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Wednesday 11 October 2023

Reviews: Impure Wilhelmina, Iron Savior, Patriarchs In Black, Notturno (Reviews By Erick Willand, Zak Skane, RIch Piva & Matt Bladen)

Impure Wilhelmina - Dead Decades (Season of Mist) [Erick Willand]

Impure Wilhelmina has been kicking around the Post-metal/Goth Metal Post-whatever scene for about 25 years at this point and have crafted a uniquely mournful, guitar driven sound over that time that continues to stand out among their contemporaries in an ever more crowded yet perpetually niche scene. This uniqueness is entirely due to the talents of vocalist/guitarist and main lyricist Michael Schindl who has been the mainstay since the band's founding. Having survived the ‘global issue’ and not one put two successful European tours the band has begun to focus on a new album. In the gap we get Dead Decades, an EP featuring 3 cover songs and 2 previously unreleased tracks.

Opening track La Javanaise is a French song originally by Serge Gainsbourg circa 1963, and yes I had to look that up. The original song is fantastic in it’s right, a slick lounge number with a fantastic melody. Impure Wilhelmina takes this song and totally makes it their own, infusing it with a cheeky mournful vibe absent from the original all together and giving it distinctly Post - Garage rock treatment that gives me deep The Pillows vibes from the legendary FLCL soundtrack. If you know…you know.
Fallen Angel is a King Crimson song from their 1974 album Red and is not a particularly happy song to begin with, being the lament for a fallen younger brother whose life went foul. Like the original Impure Wilhelmina’s version bleeds that sorrow but with a deeper, modern sound and production. The guitar tone just works and Michael Schindl’s voice fits this song well. This melancholia continues into Plainsong, and this is where I have to admit that I’m not a fan of The Cure. To be fair this song is from 1998’s album Disintegration and at that point in my life thrash metal had already destroyed my brain. The original is slow, sad yet sparkly and Robert Smith’s vocals are nearly nonexistent. By comparison Impure delivers in heaps here, affording the song much more heft and depth of sound, keeping the slow and sad but ditching the sparkle. And to good effect, it’s a better song and is now technically the only The Cure song in my personal playlist.
Now we are given an Impure Wilhelmina song proper in Nubulae and this is the sound I know them for and what I was waiting for. From the fine guitar work Diogo Almeida lays down to Schindl’s vocal range from sorrow to growls and back again. When he growls out “like a pyroclastic floooooowww” and then slides right back to clean and sad…top shelf.
Final track Ignoramus is a heavier straight forward rocker that starts with an aggressive drum forward approach that gives it a punkier, dirtier feel. Coupled with the vocal work and it’s a driving song…that unfortunately flounders out at the end with a weird almost separate acoustic part, like they could decide how to end the song.
I didn’t think I’d have much to say about this EP but it surprised me for sure. The cover songs are done really well and with heart and all seem to fit this band comfortably. The two new tracks are cool but I definitely got the ‘left over songs’ vibe. Personally not a huge fan of the cover photo, it’s a bit boring, but at least it’s not AI so points for that. 7/10

Iron Savior – Firestar (AFM Records) [Zak Skane]

To open this 11 track album the four piece Power Metal outfit deliver us the triumphant instrumental track The Titan, which packs swinging melodies and marching snares patterns to set the mood for their following track Curse Of The Machinery. This track brings us sharp precise riffage that can be elevated to the same league as KK Downings work with Judas Priest. 

On the topic Judast Priest, we can also happily put the singers abilities on the same level as Rob Halfords with his ability to rise and soar when the moment strikes whilst the drummer can run a marathon on the kick pedals. In The Realm Of Heavy Metal brings in some Iron Maiden swaggered guitar delivery along with pitch harmonic laced solos which are complemented with a stripped back approach from the rhythm section to highlight the story telling depicted in the lyrics. Demise Of The Tyrant brings in some swinging riffs, whilst Fire Starter end the first part of the album by bringing in some double kick athletics and chanting choruses. Highlights from the second part of the album are Mask, Cloak And Sword, which fires riffs and double kicks rhythms locked into 8th note triplet patterns whilst it lays the ground for the vocalist to sing of the characters tales. 

Across The Wastelands brings in some classic rock/metal vibes with some Richie Blackmoore styled riffs, whilst the rhythm sections takes it back to basics with the bass and drums holding it down with some classic straight forward grooves. The vocalist channels his inner Ronnie James Dio by utilising some of his unique swagger by twisting bending his lyrical phrases to the musical compositions. Rising From Ashes brings in some thrashy goodness with some harmonising twin leads and some optimistic choruses and the closing track Nothing Is Forever seizes the day with galloping rhythms and soaring choruses. From start to finish we are awed and owed by the triumphantly composed arrangements, that this four piece power metal outfit has produced. 

From the sharp precise metal riffage, powerful vocal ranges to the inhuman consistent battery from the drummers machine like abilities this album will make raise your horns, grab your sword and head to the land of milk and honey. 8/10

Patriarchs In Black - My Veneration (MDD Records) [Rich Piva]

Patriarchs In Black are back with their second album and this makes me very happy. Johnny Kelly of Type O Negative fame on drums and Dan Lorenzo (Hades/Non-Fiction/Cassius King) brings the killer guitar work with a cool collection of guest vocalists to My Veneration, another fun collection of riff-filled metal and doom. It’s not perfect, but there are some really cool tracks on My Veneration and maybe a couple we could have left off, but hey, it’s a new Patriarchs In Black album so deal with it.

Speaking of killer tracks, the opener, Dead Of Dying with Carl Agell, best known as the vocalist on COC’s Blind album and who put out a killer record this year himself under the name Lie Heavy, is the best song on My Veneration, with his killer vocals and the excellent guitar work from Lorenzo is some nice doom goodness. Some grimy doom with Black Water Rising’s Rob Traynor on vocals is a standout, as it goes in all sorts of directions both musically and vocally. Non Defectum is a metal mess in the best kind of way while the creepy violin kicking off the spooky of the title track sucks you in to the more traditional doom that would sound right in place on the Cassius King records that Lorenzo has been involved with. There is also an Alice In Chains vibe going on here as well. 

I love the Dead And Gone riff and it is probably my other favorite track on here as it is straight ahead and fun heavy rock. Crooked Smile is another good one, with a nice riff and the inclusion of organ is always a major plus for me. Heaven Burn sounds like it is straight out of the NYC gutter with Life Of Agony and Biohazard vibes and Hallowed Be Her Name is as close Johnny has gotten to Type O since the band became no more.

I didn’t love the tracks with new Unida singer Mark Sunshine, as Show Them Your Power did not connect with me and Veneration, with the inclusion of legendary rapper DMC, was a bit much but it was a cool get to have him on the record. I struggled with Digital Lies a bit too. Did we need a Kiss and a Sabbath cover? Probably not but they were done well and including them at the end helped with the album flow, that even without the covers seemed a bit all over the place. My Veneration is a bit scattered and flies in all sorts of directions, but it is overall a fun listen. Let’s hope Patriarchs In Black keep it going and continue to bring us metal fun even if it is all over the map. 7/10

Notturno – Inside (Hypnotic Dirge Records) [Matt Bladen]

Get ready to get sad! Italian depressive/atmospheric black metal band Notturno return with their second album called Inside, it couldn’t be more introspective if it was able to see through itself. It also seems to take a similar path for each of the four main songs as acoustic guitars, build into grief stricken screams and dissonance that comes from raw guitar riffs, before falling back into acoustic meandering on Autumn Leaves or pianos on Obessions a track named after their debut album. 

The latter features I think a hurdy gurdy, but I could be mistaken, but that’s some of the varied instrumentation you get on this dense album. Vittøriø Sabelli’s brainchild is very layered in its sound, but for me the black metal parts are probably the weakest, though the vocals of Kjiel and special guest Davide Straccione (Shores of Null) are both suitably anguished for what is band who happily dwell in the maudlin, Davide crooning on Once Again against the flute and more acoustics. 

Notturo are essentially an atmospheric folk band with black metal elements, the sound of autumn turning to winter. Inside is an intriguing listen. 7/10

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