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Tuesday 31 October 2023

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           

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