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Friday 15 September 2023

Reviews: Psygnosis, Mondo Drag, Alkaloid, Blackened Halo (Reviews By Jeremy Silverman, Rich Piva, Danika Ulrich & Mark Young)

Psygnosis - Mercury (Season Of Mist) [Jeremy Silverman]

This was, in short, a masterpiece. I have never heard a band make such a complete album. Starting with the musicianship, this was top notch, as each artist was at the top of their game. It was immediately evident that each member of the band had skills beyond what normal people would consider ‘godly’. 

The guitar riffs were magnificent, with a fusion of heavy and melodic metal perfectly executed. The lack of vocals made these stand out as they were the lead melody in each song. The drums were absolutely impeccable. With blast beats as fast as comprehension and double kick flurries exploding rhythms from a simple chug riff to a thick, sludgy amalgamation of beautiful sound. Opening with Öpik-Oort this album kicks off with a sweeping opus. Usually, a completely instrumental song that lasts 15 minutes can seem to drag and get repetitive fast, however Psygnosis avoids that. 

If I was to recommend this album to someone, I would start by playing them Öpik-Oort. The first song on this album set the tone for what would be a perfect hybrid of multiple genres. With multiple flowing metal passages encompassing the album, it is clearly a metal album yet there are moments where classical and electronic music take the fore front. All in all, absolutely amazing. 10/10

Mondo Drag - Through The Hourglass (RidingEasy Records) [Rich Piva]

Mondo Drag has not put an album out in eight years, until now, when Through The Hourglass drops to get all proggy/psych up in here, and whoa baby do they bring it. This is a self-described “quarantine/pandemic” album, so get ready for some dark bits as well. The band is back in full force, with a new rhythm section (the bass player from Birth! Bring the prog, baby…) and six new killer tracks that are in existence to expand your mind in all sorts of ways.
The two opening tracks, Burning Daylight Parts I and II kick us off with some super cool and in parts chill proggy psych as promised, with Part I opening with quite the sonic soundscape and cool riff to boot while then bringing all sorts of 60s California psych vibes, especially when the vocals kick in. Oh, and how about towards the end with that solo and the organ placed nicely behind for the atmosphere. Part II has a nice funky psych vibe to it to start, but just wait for that organ solo to kick end towards the end. The spacy, almost crooning vocals work so well on Through The Hourglass. Burning Daylight was the perfect way to start out this record. 

Passages is up next, and you are in for eleven minutes of mind-bending on this bad boy. It takes a couple minutes to kick in, but once it does, look out. I love how the organ drives a lot of what’s going on here. I am getting serious Pink Floyd vibes with Passages. This will be one of the instrumental tracks of the year, especially with that killer guitar solo to close it out. The B-side of the record starts with the title track, that has a cool guitar opening and is some seriously chill psych prog. The synths are so well done on this album, which is a nice lead into Death In Spring, which may be my favorite track on the album, harkening back to some serious 70s prog goodness. Floyd vibes continue with Run, which is the most straight-ahead song on Through The Hourglass with that synth guitar partnership continuing to be awesome and on full display until the gigantic 70s prog ending in all of its sequent robe glory.
It took me until about the fifth listen to get this. Nothing clicked right away, but when it did, it really hit me across the face. Mondo Drag are truly back with the album that I dig the most of their discography. Dark and chill, psych and prog, synth and guitar, all these things brought together for some seriously killer stuff. Through The Hourglass should be experienced by all in its gigantic, mind-altering wonderfulness. 9/10

Alkaloid - Numen (Season Of Mist) [Danika Ulrich]

You can be sure the product of extreme metal legends forming a progressive supergroup will be entertaining and unusual. Numen, the third release from Alkaloid, definitely fits both. There is a lot of room for creativity in the world of extreme metal, from extended song lengths to extravagant orchestration and a variety of vocal techniques. Things are sure to get interesting when members of prominent bands break free from genre restrictions. 

Numen builds on the themes and essence of Alkaloid’s two prior albums, Liquid Anatomy (2018) and The Malkuth Grimoire (2015). Both of the band's earlier albums have song lengths in excess of ten minutes and go over an hour in total. This is also true of Numen clocking in at an hour and nine minutes. Track 2, The Cambrian Explosion, stands out to me. This track initially appears like one of the more overtly death metal compositions. It’s quick and intricate with plenty of shredding. That is until the track's halfway point when a nearly operatic bridge and a brief, understated jazz interlude are introduced.

Clusterfuck, the main track from the album, starts off with a slow tempo and a catchy, enduring riff. Such musical decisions are what prevent this album from descending into anarchy. This track serves as the central tranquility, it likens to the utter silence and darkness of space. It’s incredibly infectious and the most philosophical of the album. Numen is more than just an album, it's a profound cosmic voyage. This album represents a significant advancement in the band's catalog, fusing many genres into a distinctive sound with a lasting emotional impact.

The album represents a major leap in the band's discography, showcasing their skill in fusing many metal genres into fresh sounds and their unrelenting dedication to musical innovation. 7/10.

Blackened Halo - Extinction Inbound (Self Released) [Mark Young]

I love EP’s, the short-sharp smack in the face from an unexpected source and the general vibe of delivering 4 or 5 songs in a rapid manner. Its great as a precursor to a full album and when one lands like this, well it brightens up your day nicely.

The lads from Blackened Halo offer up 4 songs here, with original composition Human Parasite opening up proceedings. From the cover art to subject matter and just the overall attack the Munich natives show a command of ‘classic thrash’ with enough of a modern filter to make it unique to themselves. And you know, it’s got legs with that distinctive European phrasing in the vocals that slip between a ‘hard’ style and the more extreme guttural method that does jar a bit but the actual song behind it hits like a hybrid of Megadeth with Spreading The Disease Anthrax as they bang out a great riff punctuated with some spot solo breaks. So far, so good and I think I’d need to hear more of their own material before passing judgement, but it is a great introduction to their music.

Now it gets interesting, as next up is Blood And Thunder by those Atlanta mentalists Mastodon. Now I love this song, and the album it comes from. It’s a faithful cover whilst not adding anything to the original but what you do get is a feeling of fun as it wheels along, and to be honest I can make out the lyrics better on this one!!

One of things about covers is being able to nail them. With Mastodon there’s no doubt they did, for the next one they aim just that bit higher with Tornado Of Souls. If you know metal you know this song, and you know that it has one of the most finger shredding solos ever committed to audio. It’s an absolute personal favourite of mine so as this one started, I wasn’t bowled over and this is due to the vocals. 

Dave Mustaine's voice and singing style is probably not the easiest to emulate and here they try to match it as opposed to adopting their own style. In all honesty, I don’t listen to Megadeth for the singing (don’t act surprised) so taking that out of the equation they tear through it with aplomb playing it slightly faster than the original and nailing the solo equally well. We close up with a Zager And Evans In The Year 2525 which is given a riff-over that works surprisingly well.

In terms of it being an EP, it does what it needs to do in being able to introduce the band and give you a flavour of who they are. Personally, I would have liked another track by them, but it is what it is and, in that regard, it’s pretty good. 7/10

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