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Friday 20 October 2023

Reviews: Within Temptation, Go Ahead And Die, Hippie Death Cult, Oxymorrons (Reviews By Matt Bladen, GC, Rich Piva & James Jackson)

Within Temptation - Bleed Out (Force Music Recordings) [Matt Bladen]

Within Temptation get heavy lyrically and musically on their new album Bleed Out. Tackling subjects such as the war in Ukraine, Women's Rights in Iran, persecution and religious fanaticism, its the continuing evolution of the band from the symphonic metal scene they helped form into an act that uses a broader stroke of the brish in their music. 

With music that will excite you and lyrics that will inform you. In their 26 years as a band the membership has differed but not by much, the constant has been the soaring, evocative voice of Sharon Del Adel, bassist Jeroen van Veen has also been there since the inception while guitarist Ruud Jolie and keyboardist Martijn Spierenburg joined in 2001, while drummer Mike Coolen and rhythm guitarist Stefan Helleblad have been members since 2011, the latter replacing Sharon's parter Robert Westerholdt who is now studio only. Having this fixed line up for years now, Sharon and Robert are the beating heart of the band, directing how the Within Temptation machine opereates and how the sound has varied from their first records into the arena act they are today. 

This album hase been very much influenced by the war in Ukraine, having gone to an independant label, the band now felt that they could becoem more politcal and address societal issues with their music, so Bleed Out is an angry, idelogically driven record that will probably result in a lot of postivity and negativity as they wear their ideas and alligences on their sleeves. By releasing many of these songs as stnad alone singles they ahve managed to keep ahead of the situation that is ever chnaging, therefore the comments don't feel outdated or under-informed. 

Bleed Out is unspoken but that's exactly what they wanted it to be; a musically dense heavy record, with a cinematic dynamism, biting politcal context and their first record without having to play any industry games. Releasing how and what they wanted when they wanted too. It feels like the first 'free' Within Temptation record, though long term producer Daniel Gibson keeps some things the same. Ignoring the politics, hard you do on a record where it's the centerpoint, Bleed Out brings the most complete set of songs from the band in a while. 

The tolling bell brings We Go To War and it's pulsating forward motion, while the title track is built around the huge modern metal grooves, hitting as hard as the subject matter of the plight of women in Iran and the Middle East, a subject close to Sharon's history having lived in the Middle East when she was younger. The symphony elements have been dialled back as they have on some of the more recent albums, the increasing use of electronics and synths over strong orchestations, Wireless pairing both on a 'classic' WT song as Worth Dying For leans more on strings to accompany the thrashier riffs. Elsewhere though Ritual slithers and seduces, Cyanide Love melds the industrial with the gothic as The Purge twitches. 

Those modern electronic elements that are so en-vogue having been adopted by the band on their fifth album The Unforgiving and has since become de riguer, another way that the band are pioneers, bringing in ultra trendy acts such as Annisokay on Shed My SkinBleed Out is Within Temptation at their most independent and defiant. 9/10

Go Ahead And Die - Unhealthy Mechanisms (Nuclear Blast) [GC]

Nowadays, when an album has Max Cavalera involved, you can usually expect it to be chaotic and heavy, he usually plies his trade with Soulfly as we all know but has so many other projects going it’s hard to keep up sometimes. You also sometimes feel if someone has loads of bands that they may be spreading themselves a bit thin and the material may suffer, only one way to find out.

It all starts with Desert Carnage which blasts out of the speakers with feedback and blastbeats before driving straight into a beautifully chaotic D-beat with the mix of vocals form Max & his son Igor hitting beautifully it also mixes in the right amount of death metal to make it and energetic and thrilling start, Split Scalp follows on with more of that same energy but after a frantic start the verse is groove filled but mixes in nicely with some more great blasting D-beat sections and the bass really stands out to help the song breath and show early variation in styles. 

Tumors carries on with the slowed down death metal style crawl and then throws in some classic Max era Sepultura sound and it’s a glorious throwback to what he has done but also shows that he still has plenty to offer going forward and is easily my favorite song on the album because of that, Drug O-Cop is a gloriously thrashy number that rides in on a wave of scathing guitars and bulldozing drums and continues throwing riffs around for fun while never dulling the pace or attack of the song, if this song fails to put a smile on your face your listening to the wrong album, it’s another glorious throwback filled with nostalgia but still doesn’t sound dated.

No Easy Way Out goes straight on the attack and is another blasting crossover attack with some great riffs mixing in and out and the drums creating the grove to carry the force of the guitars forward in a perfect way the interweaving of different style on this song shows that while they want to brutalize you at all times they have many ways to do this and the album benefits greatly from this and Max’s years of experience within the metal world. 

M.D.A (Most Dangerous Animal) has a staccato stop start beginning that once the song begins is replaced with a vicious and unrelenting attack that comprises hardcore elements into the now familiar sound and also throws more of the groove filled parts in, however it just feels this song is a bit drawn out it’s not an epic or anything its 4:27 but for my money it could have had bits trimmed off and reduced to around 3:20 would have been another killer track. 

Chasm now introduces some black metal tinges into the mixing pot and obviously it’s a raw and unrelenting mix that has been dragged backwards through a feedback pedal and sounds utterly ferocious the guitars are sharp and cutting and the drums and barbaric and as Johnny Valles has played for Black Braid, you would expect no less really, Cyber Slavery takes us back down the well-played D-beat/death metal path and is another beautifully executed lesson in brutality and to keep all this up this far into the album without sounding played out is testament to how good the songs really are. 

Blast Zone should really only last 2 minutes tops with a title like that, but it doesn’t and what we do get is another classic era Sepultura style song and while I’m not trying to take anything away from what Max is doing on this album is an absolutely glorious throwback to past glories in the best way possible and so its onto the title track Unhealthy Mechanisms to close us out and it does so in thrashtastic fashion, packed with full throttle guitars and absolutely savage drumming there is no closing this with a whimper, it might just be the most ferocious track on the full album and leaves you dazed, confused but ultimately overjoyed at what has just occurred.

Wasn’t sure what to expect from this but I got something I absolutely loved and will definitely be coming back to regularly; Unhealthy Mechanisms is a savage and nasty piece of work and shows that mixing some youth with experience and having that fire still burning inside is a sure-fire way to create something truly outstanding. 9/10

Hippie Death Cult - Helichrysum (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

Hippie Death Cult had my 24th favorite album of 2021 (it could have been anywhere from 8-30) so of course I am stoked to get a new album from the Portland, Oregon now trio, after keyboard player and vocalist Ben Jackson departed from the band. But have no fear, bassist Laura Phillips takes over lead vocal duties completely now, as you have heard her sing on HDC releases before, but now she is the primary voice on the third album from the band, Helichrysum, brought to you once again from Heavy Psych Sounds. You may think the change in lead vocalist would change the band’s sound at least a bit, but the new record is still one hundred present Hippie Death Cult sound, a sound you can decipher amongst all the other bands doing proto/psych/doom thing today.

The one thing the vocalist change did do was make Hippie Death Cult the West Coast’s answer to Ruby The Hatchet, and this is an extremely high complement. Both bands haver perfected the 70s metal/psych vibes and are two of the best if not the best bands doing it today. The opener, Arise, is a perfect example, where right of the bat you get this smoky, hazy feel with a nice doomy vibe and Laura’s excellent vocals. 

The production of HDC records is perfect for their sound, as it captures the heaviness of the rhythm section and the unique guitar tone of Eddie Brnabic in a way that makes the sound signature to them. Arise has a nice crunch to it too, along with the excellent psych flavored guitar work, making this an absolute killer opener. Laura’s vocals bring more soul to HDC, as displayed on Shadows. Both witchy and soulful, when the riff kicks in, the heavy of Shadows begins. 

Great stuff. More of that soul coupled with some organ make the slow burn of Better Days one of the band’s best tracks till date, and that guitar solo seals the deal. Red Giant picks up the pace and is Helichrysum’s answer to the amazing Hornet Party from their 2021 album Circle Of Days, with the driving and winding riff that steers the listener into oblivion and must be the highlight of their live set. Did I say Red Giant was the answer to Hornet Party

Well, the even heavier extension of Red GiantToxic Annihilator is the heaviest one two punch HDC has ever delivered. Listen to that chug. Nefelibata slows down just enough to let you catch your breath and is the most keys driven song on Helichrysum. Doomy occult vibes aplenty, reminding me of a heavier Blood Ceremony track. I love the layered vocals about halfway through the track. Tomorrows Sky wraps up Helichrysum perfectly, with more of that excellent psych guitar work and outlines how the band is tighter than ever musically now as a trio.

Hippe Death Cult may have lost a member, but what they gained is so much more. Helichrysum is a more focused effort with a grander sound and some serious soul. Laura on vocals and a more guitar driven sound is exactly what the band needed to take there already killer take on 70s proto/psych/doom to the next level. Helichrysum is a perfect third album from Hippe Death Cult and the record that takes the band to the next level in the scene. Amazing stuff. 9/10

Oxymorrons - Melanin Punk (Mascot Records) [James Jackson]

I caught Oxymorrons on tour earlier this year, supporting Bad Omens and was impressed with their on stage performance. I downloaded their last album Mohawks & Durags soon after but admittedly only gave it a brief listen, so here I am now seven months later with their new album Melanin Punk.

As with their live performance and previous albums this is packed with anthemic songs, each of which will easily capture an audience and it’s actually far easier for me to review this based on how I imagine these songs being played live, because as I’m listening I’ve a vivid image of the band on stage, arms in the air encouraging the crowd to do likewise, the chorus for Look Alive is a prime example of this.
There are a multitude of guest artists appearing on this album, of which Last Call, the collaboration with Alt Rock artist Troi Irons has to be my favourite.

As far as crossover music goes this is quite the example of how to do it right, I’m not a fan of Rap or Hip Hop, I had a brief fling with Ice T after discovering Bodycount but that was extremely short lived as was my toe dip into the murky world of the Insane Clown Posse, though that was largely to do the fact that I only really liked The Great Milenko album which other review mags at the time couldn’t praise enough.

This however works, I’m reminded of Linkin Park, there’s even a track called Mike Shinoda Flow, the “Punk” that’s promised in the title, hits hard with the title track, to be expected of course.
To sum up, this is a good album and I’ve little to belittle (that was on purpose) other than a few tracks where the Rap element just reminds me of Eminen, and I’ve never been a fan.

I would much prefer to experience this in a live performance and that’s my take on it, that this album will absolutely crush live, that these songs will come to life more on stage and the talent on show will really stand out; I can’t recommend seeing Oxymorrons live enough. JJ 7/10.

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