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Monday 16 October 2023

Reviews: Heavy Load, Purple Kong, Inmost Ego, Bermuda's Burden (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Heavy Load - Riders Of The Ancient Storm (No Remorse Records)

Ragne Wahlquist (vocals/guitars/keyboards) and Styrbj√∂rn Wahlquist (vocals/drums) are not only credited as the pioneers of the Swedish doom sound but they are also the so called inventors of Viking metal. The brothers produced Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall for Candlemass, both of which are genre classics. That echoed, analogue sound trying to be endlessly recaptured by 1000’s of bands since. But in their own band Heavy Load they founded in 1974-1975 they take a more epic classic heavy metal sound, latter period Sabbath meets Cirith Ungol, infused with their own Viking heritage. Now while Manilla Road and Manowar, who formed later made this style more popular, the brothers can lay claim to having invented the cinematic fantasy metal genre long before fellow Swedes such as Hammerfall were the leaders of that scene.
Anyway enough nostalgia, they released their last album in 1983, but in 2023, Heavy Load return with their new album Riders Of The Ancient Storm, thankfully they haven’t totally abandoned their history as they’ve packed another album full of 70’s heavy metal with lyrics that deal with Vikings and Norse mythology/history, all of which is inspired by Ragne Wahlquist’s Wahlgaard Saga series of novels. If Amon Amarth were around in the 70’s, or if Europe didn’t take the AOR route, they’d sound like Heavy Load, the brothers making this album sound like it could have come from that period with the production that is built for vinyl, the collection split into a Side A and a Side B, the second kicking off with the masterful Slave No More where that doom influence is the strongest. While Walhalla Warriors has layers of orchestration, the keys/organs/Wurlitzers really inspire notions of that late 70’s era where the use of keyboards/synths and electronic strings was coming in.
Mostly though Riders Of The Ancient Storm is a pretty decent return to recording for Heavy Load (they’ve played gigs since 2017), their inspiration may not always been celebrated but the diversity of songs here show that they aren’t to be overlooked if you’re a music historian such as myself, with a massive re-issue campaign already happening, it won’t be long before Heavy Load are given the kudos they deserve. 8/10

Purple Kong - Blood Lightning (Kozmik Artifactz)

The debut full length riff fest from London stoners Purple Kong is a filthy, fuzzy, psychy trip through the London underground scene, horror, murder, drugs and witchery. The trio of Allan (bass), Sylvy Styx (drums) and Dr Tompson (guitar/vocals) have been steadily releasing music for a while now putting out EP's in 2016 and 2018 all the time building up a strong following. So in the mist of the pandemic and replacing their drummer they have recorded Blood Lightning their debut full length aided by Wayne Adams and Ade Emsley. 

So what it like? Well if you like woozy stoner riffs, that linger in the dark bowels of the occult, putting blasts of stoner chugging (title track) with thundeous doom (Last Man On Earth), almost like a less overwhelming version Electric Wizard. We crawl out of the depths with Village On Fire, where the repeated shouts of "Set Their Village On Fire" establishes the sort of thing we're going for here, t

The screaming psych guitars on Crowned In Ouija add more strings to their bow as Obolus is a thumping psych rocker, Hawkwind on mescaline, the Sabbath influence strong here too. Sylvy Styx is a persuasive powerhouse behind the kit, keeping those stomping grooves with the buzzing bass of Allan while Dr Tompson has an overwhelming surplus of distorted reverebed riffs the wild eyed lead breaks of Cocaine Pentagram continued through Major Arcana

Psychadelic stoner doom riffs and all the mysticism you'd want on a record that's called Blood Lightning. Light your witches candle, stoke up the fires of release, pledge your soul to the riff. 9/10

Inmost Ego - Looking Back At The End Of The World (Self Released)

With their last release being eight years ago, Inmost Ego come back with Looking Back At The End Of The World. Formed in Athens in 2005, in order to pay homage to Paradise Lost, Anthema and Katatonia, Inmost Ego have been peddling misery for a while now, so on this record you can’t expect anything that resembles a smile. Maudlin and morose this is 57 minutes of atmospheric song writing that takes from the form established by the Peaceville Three but adds their own twist. Imagine One Second –era Paradise Lost fronted by Scary Monsters – era David Bowie and you’ll be swirling the right black hole. 

There’s a lot of Madrugada here too (Freedom), some Type Of Negative on Sinners as Serenity breathes with the electronic thump of Depeche Mode, post-punk existentialism on Plato And The Mermaid. They throw so much at this record, it’s a little disjointed, the usage of spoken word and samples taking over the songs themselves sometimes and when they stick to just straight doom, like on Elysium (Staring Madness) they play it too safe and sterile. However there’s lots to like on Looking Back At The End Of The World, it takes risks that don’t always pay off but if they focus on tracks such as Sinners, Freedom or Plato And The Mermaid then their next album could be much more cohesive. 6/10

Bermuda’s Burden – Devil’s Paradise (Self Released)

There’s a lot of poetic nonsense that surrounds the PR for Indiana’s Bermuda’s Burden, quotes from Oscar Wilde, long paragraphs filled with artistic exploration but what you need to know is that in the for fans of they mention: Nevermore, Jinjer and Oceans Of Slumber, which is enough for me to listen to it. What this is a double A-Side featuring two tracks Devil’s Den and Sugar Paradise. Fronted by the vocals of Cyan Ramsey, it’s unfortunate that they are all you hear, that and the bass as they are the highest part of the appalling mix. 

There’s some neat riffs if you listen close enough but despite the comparison’s I didn’t get anything out of these two songs at all. The ‘prog’ part seems all a bit random, cleans moving into harsh vocals schizophrenically as the riffs do sound a little one note and simplistic. The result was me quickly losing interest on the repetitive Devil’s Den, while Sugar Paradise felt like the same song just slower. Impacted by the muddy production and songs that really don’t grab you as they should, I was glad this was just a double A-Side and not a full album. 4/10

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