Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Tuesday 31 October 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Svalbard (Live Review By Mark Young)

Svalbard, Zetra, Hidden Mothers & Without Love, Key Club, Leeds, 21.10.23

The Key Club is nestled within the Merrion Centre, it’s small, dark and is just the sort of place that brings out the best in live bands. It certainly feels intimate and by the time Svalbard take the stage its rammed. Each of the bands tonight offer something completely different from each other, from hardcore to blackened to synth and all points in-between.

Without Love (6), Energetic pumped up hardcore with a touch of a metallic edge. The drums hit you square in the chest, and they just go for it. It’s always tough for the opening act especially one that normally come as a 4 piece. Missing that second guitarist didn’t seem to blunt them as they sped through their 30-minute stage time with barely any gaps or pauses for breath. Its straight in and all though the songs do bleed into one by the end, they have achieved their task of getting the crowd warmed up.

Sheffield’s Hidden Mothers (7) are next. Going from the energy of Without Love to the more expansive, possibly slower sound could be risky but Hidden Mothers have a plan. Steffan Benham plants the mic stand in the pit as an early statement of intent, stalking the area like a predatory lion as the band set up. And then they are off and It's amazing just how massive their sound actually is, not in a volume way but just how they filled the air, how in each and every song there is just something different either with the almost primal scream style that is cathartically released to the opposing vocal delivery from Luke and Liam (guitar/bass respectively) is makes up for a band that somehow manages to make 30 minutes seemingly stretch further as if they made time stand still.

Zetra (9), now these blew me away. A faltering start due to a faulty lead (it’s a guess) the two-piece got going in full dress, corpse-paint the lot and delivered a performance that was just something else. I’d never heard their music before and wow. Shrugging off the delay, they just went about ensnaring you in their sound, bringing for me a sense of 80’s goth and electronica but with some of the most ethereal-sounding vocals I’ve heard in a long time. I’m just cross that I haven’t given them a listen before now which is something that I am going to change. Seeing Serena in the pit, watching them cover How To Swim Down and just being overcome is testament to how good they were. Based on what they were able to do in that short time and how well that translated to the crowd.

Svalbard (9) are one of those bands who look genuinely excited and humbled that people have come out to see them. It’s absolutely infectious as the crowd pick up on this and pay it back which only fuels them to play harder and just burn up the stage. It’s a tight one hour set, as they just blow through the ten songs with only little breaks to allow for a quick (or not so quick) retune – Sorry Liam. Even this is received so well that Serena and co are smiling. Aiming for a balance between their new stormer of an album The Weight Of The Mask and When I Die, Will I Get Better? they pummel and batter with Serena and Liam sharing vocal duties shredding through Open Wound, Throw Your Heart Away to the final one-two of Greyscale and Eternal Spirits. They sound monstrous and confirm themselves as being one of the premier metal acts the UK has at this moment. If you haven’t got their new album remedy this immediately. If you get chance to catch them live, do so. This was the last night of their European tour and I think its safe to safe they went out on a high.

As nights go, this is one of the best curated line-ups I’ve had the pleasure of seeing as each one offered something different, and kudos to Svalbard to putting this together. A shout out to the Key Club too for being a warm and inviting venue, great night all round!!

Post Live review note: Hidden Mothers announced on the 23rd that their gig on the 19th of November would be their last with Steffan. A Twitter / X post stated that there is no drama, just creative differences and they have reached this decision amicably.

Reviews: Edgar Broughton, Lung, Massive Hassle, Usurper (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Edgar Broughton - Break The Dark (Esoteric Antenna)

Acid Rock pioneer Edgar Broughton has a huge back catalogue of music behind him. He's let his freak flag fly across multiple decades, his self named band breaking up and reforming multiple times. Since 2010 he has been a solo artist, but Break The Dark is possibly his most introspective works. 

Beginning in COVID lockdown it's an interesting work that uses his unique vocals, evocative guitar lines and pulsing synths to create soundscapes such as Flowers In A Bowl, the addition of Edgar Broughton Band member Arthur Grant and cellist Calle Armgrip on the beautiful Bell Of Trevelyan, making this record some of Broughton's most impressive music of his career, from the dark The Raven's Song, to the folky Morning Dew, there's building percussion on The Deben Flow and the reflective The Sound Don't Come all make this record a thrilling listen, it's not loud or boisterous but it latches itself on to you with touches of Bowie (Eulia), Depeche Mode and The Mission. 

The mixing of the legendary John Leckie, who cut his teeth with Edgar Broughton Band, weaving a tapestry of sonic wonder. The most intriguing album I've heard this year. As the nights get darker this is a solitary comfort. 8/10

Lung - Volume (Self Released)

Cardiff has a strong selection of heavy riff wielding bands from the underground whether it be Made Of Teeth, Tides Of Sulfur or Spider Kitten, if you want crushing heaviness and woozy distortion then South Wales' capital rumbles with aviation grade basslines, percussion like an artillery barrage and guitars so fuzzy you'd think you were on a week long bender.

The latest exponents of the loud are trio Lung featuring Danny Hume on drums, Ethan Szafnauer on guitar and Joseph Sewell bass, synths and shouts, though Ethan takes the lead voices on White Castle. Lung bring an extremely heavy style of doom metal with the ominous, pulverising power of bands such as Electric Wizard, cult overtones fused with aggressive Sabbath worship that features heavily effects driven songs and reverbed vocals. Produced brilliantly as usual by Tim Vincent at Woodcroft Audio it's an album that very much lives up to its title.

On Volume, there's a lot of that from the chugging riffs of Iron Bison that are distorted and twisted while The Experiment/New Worlds serves as a psychadelic interlude featuring Seth Williams on upright electric bass, there's hardcore aggression on Science Cult while Obsidian Bong Monolith takes a heavy toke then coughs it's guts up and builds on a slow groove segueing though Ahab into the crushing 10 minute Electric Fleet which keeps a steady groove building into an Iommi-like riff although if Iommi did massive amounts of GHB. We close out with the duo of The Saurian which spirals into progressive realms, the samples and synths used brilliantly.

Volume is an intense listen from another of South Wales' doomslingers. Crank the volume, take a hit and lose yourself in the majesty of Lung. 9/10

P.S I'm gutted I missed their recent Cardiff show

Massive Hassle - Number One (Self Released)

Featuring a an album cover picture of them as young boys, Massive Hassle is the new project from Marty and Bill Fisher, between them they have been or currently are Mammothwing, Church Of The Cosmic Skull and Dystopian Future Movies, but they approached this project with an ethos of “Don’t let it become a Massive Hassle”, the idea being that this record would just be the two of them, all songs and lyrics written collaboratively, everything recorded live and filmed in singular takes, each track released as a live video in the run up to the album release, and that the brothers would sing in harmony or unison throughout. 

With their backgrounds in the stoner scene, Massive Hassle then feels like the early days of the scene where bands such as Atomic Rooster, Captain Beyond, Budgie were the originators but Massive Hassle take it further with the harmonies of Buffalo Springfield/CSN and the jazz rock of Steely Dan. Number One is certainly a menagerie that prides itself on collusion and wide musical scope that stretches further than a lot of two pieces. Emotion rings out from the first bluesy moments of Lane, while the garage fuzz of Twos brings more of what you’d expect as does Kneel, which goes into the weirdness of Jack White, the album set out to be one faster rocker then a slower burning track for the most part. 

The natural production giving a feel of being in the studio while the album was being recorded, Number One strips back any of the cinematic sounding bands these brothers have been a part of and lets them show their dynamic as both songwriters and as siblings. 8/10

Usurper - Hand Of The Usurper (Self Released)

Geordie trad metal band Usurper follow up their 2021 debut Master Of The Realm with this five track EP. Again written by vocalist Paul Atkinson and guitarist Ian Fisher, it's five tracks of fist pumping classic metal with a twin axe attack from Fisher and Liam Kennedy soaring vocals from Atkinson and galloping rhythms from Joe Summerfield (bass) and Jed Miller (drums). 

Continuing where they left off Hand Of The Usurper doesn't vary that wildly from their debut full length. The rampaging Angels One-Five gets the EP going as the title track goes abit heavier into some Maiden-like rhythms, Taking Fire From The Gods meanwhile goes into speed/thrash with a bit of Mercyful Fate too. More Maiden comes on the marching Shadow Of Farewell and on the finale epic Wastelands Of Time. Hand Of The Usurper allows the band to add more songs to their live show while keeping their fans happy. 

Classic metal with muscle, Usurper are no pretenders to the throne. 7/10

Reviews: Wayfarer, Legendry, Peine Kapital, Freakshow (Reviews By Erick Willand, Rich Piva, Mark Young & Manos Sideris)

Wayfarer - American Gothic (Profound Lore Records) [Erick Willand]

At this point Americana themed Black metal is not a new thing with bands like Blackbraid, Panopticon, Wolves In The Throne Room, and Nechochwen coming to mind. Each band embeds their music, their look and lyrics with a distinctly American flair. Wayfarer have taken this formula to the Wild West period of our history and amplified it somehow into even higher levels of mystical legend. Complete with cowboy hats and Duster jackets. As I’ve stated before, I’m a sucker for this kind of shtick.

Opening track is a fantastic example of this. A Thousand Tombs Of Western Promise starts off with a very distinct western guitar twang played on a Resonator guitar that is instantly identifiable to anyone who has ever heard an American “country” song before. The morphing of this sound being folded into the confines of a blackend death metal style is quick and they make it sound easy. This and the haunting vocals marked by an anguished delivery make this song hit very nicely and sets the stage for what's to come.

The Cattle Thief is a more intense, yet still has a haunting approach. Particularly the vocals on this sweeping epic with sonic tastes of Gaerea it invokes…a desperate chase. This song could have used a trim however, especially the last minute 30, which feels like it doesn’t fit here. The Western expansion continues as Reaper Of The Oilfields drawls in dusty and weird, like a slow, gritty drudge through scrub littered no-man’s land, the wind in your face. It feels like a stepping point, a stop-gap song.

This is correct as it leads you directly to what is clearly the anthem of this album, To Enter My House Justified. There was care in constructing this song, from the open high plains guitar licks leading to heavier riffs to the howling choruses and ghostly near spoken word moments. And then it ends…just like that and the first time you hear it, you remember it and that’s good. It’s timed well as the next track A High Plains Eulogy begins slowly, quietly. This short unexpected trippy ballad followed by an even shorter song, 1934 is an interesting blend of haunting spoken word, clapping and a harshly strummed guitar. I feel like these two songs are in the wrong place.

It’s a set up of course, Black Plumes Over God’s Country doesn’t creep in, doesn’t fade in quietly, it kicks the door in and blasts instantly. So much more to this song then just the opening anguished vocals over insistent, even grandiose black metal. It’s mournful, epic, very American but like some Americans it hangs around a little too long. This is a very mild complaint, I’m not bored here, it’s epic and well made but a trim would have given it a tighter, more urgent feel. Final track False Constellation adds a salon piano and a gothic vibe but again suffers for just dragging a bit at just shy of 7 minutes. Again, it’s interesting enough that I’m not bored but this would have been more interesting on a shorter leash.

Wayfarer is a band at the height of defining their distinct blended sound, with the western vibe and lyrical storytelling on songs like Black Plumes Over God’s Country and To Enter My House Justified giving us a glimpse of future possibilities. As I often do, I take issue with timing and song placement. Some of my favorite songs on this album are also the songs that hang around too long, like a dinner guest that just keeps talking. I’ll grant that it is less noticeable here then previous album A Romance With Violence. Now song placement is another of my pet peeves and A High Plains Eulogy and 1934 should have been the last two songs respectfully. They feel like closing songs.

Having said that, there is also much I enjoyed on this album, culminating in the elegant simplicity of the cover design done in an elaborate font on a black background that can only be described as High Western Gothic…that’s what I’m calling it for now. Anyway, at the end of the day this one rides into the sunset with a 7/10

Legendry - Time Immortal Wept (No Remorse Records) [Rich Piva]

About halfway through the new album, Time Immortal Wept, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s epic medieval times metal band Legendry, I commented to myself that I was enjoying it way more than I should have been. I think this was because I was expecting something very cheesy, but not the good kind of cheesy. Also, the production is raw to say the least, as in very homemade raw. I know I am a snob about things being too produced, but this one is on the opposite spectrum. 

Song titles such as The Bard’s Tale and Chariots Of Bedlam didn’t give me hope that this would not be cringe. So, when I found myself rocking out to the adventures put forth by band members including main man Vidarr The Silent, Kicker (on drums of course), and Arcane Hammer and not feeling secondhand embarrassment but was really digging it, my whole view of Time Immortal Wept shifted.

Let me reshape my view of the production on Time Immortal Wept. It sounds like what production values were on some of the more unknown late 70s NWOBHM bands, which I am very much here for. As for what these guys sound like you can make that parallel as well, but a bit more epic and a bit more knights of the roundtable. Musically Vidarr can really play and seems to be a multi-instrument virtuoso, as shown through his guitar work on Sigil Strider which is an amazing metal song no matter who is playing it. 

You think the bad cheese is coming with the opening of The Prophecy, but oh no, not only is it catchy and includes excellent background vocals with what seems to be a choir, it also really rocks, even with that flute solo. Kicker shows his chops on the skins here as well. Vidarr’s vocals are not perfect but there is something endearing about his voice that makes me not want to change a thing. Warriors Of Space And Time goes all speed metal on us, with a four-minute ripper with a killer solo. 

There are all sorts of instruments at play here, including some organ on the chunky Chariots Of Bedlam that also includes some frantic drumming from Kicker and some more shredding from Mr. Silent. The Bard’s Revenge rips just as hard, like 80s thrash goodness with a nice dual guitar solo and some strategically placed church bells. The closer title track opens with strings and flute but ends like an early Maiden song. 

To my utmost surprise Legendry absolutely rips it up on Time Immortal Wept. Yes, it is a bit cheesy, and yes, the production and vocals may throw people off, but Time Immortal Wept is as good as any trad/epic metal that has dropped so far this year and is worth the journey though the wastelands to save the princess for anyone who digs killer metal. 8/10

Peine Kapital - Self-Titled (Sludgelord Records) [Mark Young]

Strasbourg, nestled in northeastern France sits near the border with Germany. Famous for its culture, Architecture, and now Sludge-Doom purveyors Peine Kapital.

A teeth-grinding opener in Ordure Alpha, slow, condensed stabbing guitar serving up some of the dirtiest sludge and doom. Punctuated with squalls of feedback, and riffs that are carved out of rock. Lyrics are barked, spat nestled within discord. It takes its central build and adds layers to it, expanding it until you are left with just the bass. Like an oncoming storm, the guitars drop back in to grind out the last remaining moments. It’s a power-play, designed to see if you last the course of the next 41 minutes, and of course, as opening tracks go, it's gargantuan. 

Cour Bestiale simply continues on that slow, heavy build with those feedback whines more prominent this time round. This is like a war of attrition, pushing and stretching your nerves. It cares not for speed, or double bass it just wants to batter you with some of the best doom passages that still make the hair stand up on your arms. This is an exercise in how to write this type of music that makes you have to listen to every measure.

Uniformol doesn’t skip doom day. It's cut from the same dank cloth as the others, but now you realise what is going to transpire, making this a difficult review to complete. Except to say that it's as good as the two before it. There is no let up in it at all. No fat to be trimmed, just a hideous drawn-out noise…. wait, is that double bass? Holy crap it is. Just like that they pull the rug just long enough and then bang we are back in the dark, with those granite-like chords stabbing in. Each one is just spot on, and they are just so heavy. Ending on repeating loops of noise, It's mesmerising.

Demain Charogne brings the curtain down. If anything, their sound has got bigger, a simple phrase repeating that hammering of the senses. And yet nothing has changed in how it hits. It just does. Now I'm completely done in terms of being able to do it justice. It’s like one song cut into four parts, there is no drop in quality, nor change in approach. This is just quality considering it is their second full-length release, having come together in 2017 with several demos and EPs released. It’s a monster of an album, with no standouts because they are all as good as each other.

Love Sludge? Love Doom? Then you will be right at home with this. It has a quality running through it that keeps you listening right to the end. 8/10

Freakshow - So Shall It Be (Eönian Records) [Manos Sideris]

Freakshow, a hard rock 4-piece out of San Jose, California – USA, return at last, 14 years after their strong homonymous debut album they retun with their sophomore effort. Although the band has changed most of its members, the man behind the helm Ronnie Borchert, also formerly known as Markus Allen Christopher, is still at the helm on lead guitar and vocals. The rest of the members are Carlos Cavazo on guitar, Greg Chaisson on bass and Stet Howland on drums.

Right from the top the band makes an effort to come rushing out of the gates, but it mostly just feels flat. Vocals feel slightly out of tune and out of mix sometimes. The rhythm section is there and I definitely appreciate the sound of the vintage p bass, but throughout the record the drummer fails to make me groove consistently. You can also hear sloppy executed breaks at times, but the genre justifies them so I’ve no quarrel with that. 

You Shine, with its mid-tempo magnetizing chorus is the first track that captures my attention. The band fortunately kicks it up a notch in the second half of the record with tracks like M.S.M., Tell Me You Love Me, and the instrumental Full-On Shred, on which I would appreciate a little more time in the spotlight for the other instruments as well, besides guitars. However, it was probably my favorite track of the album. It Hurts Me is the lighter track of the record with its smooth feel and major chord progression. Ice Cold Hands is a return to heavier stuff and finally Loving You, Loving Me makes an attempt for a grand finale that once again falls a bit flat for my liking.

In all fairness there were elements that made me smile here and there, like some guitar solos, the overall production level of the record and some tracks on the heavier side of things that showed me that maybe this band can have a future there. However, this album was definitely not a step forward for Freakshow. This band had a great debut album quite a while ago. It sounded more enthusiastic and sharper than this outing, with players like Tony Franklin on bass, Frankie Banali on drums and Jeff LaBar on guitar in what was actually a supergroup. 

I don’t know if the change of personnel indeed played a big part in the outcome or if there are more things happening behind the scenes, but I really wish they could reach the performance and songwriting levels of their debut album. 6/10           

Monday 30 October 2023

Reviews: Pattern Seeking Animals, Sepulchral Curse, The Plague, Dokken (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Erick Willand, James Jackson & Rich Piva)

Pattern Seeking Animals - Spooky Action At A Distance (InsideOut Music) [Matt Bladen]

Formed by members of seminal American prog band Spock’s Beard; John Boegehold (keyboards and production), Ted Leonard (lead vocals and guitar), bassist Dave Meros, and drummer Jimmy Keegan have been trying to shave away said beard on their last three albums. Lyrically clever and poetic, musically dense and technically gifted, each Pattern Seeking Animals record has grown further and further away from the Spock’s Beard style of classic prog rock and become a more arty, experimental kind. 

What Awaits Me sounds akin to some Kate Bush, though something about it stresses me, while Window To The World is more 10CC than Genesis, He Once Was reminding me of The Pogues, although if they played with Robert Fripp. So a musical mish-mash that edges towards the furthest reaches of King Crimson’s discography where there’s experimentation for experimentation sake, after a few listens I felt that the album was perhaps too long, most of the songs have short run times but there’s so much happening, and varying genres that it’s hard to focus. The production of the vocals too is a little grating, a shame as I like Ted Leonard’s voice. 

Only really Underneath The Orphan Moon, Somewhere North Of Nowhere and the Yes-like Summoned From Afar, made me pay a bit more attention, maybe my love of progressive music has dampened but I just found Spooky Action At A Distance a bit too much like hard work. 6/10

Sepulchral Curse - Abhorrent Dimensions (Transcending Obscurity) [Erick Willand]

Finnish Death merchants Sepulchral Curse emerged from some dark, forgotten ancient place in that fabled country in 2014 with an EP fittingly titled A Birth In Death. This was followed in 2016 with a second EP titled At The Onset Of Extinction and then their first full length Only Ashes Remain in 2020, when they first came across my radar. In fact Only Ashes Remain made my personal top 50 that year and is a very tight album with excellent album art. Not to rest on that however this driven group dropped two more EP’s afterward, Deathbed Sessions and Howl Of The Cursed and now we’re graced with second full length Abhorrent Dimensions.

We begin with a blistering opening riff accompanied by artillery drums that harken a relentless mechanized assault, fitting as the title here is Onward The Legions. This is proper death metal, no flash, no guitar heroics, just crunchy blackened death. Serpents of Uncreation opens the ground with tornado like riffs and deep growls. The last minute or so of this track absolutely slays with this weird haunting riff that cruises the back half of this song just right with over stating itself. Without so much as a breath Among The Wretched Columns breaks open the ground where you stand and hurls your smoldering remains right in. There is little to no mercy on this track but there is good riffage. 

Graveyard Lanterns is the first track to ease you in with some intro work, taking nearly a minute to get into the song proper and it’s a slower, sludgier affair with a clear sense of mournfulness that I feel caries over well into next track, Stagnant Waters. I’m instantly impressed here, this is clearly the song that got the most love on this album as it’s the one that catches my attention every time I’ve listened for this review. A solid, well written Death Metal song, it’s just that simple.
Final two tracks seem to keep this level up and going with Burial Of Souls barring the strongest riffs so far with a great mid song interlude that just works, when it kicks back up into the last half of the song…perfect. So we go then Through Abhorrent Dimensions, a title track of sorts and I for some reason appreciate when bands drop the album title song last, I have no idea why, I just do. Here we have the culmination of the entire album into one solid song. The antagonistic drum work is at peak forward assault, the guitars are visceral, striking with efficient precision and I’m absolutely here for it.

Clearly there is much here I enjoyed, but the one thing I couldn’t shake this entire album is the production, the end mix. The vocals here feel muddy at best, and I don’t believe this is the fault of Kari Kankaanpaa, who’s vocal work from Only Ashes Remain was top shelf. The other thing I noticed are the symbols ride pretty high in the mix, not Metallica levels but enough to notice. Finally, the album art is…not ready yet. It’s a cool design but feels like an unfinished or even rushed piece of work, half a point for that then.
All total there is much here that is excellent, top level material and two tracks will land in my playlist, but production mistakes and phoned in art bring it down, 6/10

The Plague - Erosion Of The Gods (Brilliant Emperor Records) [James Jackson]

You come to expect certain things to happen when you follow a genre, a riffing style, drum patterns and vocal style, maybe it’s even in the song title and album artwork. The Plague are a five piece Death Metal band based in Sydney, Australia; ticking those genre defining traits off all one by one.

Obituary are one of the few death metal bands that I’ll happily listen to mainly due to their ability to maintain that heaviness whilst not needing to blast beat their way through each song, one of the issues I have with Death Metal is that so many bands I’ve heard dial it up and leave it there, seemingly unnerved by the possibility of slowing down.

The Plague however have done that on a few of the tracks here, not quite as sludgy as Obituary but it’s not pedal to the metal all the way, which in my opinion is a great way to write, I’ve always felt that a change in tempo adds emphasis to the next, slow it down to build it back up, I’ve felt that way in regards to vocals too, quite the fan of metalcore for its vocal delivery of clean and growled vocals.
Whilst there are no clean vocals here, there is a slight variation on the standard theme with the use of more black metal style screams, which do add a bit of variety to the genre standard used throughout the album.
There are no surprises here however, nothing that separates this album from any other of its style; Death Metal in my experience seems to be a genre afraid of change, few bands willing to veer away from the traditional style, admittedly my knowledge may be lacking in these waters and I’m more than happy to be proven wrong.
For now though, this album is what it is, for those who are fans of OSDM. 5/10

Dokken - Heaven Comes Down (Silver Lining Music) [Rich Piva]

I have mentioned Don Dokken in a negative light in four or five of my reviews, in many of these cases unsolicited, mostly because of the utter apathy that he has exhibited over the past number of years on all those YouTube videos with him at best basically just mailing it in and at worst showing distain that he still must get on stage and sing for you people. 

So, before I review the new Dokken record, Heaven Comes Down, I must be fair and say that I absolutely love the first four albums to the point I know all the words to them front and back. I think this is why I am so bitter at what Dokken has become, which to me is just a way for Don to get a quick money grab at the expense of his fans. I want to like new Dokken material, but every time I get sucked in to thinking maybe this is the time where he begins to care again, I get burned by a trash record. So where do we fall with album 12 from Dokken? It is not good.

Dokken was so great on their first albums because they were such an amazing band with killer chemistry and freaking George Lynch. Geroge has been gone for a long time now, but you cannot blame Jon Levin because he is the lone highlight of Heaven Comes Down. Levin playing is strong and he captures that Dokken sound very well. I really don’t have much good to say after that. Don sounds like he is either gasping for air when he sings (I have heard he has had some health issues) or just walked into the studio half awake, read the words on the screen, and did his best Don Dokken imitation. 

The first two singles that were released ahead of time, Fugitive and Gypsy, did nothing to get me excited for Heaven Comes Down, as the songs are unmemorable except for Levin’s playing, the lyrics are borderline awful, and the vocals are next level terrible. Is It Me Or Is It You is up next, and Don it is you. Super cheesy lyrics and lazy rhymes drags down Levin’s great work. The vocals are getting worse as the album goes on, as if they were all recorded in a day and Don is getting less and less interested. The guitar work is great, but the production has it all the way up front, with the rhythm section way in the back, creating a strange listening experience. 

Just Like A Rose is like a dollar store version of So Many Tears. The less said about the ballad I’ll Never Give Up (an unfortunate title for this record) the better, as it seems like they are leveraging weird shadows of old songs as the ghost of Alone Again is haunting this track, but it is no where near that level of quality. Saving Grace would be a good song if it was an instrumental. Over The Mountain tries to rock but it is dragged down by terrible lyrics and singing, while the next two, I Remember and Lost In You, are more bad ballad attempts that we didn’t need. The acoustic Santa Fe may be the best track on Heaven Comes Down, as it feels like the most real song lyrically and shows a little bit of a pulse.
I unfairly had this review written in my head before I heard the record, but unfortunately Heaven Comes Down met my really, really low expectations. I wish I could say that Don approached this record with excitement and poured his heart into it, but I can find no indication that this is the case. Maybe it is time that he changed his mind and reversed his message on track five that he will never give up. I am not sure how other Dokken fans are hanging in here, but as one of them I can’t help but to be super disappointed once again. The score here is simply for the guitar work from Levin, as the rest of Heaven Comes Down is an uninspired, phoned it, cringy facsimile of what Dokken used to be. I can’t wait for the tour videos. 2/10

Reviews: Tortuga, Dan Byrne, Sonus Mortis, King Falcon (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Tortuga - Iterations (Napalm Records)

Polish Foursome Tortuga have two previous albums under their belts, but in their third full length Iterations they have embraced the experimental, evolving from their colossal stoner doom into a band that still produce riffs the density of black hole but also bring swirling psychadelia, glistening post rock and oscillating synths that underpin tracks such as Init.

Iterations is a concept record about the history of the universe, moving away from their dalliances with Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror on their previous albums. While I'm not sure what Carl Sagan would think of it, he'd probably appreciate the endeavour that they certainly have embraced the unpredictability of the universe adding Type O Negative gothics and rawness to Lilith, while Laspes builds with the confidence and layering of Live At Pompeii era Floyd, rhythmically shifting into a fully formed track right across the 9 minutes it runs for.

It's from these psychadelic journeying and after the synthwave Interlude that we are taken further into the universe with the terrifying fuzz of Malaca and the throb of Quaus. Psychadelic explorations and mountainous riffs all brough together with progressive leanings and a lack of fear. If Boss Keloid ever added more Vangelis then Tortuga would be the result. Intergalactic riffs from the beyond. 8/10

Dan Byrne - Beginnings (Neon Churches Records)

Liverpool rockers Revival Black had a lot going for them, good press, lots of shows, regular plays on rock radio. But for me it was the vocals of Dan Byrne that really elevated them. Right at their height Dan left and I don't recall hearing that much about the band since then. Byrne however has recently tracked the vocals Myke Gray (Skin, Jagged Edge), new version of Skin, with Andy Sneap, and recorded Beginnings his debut solo EP.

It showcases him as both a stellar vocalist and a songwriter, featuring four tracks all written by Dan he has managed to blend groovy hard rock with grandiose cinematic scope. With a plaintive ballad Easier driven by piano and ticking electronics, you really get to hear the fragility of Byrne's voice cutting in is an evocative guitar solo, though Byrne, rightly steals the show, I can guarantee that this will captivate audiences at his gigs (the next one being the Steelhouse Away Day in The Tramshed supporting Kira Mac).

Don't get me wrong though Byrne knows how to rock Hard To Breathe is in the modern style of Shinedown et al, as is brooding opener Death Of Me, the way piano is used, is particularly impressive. It's Like Animals though where Byrne gets his groove going, the riffs getting meatier and he unleashes his full rockstar posturing. Leaving a successful nad to embark on a solo career can sometimes be a dangerous thing to do, often wracked with ruin, however Dan Byrne has overcome any doubts with this debut EP. Sensational. 8/10

Sonus Mortis - Of Red Barren Earth (Self Released)

Celebrating 10 years, Ireland one man project Sonus Mortis, marks this anniversary with a new album which will be the precursor to a 2 year-ish break. Sonus Mortis is Kevin Byrne he plays guitars/bass/synth/programming as well as all the vocals, writing and recording. It's a feat of endeavour when you hear the scope of this epic death/doom record, even more so when you realise it was recorded in just two weeks! 

From the orchestral swells of Among The Marrow And The Machines, you can hear that Byrne has thrown everything he has at this record. Rightly so as it could be his last musical statement for a while. Exploring themes of corruption, dehumanisation and power imbalances, Of Red Barren Earth takes a downbeat world view that channels the disillusionment through cinematic extremity. Unflinchingly bleak in its lyrical content, the music is reflective too, explosive blastbeats are precision programmed under orchestral stabs, the riffs layered and shifting between death metal punishment, black metal fury and doomy atmospheres, vocally as well Byrne growls, screams and even sings in a deep baritone when the quieter moments bring a haunting intensity. 

Of Red Barren Earth is an all or nothing anniversary release for Kevin Byrne, intended to cement a legacy and pay tribute to what has come before. It’s got everything you would want but still shows that in 2 years or whenever, Sonus Mortis could return with yet another epic blackened death/doom record. 8/10

King Falcon - King Falcon (Mascot Records)

From Queens New York King Falcon have been very much influenced by Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys as they pair angular indie riffs, reverbed vocals and a snotty attitude with some garage rocking. Other infoienves are The Black Keys and The Strokes. An therein is the kicker, nothing on this self titled debuted sounds original. You can pinpoint which band influences which song, sometimes they even sound like the same song as Ready Set Go and Cadillac do.

I heard of a segue but both these songs are so damn similar I thought they were one. Oddly these have both been singles but I suppose they represent King Falcon better than anything else. Now I know there's only so many sounds a duo can produce but King Falcon aren't adding anything new. Still if you love bands like The Royal Blood et al where indie rock is given lower tunings and a rhythmic pulse then you'll enjoy it. But you will have heard it all before. 5/10

Sunday 29 October 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Glenn Hughes (Live Review By Debby Myatt)

Glenn Hughes & The Damn Truth, KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton 21.10.23

Quite often these days, if you want to see a bona fide rock legend you have to sell a kidney and hopoe you get a ticket that’s not high up in the gods at a soulless arena, but tonight we’re treated to a night of rock classics courtesy of the incredible Glenn Hughes (10).

But first we had The Damn Truth (10). These Canadian hard rockers have been gradually making a name for themselves and it’s really with the release of their third studio album Now Or Nowhere that they’ve really made their mark.

Oozing with obvious 60’s/70’s influences, the band look like they’re straight out of the Summer of Love. Singer/guitarist Lee-la Baum straddles those two decades with a performance and style that echoes that of Joplin and Nicks, whilst lead guitarist Tom Shemer has the look and vibes of a young Peter Frampton.

That’s not to say their music is a modern pastiche of those musical icons, no, The Damn Truth are a modern rock band who tip their hat to that era but make it their own.

They open up with the anthemic This Is Who We Are Now, the opening track from the new album, Baum’s vocals soar over the eager crowd. She shows no sign of any nervousness at opening up for “The Voice Of Rock”! She has a strong, powerful vocal style that really carries their songs, check out Only Love and Tomorrow great tracks on the album but on another level played live, with Tom Shemer showing us some great six string virtuosity. You can understand why Hughes was excited to have this band open for him, they look like they’re having so much fun on stage and that is infectious, we all had fun and a fantastic way to get us ready for the main course.

I envy those that got to see the likes of Deep Purple in venues such as the Birmingham Odeon or the Bingley Halls in Stafford. Those gigs are legendary and that era of DP with Hughes and Coverdale for me are the Golden Age, so to see one of those artists here tonight performing songs from the period is such a privilege.

This tour is to celebrate songs from that period, especially Burn which is 50 years old this year. We get an instant smack of nostalgia as the unmistakable opening riffs of Stormbringer start us off on this journey which takes in tracks from Stormbringer and Burn before he digs out a couple from Come Taste The Band.

Hughes is having the time of his life up there, very chatty and lots of reminiscence between songs. This is pretty much a hometown gig for him, having been born and grew up just a few miles down the road in Cannock, and he takes time to mention his former band Trapeze which get a big cheer from the partisan crowd.

For an encore we actually go back to a pre Coverdale/Hughes period with the Gillan era track Highway Star and of course the only way to end is to close out with Burn.

At 72, the man still has it. An incredible vocal range, a maestro on the bass and full of energy. He truly is still “The Voice Of Rock” and this gig is now my favourite one of the year. We’re lucky that we can still have the opportunity to see one of our heroes reasonably up close and not be disappointed. He’s already said there will be new material next year, so we wait with eager anticipation for that to appear. 

What a legend, what a show!

Saturday 28 October 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Lost Society (Live Review By Debby Myatt)

Lost Society, North Atlas & Born Zero, KK’s Wolverhampton, 19.10.23

Another school night gig finds us at KK’s Steel Mill in Wolverhampton once again. This time it’s in the more intimate surroundings of the smaller lounge room for Finnish rockers Lost Society, their tour mates North Atlas and local heroes, Born Zero (8).

Building on their M2TM Birmingham Final appearance, Born Zero are gaining a reputation for high energy shows that get the crowd bouncing. Tonight they open up with that same enthusiasm, treating us to tracks from their debut EP Zero Tolerance.

Blending the sounds of hardcore straight from the back streets of Brum with 90’s inspired groove metal, front man Levi is the focal point with his relentless prowling around the stage and being the epitome of an angry young man with lots to say. This is a young band who are still honing their sound and stage craft but if they continue to play shows like this they’ll soon be attracting the attention of promoters far and wide.

Hailing from North of the border, North Atlas (8) bring a completely different style and vibe to the evening. Initially sounding very industrial, they proceed to expand on their sound with a hybrid of melodic rock and metal. The mix of electronic samples, pulsating rhythm sections and strong vocals combined with a bunch of confidently delivered songs give this a band a unique sound. They also take the prize for longest title of an EP this year with their latest release The Longest Shadow Attached To The Ankle which they showcase tonight with three tracks.

On then to tonights headliners, Lost Society (8). Hard to think that these lads have been around for over a decade now and have built a loyal worldwide fanbase as they’ve experimented and evolved their sound.

Opening up with the song 112 the opening track from their latest album If The Sky Came Down, they show that they’ve evolved and matured. Gone are the heavy thrash guitars and now we have more of a nod to a nu-metal/emo. At times we get a glimpse of that earlier version of LS with tracks like N.W.L and Kill (Those Who Oppose Me), but even those have been reworked to give them a softer edge to appeal to a newer audience.

Front man Sammy Elbanna is as exuberant as ever and I can see why they’ve made this change in their sound and it’s appeal to a younger audience, but alas it’s not rocking my boat tonight and I long for some dirty thrash riffs, but they seem comfortable with this new direction and songs like (We Are The) Braindead do have a tantalising hint of their heavier days. 

Is this the final evolution of this band? Or will they continue to experiment and diversify? Who knows, but at the moment they are riding this wave with a youthful swagger so you can’t knock them for that.

Friday 27 October 2023

Reviews: Sky Empire, Ghosts Of Atlantis, Throat, The Sound Of Origin (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Mark Young, Jeremy Silverman & Rich Piva)

Sky Empire - The Shifting Tectonic Plates Of Power: Part One (ViciSolum Productions) [Matt Bladen]

I was worried when I put on this second album by British prog metal band Sky Empire that I’d been lied too. I was promised vocals from Jeff Scott Soto, but the first song is an extended (14 minute) instrumental. All hopes started to fade but then on On The Shores Of Hallowed Haven those gruff familiar tones came in and they stick around. With the voice of JSS Sky Empire can be compared favourably to Sons Of Apollo as both groups feature virtuosos performances inspired by bands such as Dream Theater, Threshold and Fate Warning amongst others. 

Guitarist/songwriter Drazic Lecutier is heavily influenced by Dimebag Darrell which you can hear in his playing on Wayfarer. Having released their debut album in 2018 Sky Empire were on their way to be a new force in the progressive metal realm but their vocalist Yordan Ivanov passed away shortly after so they went on a hiatus. Thankfully they are now back with another prog metal epic, I assume the first part of a multiple part concept release. 

Produced by Lecutier, who plays some intense guitar throughout and mastered at Abbey Road, The Shifting Tectonic Plates Of Power – Part One contains 7 prog metal cuts that will delight any fans of the genre. With heavy riffs and widdly solos paired against the keys of Tom Hobson, there’s familiarity in what Sky Empire do but they put enough of their own spin not to breed contempt. The chunky, changing time signatures of Jon Delaines (bass) and Remi Jalabert (drums) dictate where the tracks go, with the three 10 minute plus needing several to keep the flow of the tracks going. 

In Jeff Scott Soto they’ve got an exquisite singer but his other commitments may mean touring could be difficult, though Sons Of Apollo must be on a hiatus with Mike Portnoy heading back to Dream Theater. Still without knowing about the band before. Sky Empire have impressed me with The Shifting Tectonic Plates Of Power – Part One. 8/10

Ghosts Of Atlantis - Riddles Of The Sycophants (Hammerheart Records) [Mark Young]

Sometimes a cover can really colour your opinion of an album, even before you listen to it. Ghosts Of Atlantis are here with their brand of symphonic extreme metal with a story to tell. This cover is grandiose, it conjures up an idea that the following is to be an epic aural event, and I would suggest that if you are into Hardcore, brutal death, OSDM or similar this may not float your boat.

And going in, it is exactly that. Everything about it is massive,

Starting off with March Of The Titans, they come in with some frantic riffing, drums and those keys putting in the atmospheric touches. This is anchored by the dual vocal attack they can muster, the dirt supplied by Phil Primmer that really carries it along and then their secret weapon is Colin Parks, whose cleans provide those soaring vocals that will make or break proceedings. Add in some fiery solo breaks and we are off. Lands Of Snow takes this template and pushes it further, adding in choral backing all whilst it zips along at a decent pace. This is pretty cool, coming from someone who has a nodding acquaintance with this genre. There is a lot of good stuff here, and they keep this going throughout the 50-minute runtime.

The Lycaon King, possessed of one of the spideriest opening riffs that continually builds into that symphonic break down, its heavy and smart, what more can you want? And more importantly if you like this genre, each of the songs here will come in and make your day. Each has those suitably epic moments, the build and craft on display allows for all to get a moment in the sun. My favourite is The Alkonost which has that ‘something’ that is reserved for certain songs that elicit those goosebump moments and this has it. The riff behind the clean / dirt vocals and then the one that plays out after that is perfect. It captures everything they do here in one song, and it is a stormer.

After that we enter side 2 (not really, but you get the idea) and they keep that quality level high without exceeding that displayed in The Alkonost. These songs that follow are all cut from the same cloth, they have the right things going on. Sacramental channels that hymn like backing against those grand arrangements that are all over this, A Maidens Scorn and Behind The Wall both come across like Viking drinking songs, having that swing but they come out swinging on the final track Riddles Of The Sycophants which is this muscular beast of a thing, pulling out all the stops with that galloping riff / drums / symphonic arrangement jostling for your attention. Once again, the vocals are on point, with the cleans giving it that emotional heft that is required. 

Excellent stuff to close out with. So, fans of the genre should be all over this, and to be honest there is a lot to love. 7/10

Throat - We Must Leave You (Svart) [Jeremy Silverman]

Throat was a very interesting band to listen to. I have never heard of something this odd sound so good. However, I feel like many people would not like this album or band and I completely understand why.

To start, the vocals are very strange. Not just in the way that they are sung, like lyrics or vocal lines, but the actual singer himself had a strange voice. However, for fans of bands like Muse or Danzig, these vocals won’t feel that off, just different. Personally, I enjoyed them quite a bit; they aren’t metal vocals in the technical sense, but they do have strong emotions in which metal thrives in. Once you get past the vocals, you start to realize just how good the music itself is.

I usually like strange music, like Mr. Bungle and the Mars Volta, so this was right in my wheelhouse. I loved how unique each instrument sounded as well as the use of outlandish percussion, which is not necessarily common in metal. There were multiple times where the music turned into tribal, almost relaxing, motions which swept into more punky, aggressive parts.

I think you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least listening to this album. 8/10

The Sound Of Origin - Man In The Arena (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

The Sound Of Origin are a (or claim to be) UK based stoner/desert rock band of which I also hear a ton of grunge influence from, especially on their second album, Man In The Arena. You will hear what you expect to hear when I mention the grunge influence, as you know these guys kneel at the alter of Cantrell and in parts vocally bring the low-end harmonies you expect from AIC. But these guys are heavier and bring a higher pitch scream style in parts that will take getting used to for some but the parts that are familiar to those who love 90s grunge will want more of. You also get some screamy groove metal, some old school doom, and lots of other stuff, sometimes all within one song, with mixed results.

This Ain’t Free
 has the AIC vocals and vibe, partnered with some of the screaming I mentioned. Honestly if you just did the regular vocals without the screaming parts I would have dug this a lot more. Because the parts I like I really like. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a nice high-pitched scream from time to time, I just don’t find it necessary or adding to the heavy or to the quality of these songs. I like when the low harmonies switch to a higher pitch cleaner vocal, that works great. I really dig the groove on Birthright, maybe my favorite song on the album. This is right out of the 90s grunge playbook, and I am here for it. Crown Of The Cynic goes doomy on us until that Cantrell style riff comes in and smacks you across the face. 

The vocals have a serious Layne feel to them on this track. A nice one two punch with this and the previous track. We get guest vocals from Kyle Thomas on a couple tracks. The current singer of Trouble lends his pipes to Frail Old Bones, which has American era Trouble vibes which is obviously a great thing but it’s like a Trouble combo since you also get an old school doom riff and breakdown too all in one track. Kyle seems to be channeling his old band Exhorder with some of the vocal parts as much as what he brings to Trouble. He also sings on the title track which leans again more on the slower doom side of the scales and is some pretty heavy stuff that has all sorts of vocal styles going on which jumbles the track some. Gold Drenched In White is more of what the AIC fans will dig, until the screaming starts. I think you can see where I am going here.

I feel like The Sound Of Origin doesn’t know what they want to be. I really liked Man In The Arena in some parts, was confused in others, and was turned of complete in some other spots. This is not just on the album, but within individual songs too. I think once these guys figure out their identity crisis we will see a much more focused effort, but with their debut full length I am left confused and wondering how I really felt, even after a half a dozen listens. 6/10

Reviews: Robin Trower & Sari Schorr, Lucid Sins, Bonafide, Ufomammut (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Paul Scoble, Paul Hutchings & Rich Piva)

Robin Trower ft Sari Schorr - Joyful Sky (Provogue Records) [Matt Bladen]

At 78 years old, with a 60 year career and a previous album called No More Worlds To Conquer, you may think that British guitar maestro Robin Trower would be hanging up his axe soon. Think again though dear reader as he returns with his 27th solo record, this one is a bit special though as he has collaborated with New York blues singer Sari Schorr, igniting a fire of creativity that saw him adapting his writing for Schorr's husky, rawer tones, witnessed on the opening slither of Burn and the funky gospel blues of I'll Be Moving On

Trower has gone down the R&B (rhythm & blues) route, bringing in the musical styles of his early work and also his past with Procol Harem where R&B was just as important as prog, here highlighted on The Circle Is Complete which evolves from Cream-like grooves into a smouldering elongated guitar solo. Anchored by the blues as always Joyful Sky is a laid back, warm and rich record, driven by the unions of Schorr's smoky, soulful vocals and Trower's often emulated but never bettered guitar chops. The addition of Sari Schorr to this album can't be underestimated as she latches on to the political and personal lyrics of this record, Trower and Schorr setting the world to rights on Flatter To DeceiveChange It and The Distance

Trower will always been linked to his magnum opus Bridge Of Sighs but he is much much more and on Joyful Sky he looks towards his 80th year with more tricks than any other old dog doing the rounds. 8/10

Lucid Sins - Dancing In The Dark (Totem Cat Records) [Paul Scoble]

Lucid Sins have been making the most devilish psychedelic folk rock since 2013. In that time the band have released two albums before Dancing In The Dark, 2014’s Occultation and 2021’s Cursed! Lucid Sins are Andreas Jonsson on vocals, guitars, bass, organ and synthesiser, and Ruaraidh Sanachan on drums, bass, percussion, organ, mellotron, recorder and backing vocals and as if that amount of multi-instrumentalist talent isn’t enough Andreas and Ruaraidh are joined on Dancing In The Dark by guests Espen Andersen who provides vocals on The Dance, Stuart Coleman who plays Hammond Organ also on The Dance, Hanna Tuulikki who does vocals on the songs Sanctuary Stone and The Ravens Eye, and Alex Ward plays clarinet on Catch The Wild.

The style on Dancing In The Dark is psychedelic Folk rock, so soft clean Guitar parts jostle with a slightly distorted electric Guitar, the pacing tends to me slow to mid-paced with a few exceptions, the song tend to build with multiple layers by the end of most songs. The vocals are clean, clear and very melodious, with some absolutely gorgeous backing vocals.

The album kicks off with the track Jack Of Diamonds, mid-paced taut folk rock with tight guitar riffs with a light touch. The song builds as it goes, adding layers and lush backing vocals, the verse is more minimal than the chorus, which has a bigger feel, the song also features a very lyrical guitar solo. Next we get a slightly bigger and more purposeful song, In The Woods (The Drifter), it’s faster than the song that preceded it, and also has those lush velvet backing vocals.

The Dance is a very apt title as the song that boasts it will definitely make you want to move. The song has a great mid-paced tempo with hand claps and tambourine, the verse is a little softer and more measured than the chorus and the juxtaposition works very well. Again, the vocals are stunning throughout the song lead and those velvet backing vocals wrap the listener in beauty, this song features Espen Andersen on vocals and on top of all that theres a fantastic Hammond solo from Stuart Coleman.

Next comes probably my favourite track on the album, Take Me With You, which is a fast, tight and extremely controlled piece of rock that skips along at a great pace, dancing on a tightrope, with a tempo that reminds me of fast jazz, it is a similar tempo to something like John Coltrane’s Giant Steps, I can imagine listeners snapping their fingers in time. The song has some wonderful melodies, a superb chorus and a keyboard solo near the end.

Next comes Sanctuary Stone which features Hanna Tuulikki on vocals, this is a slight departure from the material we have heard so far, this feels influenced by old classical music, it’s sort of baroque psychedelia, that is closer to Greensleeves than to Green Lung, and that is great. It feels a little strange when you start listening to the album, but after a few listens it feels like a natural part of the album. A Call In The Dark is all about ebb and flow. The song features a soft, measured and minimal verse, and a dramatic and much bigger chorus, for some reason I think it would work very well as the theme to to detective series on tv, if anyone ever makes a psychedelic detective tv show, then this should be the theme.

Next comes The Toll, a soft and more ballad like song, with a very pleasing organ part. The Vocals are beautiful and affecting. The song builds and has some bigger and more dramatic parts, but the overriding feeling from this song is beauty.

From The Bough is tight and controlled folk rock, the song builds as it progresses and features double hand claps and an awesome Hammond solo. The baroque psychedelia style is back with Hanna Tuulikki guesting again, on the track The Ravens Eye. The vocals are great and in the second half there is a melody that feels quite FunFair / Circus, which is an interesting thing to drop into the end of a song. The album comes to an end with Catch The Wild, a soft and measured song again with those gorgeous, warm, comforting backing vocals. The song builds as it goes and features a great clarinet solo from Alex Ward.

Dancing In The Dark is a stunning album. It took me a little while to realise this as the album is so subtle, but after a few listens the quality shines through and you realise just how good it is. The quality of the melodies, the wonderful arrangements that make multi layered and very cleverly structured song feel simple and effortless are amazing. The vocals are also a real treat, their beauty really shines through, and makes everything feel arresting. This is a stunningly beautiful and affecting album, and I love it! 9/10

Bonafide – Are You Listening? (Black Lodge) [Paul Hutchings]

Announced for Stonedead 2024, some people may well have been asking Bona who? Well people, wake up, for the Swedes have been bringing their own brand of melodic hard rock for over 15 years now. Formed by singer/guitarist Pontus Snibb in 2007, the band’s latest release is a rich seam of melodies combined with filthy hooks, earworms galore, and ten of the most addictive tracks you’ll hear this year.

Are You Listening? is perfectly crafted, well performed and possesses a polished production that those who know anything about the band would expect. It slips between the saccharine coated style of Def Leppard, the Southern edge of Skynyrd, and the sleaze of Crüe. Throw in the riffs of AC/DC and you’ve got a band that are likely to get even the most ardent metaller nodding along.

It's formulaic, nothing particularly original, but it works. Hero To Zero for example, borrows so much from Angus & Co that apart from Snibb’s singing it could well be an AC/DC song. So what? It works, and it’s impossible not to tap the foot along to it. Alongside Snibb, guitarist Anders Rosell, bassist Martin Eklund and drummer Niklas Matsson work their magic through each song. There’s the brooding smoulder of Rumble, the upbeat drive of Snacket and the stomp of Tommie Nine Fingers.

It’s infectious, dripping with the necessary groove to get a field of pissed 50-year-olds dancing. Stonedead will be the better for these guys next year. Until then, enjoy an album that simply makes you feel good. 8/10

Ufomammut - Crookhead EP (Supernatural Cat) [Rich Piva]

Those who thought Italian psychedelic sludge trio Ufomammut  went too psychedelic and not enough sludge on their last full length, Fenice, from 2022, you can rest easy because the band is back bringing the heavy with their new three song EP, Crookhead. These three tracks lean heavily on the riffs and driving rhythm section that defines the sludge part of the equation in Ufomammut .

The opening title track is pretty much a nine-minute instrumental heavy riff assault that chugs along and announces that the band is definitely leaning on the sludge this time around. I do love the psych feel at the end with the synths and guitars working in tandem. Supernova is just as heavy and is one of my favorite Ufomammut tracks in a while. Another sludge heavy riff leading to some psych atmosphere that drags you into the black hole and incorporates some scatter vocals as well. Heavy. Vibrhate is even more low end heavy, with some cool, unique vocals and an earthshattering backend.

I am happy to hear Ufomammut bring the focus on the sludge part of their description back on these three songs on Crookhead. If you enjoy the heavier side of the band, you will really dig this EP. I am hoping we get a full length with this heavy focus in the not-too-distant future. 7/10

Reviews: Doro, Nebula, Endseeker, Mouth For War (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Rich Piva, GC & Mark Young)

Doro – Conqueress Forever Strong And Proud (Nuclear Blast Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Less than a year before she reaches her 60th birthday, The Metal Queen shows no sign of slowing. Although it’s been five years since her last studio album of new material, Forever Warriors, Forever United, she’s been busy with compilation and live recording releases, as well as celebrating the anniversary of Triumph And Agony with Warlock.

Not one to skimp on value for money, this latest album is a mighty collection of new songs, covers, and some bonus material. It’s crammed full of songs, all delivered in her inimitable style that you either love or hate. There’s not any in between with Doro.

I’ve reviewed several of her albums over the years, and what I enjoy is her honest endeavour, enthusiasm, and solid song writing. Sure, they are a little cliched, with songs like Lean Mean Rock MachineRock Me Wild and Time For Justice rather routine. But everything is well played, polished even, with a solid production. It’s timeless in many respects, especially if you enjoy traditional Heavy Metal. You aren’t going to get modern breakdowns, growling roars, or blast beats here. But if you like pacey, classic metal delivered with that special Germanic style that has seen Doro headline Wacken, and special guest at many festivals across the entire world over her nearly 40-year career, then Conqueress Forever Strong And Proud should be one for you.

As well as her own music, we get a couple of interesting duets. The arrival of the Metal God Rob Halford on a ballsy cover of Priest’s classic Livin’ After Midnight is enjoyable from start to finish, whilst the version of Princess Bonnie of Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart, again with Halford is, well, interesting. And as you sift through the bonus material here, one song stands out. The final track, called The Four Horsemen. Yep, Doro does ‘Tallica. It’s nothing compared to the original, but I’m sure she had fun recording it. Doro’s always a good listen, and this latest release is no different. If you like her, you’ll like this. If you don’t, then you won’t. See her giving these songs a right blast at Stonedead Festival next year. It’ll be emotional. 7/10

Nebula - Livewired In Europe (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that I am going to love a live Nebula album before I even hear it. Their latest live platter, Livewired In Europe, recorded in both the Netherlands and Sweden while touring for their 2022 album Transmission From Mothership Earth, gives us a killer set spanning the career of the legendary desert/stoner band in all their live glory. The sound is excellent on the recordings and the band is in top form for sure, but what did you expect?

I mean Down The Highway? Stone cold classic from their debut EP that absolutely rips it up live. Man’s Best Friend from 2019’s Holy Shit kicks the show off in style. Listen to the tone of that guitar and how a band can be both tight and loose at the same time. Holy Shit is also represented by the great Messiah as well with more of the killer ax work from main man Eddie Glass. 2003’s Atomic Ritual is represented here with Out Of Your Head, a killer spacey stoner jam that fits perfectly into this set. My favorite song from the newest record makes a live appearance, as Highwired sounds right at home with all that classic material in the setlist. 

The heavy psych bluesy rock of Giant from Charged is another amazing addition to the collection, and whoa listen to that guitar. Even Dos EPs is represented with Full Throttle and oh yeah, it’s another perfect addition with that killer jam in the back half. You want something from the Heavy Psych album because I do, and our wish is granted with the excellent live rendition of Aphrodite. The vinyl version closes with the absolute classic Let It Burn from the EP of the same name and no words are needed, because if you know you know. The CD version has three bonus tracks, including the title track and Warzone Speedwulf from the latest album and another ripper from Holy ShitLet’s Get Lost, all that sound excellent in the live form.

Thank you, Heavy Psych Sounds, for bringing us another amazing live Nebula album. The band suffered a massive loss when bassist Tom Davies lost his battle with Leukemia, and this is such a great way to celebrate his life. Check out Livewired In Europe for so many reasons, but the prime one being that Nebula is a legendary band that is at its best when ripping it up live. 9/10

Endseeker - Global Worming (Metal Blade Records) [GC]

Since their formation back in 2014 Hamburg’s Endseeker have slowly but surely built up a reputation as a death metal force to be reckoned with 3 full lengths behind them they have taken the time between 2019 and all that Covid stuff that stopped the world to focus their minds and hit us with their new album Global Worming.

It all starts off in a suitably chaotic way with title track Global Worming which has a good mix of thundering drums and scathing guitars that jostle nicely with the unique (in a good way) vocals that mix the usual death metal neanderthal grunt with a thrash rhythm, it all creates something that wouldn’t sound out of place with the original wave of Florida death metal bands but also doesn’t sound like they are just trying to copy what has come before. Hell Is Here has a galloping open riff that is akin to heavy power metal but this soon falls into a thick and heavy motion that kicks the song on and is packed full of some gloriously groove infused riffs that keep you hooked all the way through you also notice that the production here is top notch and the vocals don’t drown everything out and not one instrument gets lost in the sharp and crisp mix. 

Violence Is Gold is a relentless juggernaut of destruction that hits the throttle from beginning to end but, it also manages to mix in some nice atmospheric guitar sections and shows another side to what Endseeker are capable of its also interjected with a more thrash pace than previously shown in places and is an absolute joy that shows that while death metal is meant to be all scary and serious it can still be tremendous fun at the same time! Wheel Of Torture while not exactly being slow does hold back on the pace and introduces a mix of sludgy hardcore and doom into proceedings which is a brilliant U-turn and mixes everything up brilliantly, it’s a big lumbering, hulking slab of a song in all the best possible ways and shows a real versatility in the way they go about their songwriting. 

C.B.V harks back to the more familiar death metal tones and pummels and blasts its way forward and sticks with the more familiar pace we would come to expect but still manages to mix in some more dialed back sections into the mix but all the while never losing the cutting edge that can sometimes come with trying to use different tones and speeds in songs. Terror has a slow and ominous opening for all of 13 seconds before its back to business as usual and the guitars sound suitably savage on this song and they keep it simple and brutal here all the way its probably the most familiar death metal sounding song on the album and while it doesn’t sound out of place its probably the weakest song on offer so far but a lot of bands would kill to be able to write weak songs as good as this! 

Hanging Gardens is just so full of groove it’s an infectious blend of more sludgey hardcore tinged riffs and old school death metal destruction and it keeps you wondering what is coming next and while its not re-inventing any styles it is making a case to say who needs re-invention when you have FUCKING RIFFS MATE!! and Endseeker have plenty to throw about! Our Only Life is a suitably wonderful mix of thrash pace, neck breaking death metal brutality and blast and grinds its way past you in just under 3 minutes of almost perfectness, I never thought I would say a song should be longer, but this definitely should have been!! Nemesis closes us out and they have now decided to slow the pace right down to begin with and it has an ominous march like pace all the way through and while its not a full throttle ending as you would expect it’s still a dramatic and grandiose way to bring this thrilling album to a suitably brilliant end.

This was a thrilling and engaging album full of brilliantly executed songs that while they are predominantly death metal still offer way more that just that, there are many forms and styles on offer here and this deserves repeated listens to really appreciate what is they are and if you do, trust me you won’t be disappointed. 9/10

Mouth For War - Bleed Yourself (MNRK Heavy) [Mark Young]

Colorado metalcore outfit brings you their second bout of aggression-fuelled songs in an attempt to shake a few more brain cells loose. Despite the 13 songs, it’s a relatively quick 34-minute yomp through what is in all honesty a fairly standard release for this genre. I’ve recently come across a way of being able to listen to full releases on the drive to and from work (circa 2 hours on each trip) so if I can go the full album without skipping a track (or crashing the car) then that is a useful barometer of my feelings to it.
Roses In Place Of Your Ashes starts off with a stomper, all-muscle, and bone as it barely stops for breath even in the break-down straight into The Plight Of Those You Left Behind, all galloping riffs and drums before settling into a crawling refrain. It's measured and you know it’s been built in getting bodies to move. Captivated has that same constant energy to it, the vocals driving forward whilst the music supports. It's that relationship that really works allowing for them to attack on two fronts.
While this is great what you don’t really get is much difference between tracks. No Grace takes that rapid start and keeps that going, it's heavy definitely, and Taste Of Steel is the same, it's heavy and aggressive but they still follow a blueprint – fast bit here, slow bit there, shouty bit here. I’m being a bit of a dick saying that but that is how it comes across. Its probably one of the reasons I haven’t got into Metalcore in that not an awful lot happens. In Lieu Of Flowers is a spoken piece that doesn’t add anything.

The Devil continues in the same vein. Its rapid and the whole thing is furious but it's still similar to what has come before. Saturate Me has more of a thrash swing (this I like) but still has a heavy breakdown. Under The Gun has some rapid-fire guitar/drums going on, but it is still more of the same. Getting to the end track with Bleed Yourself romps away with heavy riffing and it brings the album to a close.

It has everything you want in a metalcore release, there’s nothing wrong with the quality of how they play or how its recorded. The pattern is followed in each one and no I didn’t skip any tracks on the play-through. None of them really stood out for me to say this is an absolute stormer, which is indicative of how I felt about this. 6/10

Thursday 26 October 2023

Reviews: Sorcerer, Howling Giant, Vokonis, W.E.B (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Sorcerer - Reign Of The Reaper (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

For a band that have been so brilliantly reborn like Sorcerer releasing an album just a week after American trad/doom legends Cirith Ungol and not long after the return of Swedes Heavy Load, is a big step towards them laying claim to being the worthy successors to the Epic Metal legends. Three albums since 2010 is pretty good going but Reign Of The Reaper is poised to be their best one yet. Moving away from the conceptual nature of their last album Lamneting Of The InnocentReign Of The Reaper is the band attempting to play a heavier, more aggressive style, but retaining those soaring choruses, carried by the magnificent voice of Anders Engberg, this is Epic Doom with a capital E.

Drawing on the diverse talents of the Swedish music scene, the album is theatrically produced, crystal clear and booming, while again wrapped in a great piece of fantasy art. Sweden has an epic doom perdigree and Sorcerer are set to inherit it, no doubt about that as Reign Of The Reaper gets going with some classic heavy metal on Morning Star brimming with twin guitar harmonies from Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren. It's a rapid pace to kick things off but this is doom at its core ladies and gents so there are more than one long, labyrinthine track on this record where Justin Biggs' solid basslines and Richard Evensand's cavernous drum sound dictate the pace and direction. Biggs also appears when some vocal growls where a bit more nastiness is needed in the vocals rather than Anders' mountainous, Jeff Scott Soto-like cleans.

The unsung hero of Sorcerer though is Conny Welén who not only co-produces the album and co-writes the vocal lines, he also plays all the keys. It seems immaterial but so often keys and synths are arranged digitally by one of the members so to have a real person playing them makes the cinematic sound much more realistic. Maybe that's just me though. I have loved all three previous Sorcerer albums and I love Reign Of The Reaper. From the Mediterranean/Arabic (I mean techincally Greek) sounds of Curse Of Medusa, to the emotional doom of Eternal Sleep and everything in between Reign Of The Reaper is another near perfect epic metal record from Sorcerer. 9/10

Howling Giant - Glass Future (Magnetic Eye Records) [Rich Piva]

Nashville, Tennessee’s Howling Giant have been around for what seems a while, but their new album, Glass Future, is only their second full length album after a slew of EPs, splits, and comp appearances over the past eight or so years. The one thing in common with all those EPs, splits, and comp appearances is that all the material is killer. Howling Giant’s unique stoner/psych/prog has never not been great, and now with Glass Future you have their most complete and best output of anything they have given their fans so far.

The trio have a lot going for them as far as your review is concerned. First, the prominent use of organ, but you know how I feel about that if you have ever read any of my reviews. Second, the vocals are excellent especially when they bring the harmonies, pairing nicely with the proggy space atmosphere of their expertly composed songs. The perfect example of this is the first full track, Siren Song, which has it all. The size of the sound is something to behold on Glass Future, as this trio makes enough of it as if they were a ten-piece ensemble. Howling Giant is not afraid to bring the riffs to pair with the organ, as evident on a track like Aluminum Crown. The drum work on this one is great too and the song leans way more prog than it does stoner rock but fans of both will dig it. 

Hawk In A Hurricane reminds me of King Buffalo but chunkier and shorter. First Blood Of Melchor is an instrumental and the heaviest song on Glass Future with a cool riff and vibes that remind me of the excellent Dead Quiet album from earlier this year. The title track sounds like if Yes decided to stop noodling and instead make a Black Sabbath record. Organ solo!!! More King Buffalo but heavier vibes are all over Tempest And The Liars Gateway, as the psych side of the band shines though on this one and it may be my favorite on an album of great songs. The back third of Glass Future loses none of the quality of the first two, with the super catchy and riff (and organ) filled Sunken City, the harmonies so perfectly paired with the driving guitar and organ on Juggernaut, and the bluesy riff on the slow burn closer There Time Now

Howling Giant’s step up on their second full length is evident from the first note of Glass Future, as this is the band’s true coming out party. A near perfect record with killer songs and excellent musicianship, Glass Future will be near the top of many end of year lists. I am picturing a triple bill of Howling Giant, King Buffalo, and Dead Quiet, and I am so here for it. We are so lucky to have new music like what these bands are bringing us in 2023, with Howling Giant’s Glass Future being exhibit A. 9/10

Vokonis - Exist Within Light (Majestic Mountain Records) [Rich Piva]

Swedish sludge/stoner giants Vokonis are back with their first new music since their excellent album Odyssey from 2021 with a teaser EP before a new full length in the not-too-distant future. Exist Within Light gives us three new Vokonis tracks that continue the sound and style from Odyssey and may be even a tad bit heavier than the stuff from that killer record, with all three racks being worthy of your time if you are a fan or are just looking to get into the band.

Houndstooth is the first of the three new tracks, and you get a Mastodon feel from this one right off the bat. A cool riff and driving drums, this track rips hard and starts the pattern of increasing the aggression that we find on Exist Within Light. The track slows down a bit midway through only to set you up for more crunching riffs and some serious growls. Heavy stuff. The pattern of aggression continues with Revengeful, reminiscent of something from Baroness, this one picks up the pace even more but incorporates harmonized vocals in a super cool way. 

I really dig this track and I hope it is included on a new full length and not forgotten on this short EP. I dig the drum work on Revengeful and how the solo leads to a nice breakdown that closes the song out. The title track closes us out, and based on the title you can feel that we may have some of the psych leanings that band has incorporated, and you would not be wrong. Exist Within Light slows the pace down and has the most singing of the three tracks on the EP. This one is pretty epic and goes in a lot of directions musically, but I especially like how the solo takes over at about the five-minute mark.

New Vokonis music is something to celebrate, even if it is just a three-song teaser EP. All three tracks on Exist Within Light are full album worthy; there are no throw aways here or leftovers from recording sessions. If you are a fan of the band or just want to hear some great stoner/sludge, then check out Exist Within Light and don’t let these three excellent songs get stuck in EP oblivion. 8/10

W.E.B. - Into Hell Fire We Burn (Metal Blade Records) [Matt Bladen]

Athenian extreme metal band W.E.B, release their second E.P, a digital only release that incorporates a new song, the title track, but like their previous EP it's a chance for this Symphonic/Gothic metal band to experiment. On Forbidden Storm they combine two older songs together for a furious orchestrally enhanced new track that works really well as a medley of unstoppable blastbeats and triumphal brass/strings similar to fellow Greeks Septicflesh. 

From there we have a version of Necrology (now called Necrology Of Hel), originally on their last album Colosseum, on Into Hell Fire We Burn this duet is now just sung by bassist Hel Pyre, the chugging industrial backing of this vampire inspired track, again augmented by cinematics. Nikitas Mandolas' drums are totally unstoppable here, the industrial thump of Lunar Nightmares combines Nightmares In Disguise and Regina Est, breakbeats and electronics making for a Aphex Twin aggressiveness. 

There's a fully orchestrated version of Clamor Luna, a thirteen minute giant where Sakos Prekas and Sextus Argieous' guitars aren't as important as they are elsewhere but it still carries muscle. Finally this Ep closes with a cover of Rotting Christ's clarion call of Non Serviam, sticking close to the original, because you don't need to improve on perfection. A mix and match EP of alternate versions, covers and a new song, W.E.B keep their audience interested with Into Hell Fire We Burn. 7/10

Reviews: Autopsy, Mangeld Carpenter, Falling Stars, Immortal Guardian (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Mark Young, Rich Piva & Manos Sideris)

Autopsy – Ashes, Organs, Blood And Crypts (Peaceville) [Paul Hutchings]

We waited eight years for Morbidity Triumphant, but only just over a year for the follow-up. Such is the way with Death Metal legends and whilst Morbidity Triumphant certainly sated the thirst which had been parching fans of the old school, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. Ashes, Organs, Blood And Crypts is another blistering listen and demonstrates that class is permanent.
It's evident that the return to the studio, and the universally positive response to the eighth album has fired the demons, for Autopsy are in raging form throughout this 41-minute opus. With the horrific yet expected cover art from long-time collaborator Wes Benscoter adding to the overwhelming gruesomeness on offer, the 11 tracks provide few options for pauses, despite the initial hope on the mid-section of the brutal opener Rabid Funeral, which at least slows enough to catch the breath after a frantic first few minutes.
There’s more crushing doom liberally distributed through the album. The slow start to No Mortal Left Alive is quickly dispersed as the battery is unleashed. The vocals are harrowing, the cross over of drummer Chris Reifert and guitarist Eric Cutler chilling, matching the sombre mood of the track, which drifts back to the slower, pulverising heaviness that could crush bone. This continues for the first two minutes of Well Of Entrails, before another explosive burst sees screaming lead solos rip through the track. It’s fair to say that Autopsy have never sounded better.
It’s the combination of grinding doom laced with such a bruising atmosphere that makes Autopsy so loved. Their early albums were classics of the genre, and here, with songs like the pulverising Bones To The Wolves, the ferocity of Toxic Death Fuk and the dark finale Coagulation simply abuse the aural senses. It doesn’t disguise some phenomenal playing which is intense, focused, relentless.
With the line-up settled following the arrival in 2021 of bassist Greg Wilkinson, who makes his second recording appearance with the band, this is a masterful piece of work. Gnarly as ever, their uncompromising themes are gory, full of death, horror, and sickening humour. But you wouldn’t want Autopsy any other way. 9/10

Mangled Carpenter - Salvation Syndrome (Rottweiler Records And Broken Curfew Records) [Mark Young]

Monterey Grindcore/Death Metal three-piece Mangled Carpenter bring their second full length release for your attention. Kicking off with Lumberyard, released in September in advance and it is as rapid as you like. 

The drumming is something else on this, the footwork is beyond fast, and it fires along like you wouldn’t believe. Step forward Mac Hine with display here that is just amazing and is continued all the way through. A Path To Sorrow (with Chris Ackerman) is just a stomper, the guitar on this is just brutal and then it takes off in a similar way to a sermon from hell. They Already Know displays more of that phenomenal foot speed, set against what feels like a slowly played out riff. 

Its not, its just the feet are moving that quickly. Its not just battery, it’s a controlled attack that sees it close and allow Salvation Syndrome to come in and set the place on fire, part light speed, part stop-start chord stabs that just continues to push forward, cutting and slicing into Severed which is just razor sharp which some classic high-low vocals. It’s a maelstrom of grind served up in 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

Faith Delusion takes the attack and distils it further, taking its attack on the Church reducing its narrow beam of focus into a sub-three-minute battering. Spit Parade (Ft Jason Wisdom) brings in some gnarly, elastic riff patterns all while the feet of flame continue to carpet bomb with an Industrial feel seeping into this one.

Whilst looking at their socials, Vocalist Seth Metoyer seemed a familiar name and yes, he’s a producer of a film I reviewed for Morbidly Beautiful, Murdercise which is a call back to the neon lit, dayglo fitness / slasher craze of the 80’s. Anyway, back to the album. J-G-S-H is that short, rapid grindcore that just blasts. Receive Him (ft Rob Clark) is the lords prayer set to noise and done.

In terms of what it is, its aggressive, direct and shows that they are capable of more than just super-fast songs that blow past In an instant. Some of it, despite liking the way they are put together and marvelling at how they are played something didn’t click. I liked it because I wish I had the same level of ability as these, but I didn’t love it. 7/10

Falling Stars - Lonely No More (Tee Pee Records) [Rich Piva]

It is not very often I get to review a band where Guided By Voices is mentioned in the band’s bio, but here we are with the Ohio based band Falling Stars, who come from all sorts of veteran indie rock bands including Cobra Verde, who you could play six degrees of GBV with a get the connect on the first try. I do not mention Guided By Voices much in my reviews and for good reason considering the blog I write for has metal in the title, but Bob Pollard and company are my all-time favorite band without debate. 

I know, I am the stoner rock/80s bands who put out albums in 2023 guy, but GBV is my all-time band. So, they have that going for them, plus they are putting out their latest album, Lonely No More, on Tee Pee Records, who pretty much never miss. This makes sense considering Tee Pee has released the Sweet Apple records from which Falling Stars share members. I love how Tee Pee has this indie rock leaning to go along with the killer heavy psych and stoner stuff they are more known for. So, let’s see what we have here…

We have some indie rock power pop that leverages all sorts of influences, including the aforementioned GBV, Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, late era Replacements, and other bands from that time and place. The opener has a Pollard meets Tweedy vibe and is a bright, catchy, and yummy pop song. I bet these guys love Cheap Trick too. Later era Westerberg and the boys influence play prominently on Lonely No More, with tracks like Floating Away and how about some catchy XTC vibes with Sky Is Falling

Love that fuzz guitar solo. Love Is Enough channels early Wilco via Minnesota and is more excellent indie pop rock while Indigo is a Children Of Nuggets inspired ditty. Tell Me What You Want is straight up Dinosaur Jr. worship (check out the J style solo, I had to check to see if he was guest starring) and that is fine by me. More Wico vibes return with the county rock twang of Walk Don’t Run. A nice cover of Tom Petty’s Walls closes out this short and very enjoyable trip back to a scene I cannot get enough of, even if it was 30 plus years ago.

An excellent indie pop record for 2023 is a gift that Falling Stars is giving to us as an early Christmas present. Leveraging all the goodness from the Midwest indie rock scene of the late 90s and early 2000s and more, Lonely No More is perfect for those of you who were digging that scene now and still do today. 8/10

Immortal Guardian - Unite & Conquer (Massacre Records) [Manos Sideris]

Immortal Guardian’s sophomore album is undoubtedly an ambitious effort. Unite And Conquer is a solid step forward for this flamboyant 4-piece out of Las Vegas, USA. The band already gave a taste of their technical proficiency and overall mastery in their first record Psychosomatic, and now returns to pick up where they left off.

Melodic Power Metal with neoclassical elements, down-tuned heavy riffs, catchy choruses and Latin flair seem to be the order of the day as Immortal Guardian tears it up in a balanced record that included heavy songs, incredible breakdowns, sentimental deeper tracks and a few well written ballads. My personal favorites were Echoes with its neverending chorus (Freedoooom stuck in my mind for ever), Perfect Person a well balanced banger, Divided We Fall with nice riffs and the use of a choir, Un Dia A La Vez a drumless ballad that very well manages to give me a minute to catch my breath before the Rise Of The Phoenix which is probably my favorite track of the record. 

Heavy riffs give way to frantic keyboard solos, drum solos, and great melodies soar over majestic minor chord progressions. Here the guys push all the right buttons. The outro is a great way to end this record and overall this song would probably be the one I would suggest to a new listener as it encapsulates almost everything you need to hear of this band in a nice balanced 5 minute outing.

I admit I did not know Immortal Guardian going in for this review. The guys definitely have chops, that is for sure. Songwriting is there at the top, so is production which although crystal clear, is what I like to call soullessly perfect! Such is my opinion for some of the new age productions that sound perfect in all variables but sometimes tend to lack the soul of the records of old. The record is self-produced as Gabriel Guardian (guitar/keys) and Joshua Lopez (bass) have done all the work in mixing and mastering along with Jesse Zato. 

Besides production, which is definitely not bad, just not my cup of tea, the only other thing that bothered me a bit was Carlos Zema’s vocals that most of the time were all the way up there in the high registers and seemed to not mesh with all songs while other times were a bit tiring for my ears. In general the band showed flashes of utmost brilliance with this record, but only for a few moments here and there. Had there been more, and this would be a perfect score. 8/10

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Reviews: END, Cult Burial, Tower Hill, Anuseye (Reviews By Danika Ulrich, Paul Scoble, Matt Bladen & James Jackson)

END - The Sin Of Human Frailty (Closed Casket Activities) [Danika Ulrich]

Hardcore supergroup END's second full-length release The Sin Of Human Frailty is an absolute onslaught of raw, unfiltered emotion and intensity. The band manages to capture the grit and passion of each of their respective projects and creates an explosive and boundary pushing sound of their own.

In opening track A Predator Yourself there is an obvious element of fear and unease. From dramatic breakdowns to chunky guitar tones, END possesses a sense of darkness that a lot of artists in their genre don't with a combination of hardcore, industrial and viscous death metal. Gaping Wounds Of Earth offers a strong dose of rage and venom. The track plunges from technical euphoria into a brutal breakbeat. Earth shattering, grinding riffs dominate, with the melody ripping apart at its very core. There is real hatred hidden behind pounding drums and dissonant guitar strains. The band sets a tone of unrelenting aggression that doesn't let up. Vocalist Brendan Murphy's signature growls and screams are at their most frenzied and visceral, layering over chaotic yet tightly controlled instrumentation.

Title track, The Sin Of Human Frailty, is a ferociously perplexing song. The effect is aggressive enough to knock you out as the riffs blare in all directions. It's an incredibly intense two minutes. Thaw is gifted some haunting vocal contributions from Debbie Gough who, with her band Heriot, is accustomed to incorporating eerie melody into extremely heavy music. The jarring rhythms and disconcerting guitar parts sets the tone for a band that want to sound like no other. There's no denying the grooves and orchestration are incredibly catchy. Embodiment Of Grief is when the band's punk tactics really come into play. There's so much happening with the track before it descends into another breakdown. Inconsistent in a welcomed way with each breakdown nastier than the last. 

Although Twice Devoured Kill has a relatively standard hardcore riff, it came as a welcome surprise after the variety of onslaughts on the previous five tracks while fast paced blast beats make way for frightening anti-melodies and a double kick assault in track 7, Worthless Is The Lamb. Hollow Urn is definitely a jolt from the norm as it doesn't have the same intense atmosphere expected from END. But, the same darkness that drives their breakdowns also churns beneath the mesmerising atonal guitar patches and hi-hat loops.

In less than three minutes, Infest seamlessly transitions between different riffs and time signatures. Leper is a slow end to the album that alternates between expansive progressive meditations, oddly catchy guitars and possibly the album's biggest riff to mosh to. The darker parts are interwoven with more bold and progressive melodies that give the track a gritty, aggressive and eerie atmosphere.

This album is not meant for the faint of heart. From beginning to end the band delivered a sonic assault. Its a combination of different influences coming from members previous works in the metal and hardcore communities, with unrelenting speed and aggression, beats and crushing riffs, madly chaotic and intricately composed guitar parts.

A high point for the whole album is Brendan’s vocal performance. His aggressive screams and guttural growls can easily induce an adrenaline rush. It is captivating, raw, and unfiltered to a point that compliments the message and energy of each track perfectly. Not to take away from the others though, as the album is a showcase of each members talents. The complexity in the drumming that keeps time with the twitchy guitars and bass. The production is tight and the mixing strikes a balance between the elements, leading to a cohesive final result. END manages to blend the different ways they approach music without compromising each other.

The Sin Of Human Frailty is an album that will leave a lasting impression. It's a testament to the art of hardcore music and showcases the creativity of the musicians behind it. It's a bold and exhilarating album filled with cathartic screaming and moments of beautiful despair, demonstrating the power of music done right. 10/10

Cult Burial - Reverie Of The Malignant (Self Released) [Paul Scoble]

British purveyors of extremity Cult Burial have been spewing malignancy out into the world since 2020. The group, based in London are made up of César Moreira on vocals, Simon Langford on drums and guitars and Rick on bass. In the time Cult Burial have been together they have released one album before Reverie Of The Malignant, a self titled album released in 2020.

The style on Reverie Of The Malignant is a mix of death, black and doom metal, so lots of extremity, in whichever style the band felt works best. This is evident straight from the first track, Umbra which opens with a slow tremolo picked riff before dropping us into some blasting death metal, this then segues into expansive black metal, the song then takes a turn towards nasty slow blackened doom The song also boasts a very melodic and tuneful guitar solo before a crushing death metal ending. Next track Awaken has a more straight black metal feel to it. The song mixes huge and expansive black Metal with a more melodic style, again there is a very good guitar solo that is full of melody.

The next track Parasite takes a route via very slow and heavy death to arrive at dissonant death metal for the majority of the song. The song vacillates between crushingly heavy and sickeningly dissonant, and also features a shredding guitar solo that is more about nastiness than melody, the song ends with massively heavy doom riffs. Paralysed has a similar feel to the song that preceded it. The mix of styles is is more death than doom, and with both feels there is lots of dissonance. The song also has a very interesting section that is slow and doomy, with a pacing that is staccato and aggressive.

The song Strive keeps the dissonance of the last couple of tracks, but does it in a more black metal style. The song is very aggressive and purposeful for the most part, but does have a quiet and minimal section in the middle to give the audience a small respite, before the song rebuilds itself back to its former horrific proportions. Existence opens with slow and very heavy riffs before dropping into blasting death metal that has a real grinding feel to it, this then morphs into fast and flowing death metal that feels very rapid and full of inertia. The song does boast a soft section so we can get our breath back, and two solos; a melodic one and a more frenzied solo over blasting riffs before an abrupt ending.

The album comes to a close with Oblivion which plays with mixing massivley heavy doom with blasting fast death metal. The song mixes fast and savage with slow and heavy in a very effective way, nearer the end of the song that staccato feel to the pacing on the slower material returns again in a way that feels like blunt force trauma. The song and album end with doomy riffs that slowly fade out.

Reverie Of The Malignant
is a fantastic piece of savagery. The band have cherry picked any form of extremity that they feel will work together; they seem far more bothered that the songs work and are effective rather than care about genre boundaries. Some of the transitions might surprise you, but they always seem to work. A lot of work has gone into this album having a sound that is cogent, and have left the genre definitions for others to work out. The overriding objective seems to be extremity and savagery, and the band don’t seem to care how they achieve this; this has led to the creation of a fantastic piece of extreme art. 9/10 

 Tower Hill - Deathstalker (No Remorse Records) [Matt Bladen]

Canadian trad metal with a song about alcoholic fizzy water? Yeah why not? Tower Hill started life as a solo project for vocalist R.F. Traynor but soon expanded into a fully fledged band. Inspired by their love of speed/trad metal bands such as Running Wild, Riot, Exciter and Helloween they come up with every conceivable type of lyric from fantasy battles, sleazy relationships and of course Claw Is The Law is a heavy metal ode to White Claw hard seltzer.

It's fun and frivolous, music built to be shouted along too while wielding and air guitar. Tower Hill aren't a joke though, the twin axe attack is vicious and refined, the rhythm section sets a breathless pace and Traynors vocals are meaty and sky scrape when needed. Closing with the swashbuckling Port Of Saints (an ode to Majk Moti), going into the pirate metal (Running Wild), as they stay with speed metal for the most part. It's old school yes but done with the reverence of the current NWOTHM crop have been giving for around 10 years.

Driving at 100 miles per hour from the first moments, Tower Hill are old school to the core but if you're a fan of the old school then you'll enjoy Deathstalker. 7/10

Anuseye - Right Place, Wrong Time (Go Down Records) [James Jackson]

Honestly I don’t even know how to pronounce the band name without conjuring up an image of some sort of infection. Fortunately however this isn’t some pig squealing Gorecore band whose album cover is plastered or literally blasted with excrement. In fact the artwork is quite Pop Art, so quite the contrast, Anuseye describe themselves as Ppsych rock and there’s a certain groove and sway to the intro of first track Odessa, that has moments that remind of Black Sabbath, particularly the drum fills, adding to that I’m reminded of a band I’ve not listened to since the early 2000’s and that’s Monster Magnet, there’s a similar feeling to the riffs. Sagres, the album’s second track loses that groove and is a bit more mainstream, ending in a rather self indulgent spsych rock acts.

By all accounts Anuseye comprises of former members of psychadelic rock acts Colt.38 and That’s All Folks, I’m sure followers of psych rock or at least Italian rock artists maybe familiar with these bands but it’s all new to me. Churchofchrist (no spaces) contains an infuriating familiar drum pattern as its intro and its incorporated elsewhere within the song, intentional or not I don’t know but it reminds me of a BritPop track but I can’t recall the name, the song itself has that feel to it also. Bratislava is a guitar led piece, a spoken word vocal line plays in the background as an effects laden guitar plays a trance like melody. Medellin contains another Sabbath sounding riff and it’s the stoner rock influence that’s apparent here.

This is a 12 track album and I’m currently halfway through and struggling to finish the album and in turn this review. I don’t particularly have an issue with any of it, the songs I’ve listened to have been well crafted and I’m sure are good examples of the sub genre the band are a part of , for me personally however it’s not ticking any boxes, of the tracks I listened to, nothing has particularly stood out, nothing has made me want to listen to more, I’ve no interest to discover anything released previously.
Nice try but personally it’s not for me. 5/10.