crescendo, sets Obsidian Tide up as one of the big hitters in the progressive metal world, as bands like Opeth continue to ride into another decade, Obsidian Tide and a few others make their mark as the heirs to that throne. 9/10

Disguised Malignance - Entering The Gateways (Prosthetic Records) [Mark Young]

Is there such a thing as ‘Meat and Potatoes’ death metal? There should be, reserved for those bands who just serve up hearty comfort music that doesn’t try to be anything else, but a blast beat laden, guttural, double-bass massacre. Can I just say now that I mean no disrespect at all. Sometimes you just want to press play and succumb to wave after wave of brutality.
Described as unearthly death metal, these Helsinki natives have got this just about right with a debut album via Prosthetic records that shows that they have got the right stuff.

Gates Of Nihil has that class start, all deep growls, lower end riffing that carries this along as a brutal statement of intent. It has all the core ingredients required to make you want to listen to more. I know that we have had a great year for bands coming in and taking that old school ethic and making it their own. It’s the same here as they tear into Confined, with that blast beat explosion into controlled fury.

Unearthly Extinction keeps to that path going for the throat with a direct approach. No technical passages or crazy time signatures, it just comes in, hammers you and then onto the next one. The Fading Path Of Existence is another prime example of this, constant attack, always moving, definitely heavy.
Malignant Visions brings a touch of melody into the opening moments that are replaced with a heavy slow down to emphasise the faster music to come. This one has a great dynamic to it and acts as a superb link to Remnants Of Serenity which just has a frantic start, and they maintain that pace right through. This one seems to motor in a way the others don’t possibly because it’s less dependent on blasts and more chugging / trem picking. The end solo break is a great way to finish off. Next comes one of the highlights, Disengagement Into Eternity where they bring some atmosphere into a melodic break down. 

This is done incredibly well, and it stands out because of it. The final act builds on it with a nice nod to early Death. It’s an absolute stormer and for me an early indication of what these are capable of. The song length of 7 minutes doesn’t feel like it as they don’t allow it to settle one bit. Fantastic stuff and then we have the curtain closer, Beyond (Entering The Gateways) which comes in bringing a stomping riff that evokes Morbid Angel (this is fabulous by the way) in terms of that brutality. They somehow up that ante by picking up the pace with some tight riffing whilst getting some melodeath in there.
I’m all for that straightforward death metal, sometimes they can get carried away with concentrating on isolating one facet without considering the song as a whole. Here, they have got what is required from the past without staying locked to it. The downside to this is the fact that they don’t vary too much from one to the next, but they have enough in them to be good songs and anyway this would change what they are and who they are trying to be. They have the approach just right; songs are long enough to register without repeating themselves and each one does what is required. It won’t set the world on fire but for being their debut release it is a strong foundation from which to kick on from. It is Death Metal, its well written and the attack never stops. 7/10

TheFalls - Reflection///Void (Convulse Recordings/Braak Records) [Mark Young]

This has come out of nowhere and landed firmly in the Holy Cow category of releases for 2023. The Norwegian 4piece mix so many ideas into each of the songs here, its difficult to get a handle on it first time round. But stay with it and you will be rewarded by a release that manages to go from Sludge to Hardcore and seemingly all points in between.
Starting off with Patterns Emerge (I) it comes in with a grandiose riff build that displays their Mathcore roots it just twists and turns into the clean spectrum and back into that sludge-tinged attack and back once more. It’s a blast and just a hint of what they have in store. They have more going on in one song than some bands have in an entire album. Stripped back almost 90’s college rock into that Mastodon style with Patterns Emerge (II) picking up the thread and running with it. 

This one explores that softer dynamic with a cracking arrangement that drops heavy bombs but only has a reset before that beautiful passage starts once more. Like I said in the opening piece, there is a ton of stuff present including some down and dirty riffing complete with some of the most anguished growls I’ve heard in some time. Riffs sound as they have been sped up / slowed down and it’s just fantastic.

Nadir (I) employs a darker turn, throwing in some class heavy metal shapes and its own softer side. This has a haunting melodic side that just shows that they can literally do anything and make it sound good and true to themselves. There is a constant avalanche of new ideas that you are desperately trying to get a hold off and it is so difficult because you are swamped with them. The thing is that this isn’t a ‘throw everything at the listener and see what keeps’ this is just the concentrated output of genius level musicians, focused into a laser beam of total audio quality. 

The segue from Nadir (I) to (II) is just excellent and so quick as it then burns into (III) which brings the melody and the noise in equally amazing levels. I think the decision to make these separate was inspired. You can listen in one hit or appreciate them out of way they are delivered here. Both work and there is no point me telling you about the clean here or the dark there. Instead, just accept that this is one of the releases of 2023 across any genre.
And that’s without mentioning the final two tracks.
Seconds, weighs in at 8 minutes and is an often-mesmeric journey into their math / post-metal / prog world that they occupy. It also feels as though this is from a different period in the band’s life, I could be wrong but thinking back to the period it was recorded in between 2019 and 2023 this sits slightly differently from the Patterns Emerge / Nadir. It seems to coalesce everything they know how to write into one track with no drop in the incredibly high bar they have set themselves with the other songs on here.
Album closer, The Hardest Part Is Over really goes for you and is just brimming with anger and urgent need to express itself. Breakdowns, super low ends coupled with a tightened to breaking point rhythm that opens itself to a lighter solo break, all gentle chords and singing (think later Opeth) that just powers this home.
Closing this review out, I would say that Reflections///Void should be heralded as a classic. Its just full of amazingly strong riffs, arrangements, the lot. This should be gratefully received by lovers of Mathcore. It should be adored by lovers of progressive extreme metal. Its not for everyone, of course. Some will be of the mindset that it’s not for them, that they prefer a more straight forward approach. Well, you won’t know if you don’t try it. And you should try it. 10/10

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