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Tuesday 7 November 2023

Reviews: Gong, Xoth, Escape From Wonderland, Ananda Mida (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Erick Willand, Zak Skane & Kira Hughes)

Gong - Unending Ascending (Kscope) [Matt Bladen]

Daevid Allen is a bit of a legend in the psych rock scene a founder member of Soft Machine, he was also the founder of Gong, with Allen leading them they became perhaps THE seminal psych/jazz/space rock bands around with the exception of Hawkwind, who always moved more towards rock than jazz. 

With Allen at its core the colletcive called Gong released numerous albums of spiritually explorative music that was rich with philosophy, surrealism and psychadelic wandering, Gong was always the band you could expand your mind to. Daevid closed out his account with Gong on I See You, putting together the current version of the band where Kavus Torabi takes his place as vocalist/guitarist, the blessing he gave them allowed them to continue touring and playing honouring his legacy. 

It's now eight years since Allen passed away and this formation released The Universe Also Collapses in 2019, and while that was perhaps more downbeat or reflective, Unending Ascending again lights the fires and the Gong ship is ready to explore stage new worlds. Along with Kavus Torabi, Gong also have Fabio Golfetti on lead guitar/vocals, Dave Strut on bass/vocals, Ian East on saxophone/flute and Cheb Nettles on drums/vocals and they channeling their impressive live prowess into a another studio record which brings with it their spiritual message thorugh boundary pushing compositions. 

Tiny Galaxies, the first song, has been played live on their last tour so it's a road tested way to kick off this new journey into the cosmos, trippy 60's psych pop, from the world of Soft Machine, Syd Barret Floyd or The Beatles, the sax and swirling guitars the highlight. My Guitar Is A Spaceship too has been played live although infront of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium when Torabi put it into his DJ support set for Blur, it's a thrusting indie rocker so you'd expect it to go down a treat in front of Blur/Paul Weller fans. 

So far two totally different sounds coming out of this new Gong album, so business as usual. The first 'proper' progger is the 8 minute fluid Ship Of Ishtar, which flows and breaks through the cosmic seas, hauting and beautiful, breaking up the pacing a little more as the psych rock returns on O, Arcturus as All Clocks Reset brings jazz rock crossover. The flights of fancy Gong take you on are always worth the price of entry, but with so,ething like Choose Your Goddess they are also adding new tracks to their live set. This one is definately going to go down well with the Ozric crowd on their upcoming co-headline tour. The dissonance continues through Lunar Invocation as Asleep Do We Lay brings us back full circle to the opening moments. 

Still a band who crave their own niche and as such get devotion from their fandom, but should get respect and enquiry from those who don't. Join them on their intergalactic journeying. 8/10

Xoth - Exogalactic (Dawnbreed Records) [Erick Willand]
Interdimensional Technical Death-Thrash travelers Xoth first came to my attention with 2019’s Interdimensional Invocations, a sci-fi themed, shred drenched album packed with brilliant tracks easily blending in mini details from a few different genres to craft fast, fun, and memorable songs. But believe it or not, that was a few years ago now and I had begun to think Xoth had gotten lost in some other reality, regulated to the fabled halls of heavy metal history. Thankfully I was wrong and Xoth has burst through a portal out near Seattle somewhere and brought with them a new album, Exogalactic. So onto the space shuttle to get orbital and check the levels of atmospheric shred.

Reptilian Bloodsport wastes no time opening the thrash engines full throttle right out off the launch pad, a few drum blasts and guitar licks are your only warnings. Blistering shred driven metal ensues as you are lyrically hurled off world to fight lizardmen to the death like a gladiator. Dual guitar assaults fueled by dual vocal timing is the name of the game here and Manuscripts Of Madness keeps it moving and enters your space like a hidden menace on speed. I know I say this a lot but I also know I’m right when I do, this will be a crowd favorite for live sets.
At this point I think you should all take a drink every time I write the word ‘shred’ because it’s going to get tossed around a bunch and you will get wrecked. I mean Sporecraft Zero opens with shred and does not let up save for the moments the guitars fly very close to the power metal sun. Parasitic Orchestra then comes rumbling in and here is that touch of proper rollicking Death Metal, layered of course with more shred and gravel munching vocal delivery. This song shines however with its sing along chorus and hooky riffs, another crowd pleaser for sure.
This album is packed with crowd pleasers to be fair,and the vibe is all Sci-Fi and fun and the energy is high and fast with the pedal down all the way. Saga Of The Blade is just this thrash side of a power metal anthem while Reflective Nemesis sways easily into melodeath territory with a darker tone, even the shred vibe is darker here, adding to the vibe.

Album closers Battlesphere and Map To The StarsMonuments To The Ancients are up there for some of my favorite songs this year. Battlesphere a quick step tale of space battles complete with the sound of a sword being drawn and some great group chorus moments. Map To The Stars is just epic. Sweeping guitar space travel shred and grand stories, when the shout goes out “The map to outer space!” I’m sold. It’s grand and enjoyable and I listened to it three more times before finishing this.

To be fair I am right in the center of the target audience for this band, life long sci-fi enjoyer and Metal nerd that enjoys a lot of sub-genres. I might as well have a Xoth locator chip at the base of my skull. With its tight production, high energy, fun sci-fi vibe plus wicked cover art featuring a very cool Space Castle by artist Shindy Reehal this just hits the right marks.
Anyway, I’m getting my space suit on and saying my farewells, Exogalactic waits in orbit. 9/10

Escape From Wonderland – Pieces (Drakkar Entertainment) [Zak Skane]

Opening with some eastern styled chants and synthonic arpeggios, the band greet us with the classic modern metalcore tropes with some Born Of Osiris styled precise breakdowns locked in with some grining Darkglass Styled bass tones, groovy feet work from their beat machine Ben, ambient melodic lead lines and chanting choruses from Lars. 

Silver Lining gets the vocalist Dennis snarling and fry screaming, whilst the other boys brings in some bouncy beats and Lamb Of God styled riffage mixed with modern elements of atmospheric leads and knife sharp precise breakdowns followed with some good ol blehs. Eyes Wide Shut comes in as the most bulgingly heavy track on this album with thick guitar riffs, classic deathcore grooves, sharp digitech whammy jabs and mosh pit inspired tempos. 

The brutality continues with The Devils Hour with it’s punishing razor cutting nostalgic metalcore pedal tone riffs, Dennis channelling some classic Black Dahila Murder frying vocal delivery to Martyr Defiled inspired delivered gutturals to Ben bring in some Joey Jordison (Slipknot) energy filled drum beats. The closing track on the first part of the album Dissimulate delivers Slipknot styled riffage laced with modern elements of ambient textures, thunderous breakdowns and modern clean vocals. Highlights on the second part of the album is the two sided elements of Sulfur which brings the old school and the new elements of metalcore. The song contains the typical modern synth driven choruses with huge strummed chords and epic orchestral layers but then in the pre-choruses we are given Killswitch Engage driven harmonised guitar parts and edge crushing breakdowns. 

The infectious catchy choruses of Hour Glass reminisces of classic When We Came As Romans but having the technical riffage of bands like Bury Tomorrow and All That Remains. Finally their closing track, which is a cover of The Weeknds Blinding Lights. The band have kept the key moments of the original such as the main melody and pretty much the same song structure. The good points is they have done is, firstly they have picked a song that is in their clean vocalist range and they have added their own flavour to the track, but I do feel like it was a bit of a dated creative decision because it reminded me of the Punk Goes Pop albums which is a bit dated or you could say a nostalgic gimmick.

Overall this is a promising debut album from the German five metalcore act. With their combination of classic 2000 era Metalcore and 2010’s Deathcore mixed with modern layers of orchestras and ambience which brings together old school and new school fans a like. 7/10

Ananda Mida – Reconciler (Go Down Records) [Kira Hughes]

The latest album from Ananda Mida holds 8 tracks yet is still rather lengthy consisting of 1 hour 23 minutes, which is very impressive giving us fully loaded tracks and powerful instrumentals. This album features many artists on the tracks too, such as Quiet Confusion, Virtual Time, Conny Ochs, Lu Silver and The Lu Silver String Band. 

The album cover art is instantly intriguing and colourful with blended imagery that captures your mind's eye. Reconciler starts with an impactful beat entering us into a euphoric trance and carries us through powerful guitar solos and raunchy riffs. The vocals throughout the album are incredibly deep and gravelly creating a haunting atmosphere until the chorus’ where the vocals reach a high and powerful range giving the song a strong vocal impact, not forgetting the echoey vocals adding an unusual yet fascinating tone. 

I quite enjoyed this album and it leaves a lot to the imagination, I can hear these tracks being included in an action/adventure film. 5/10

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