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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

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