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Monday 4 December 2023

Reviews: Cobra Spell, ORO, Weeping Silence, Slodder (Reviews By Matt Bladen, Mark Young, James Jackson & Erick Willand)

Cobra Spell - 666 (Napalm Records) [Matt Bladen]

Founded by ex-Crypta/ex-Burning Witches shredder Sonia Anubis, Cobra Spell is the kind of band that she always wanted to play in, a sleazy, 80’s inspired metal band the likes of W.A.S.P, early Crue (when they were dangerous), Skid Row, Dokken and Vixen. Mix that with some speed and NWOBHM and you get what Cobra Spell are about. Having released two previous EP’s previously the current line up is Anubis and Twitch streamer Noelle dos Anjos on guitars, Hale Naptha on drums, Roxy Herrera on bass and Kristina Vega on vocals. 

So what is 666 like? Well it’s a throwback musically, lyrically and production wise, choppy sleaze riffs, some shredding guitar solos and siren vocals. Anubis and dos Anjos cement themselves as a guitar duo to watch out for while the bottom end is groove an gets the hips shaking and heads banging. Unlike the macho, misogynist sleaze bands of the 80’s Cobra Spell take a female twist on the lyrics, empowering the listener with tracks such as Satan Is A Woman, Bad Girl Crew and turning the tables on the actions of the rampant womanising with You’re A Cheater, similar to the way Lzzy Hale and Halestorm place women as the dominant force in their songs. 

I will say it is refreshing not to have another male sleaze/glam band talking about drinking, partying and having lots of sex with as many women as possible, it’s old and outdated, and besides it’s about time the girls got a go at it, even if it is still a little cringe. On The Devil Inside Of Me they absolutely fly past with full on speed metal as Fly Away brings a AOR ballad, Love = Love features more AOR sounding synths and sax, slowing the album down into 80’s pop, rather than rock. Thankfully Love Crime brings back the riffs and off we go again. 

Glammy, sleazy, hard rock inspired by the decade of decadence, delivered with a feminine attitude, Cobra Spell will slither into your ears and you’ll feel their venom with this debut. 7/10

ORO - Vid Vägs Ände (Hammerheart Records) [Mark Young]

Sludge/Post metal is, at least for me similar to the act of drinking coffee. At first, its bitter, uninspiring and frankly a chore to continue making that drink until at some point there is something that clicks, and you start to like it and then explore different brands, different styles at which point it becomes normal.

Now that I’ve exhausted that analogy, what it is actually like? Well, ORO translated into English could be considered as concern, anxiety and botheration (thanks Google) and the music that follows is certainly heavy on the first two. Arvet & Tystnaden begins with barely audible spoken part with a soft guitar piece and then BANG the heavy comes in, with a delicious tone that is just royal. Petter Nilsson has this delivery that is guttural and clear, with building riffs that don’t forget that having something to say is important. 

The main verse riff has it in spades, full of movement and heavy as you like. There is some great stuff going on in just this first song, the length giving them chance to unwrap the ideas here in an unhurried manner. The closing arrangement is stunning, bringing that melody in whilst not forgetting that it needs to hit hard which It does and closes it out brilliantly, looping back to the opening chords. Absolute stormer of a song. Vid Vägs Ände is more immediate, but still in keeping with that balance between stabbing melody and heavy parts. It’s the heavy parts that seem to convey that anxiety better than the lighter ones, I think they just land better (with me) and when they open up around the 4:20 mark, it's simply wonderful.

Bältad treads a softer path, with an insistent drum pattern engaging before the riffs come storming back in. It’s still as urgent but could have been half its length and still would have been brutally effective with a shorter run-time. Siare, shares similarities with the preceding track by having that light / dark approach and again the same could be said about it’s run-time. When it does cut loose, it takes on a new lease of life, drawing you in and keeping you focused on what they will do next. Its closing moments are excellent and just hit so well.

Final track, Treriksröset slows things down to set the initial scene and then they do something that is just perfect. The main riff moves at a pace with a melodic piece played over the top that just makes the hairs stand up on your arms. It seems effortless and detonates like a laser guided missile. It’s one of my songs of the year (with Arvet & Tystnaden) slotting into that list like a ball of lightning. Its incredibly focused, tight and finishes the album off magnificently.

I have mentioned this before about song lengths, especially where they seem to be overly long for no apparent reason. Sometimes, I guess that bands get caught up in serving their art without balancing the need for it to do / go somewhere. Here, they almost get that balance spot on. Of the tracks, Bältad feels the weakest comparing against the others, but to be honest it’s a minor niggle when you look at the overall picture they paint.

It just sounds so good, the production is spot on, and the guitar tone just makes it for me. It's not muddy and possesses a clarity that is sometimes lost with other similar works. The craft on display, is just amazing and each of the songs has enough going on to keep you engaged. Its an absolute stormer of an album, one that is fully deserving of an 8/10

Weeping Silence - Isles Of Lore (ViciSolum Productions) [James Jackson]

Reading through the bio, Weeping Silence are a band who are constantly changing, whilst seated firmly in gothic rock/metal roots they’ve adapted their sound to incorporate more doom metal tropes. Along the way the line up seems to have changed in order to create the kind of music and atmosphere they were seeking.

Having not heard of anything by Weeping Silence before, I can’t truly pass comment on where this ever evolving process has come from but Isles Of Lore has a very melodeath feel to it at times, reminding me of Insomnium within the first few tracks.

Opening track The Watcher On The Walls is a great example of what’s to come for the rest of the album, it has sweeping solo’s, semi acoustic bridges, clean and guttural vocals, moments of death metal inspired guitar picking followed by more melodic riffs.

The songs are based on folklore from the band’s native country of Malta ranging from spirits to monsters lurking in wells to the epic sixteen minute long track The Legend Of Matteo Falzon - a Maltese sorcerer who fled the Inquisition, though a Google search reveals more information on Malta’s football players than it does ancient mystics.

There are a few odd moments on the album where I can’t quite see the point, the drum intro to The Beast And The Harrow feels a bit unnecessary, the song kicks in with a beast of a riff and that initial impression feels like it could have come across better without the drum solo to begin with, but that’s a slight niggle amidst an album that is otherwise pretty solid.

The bio states for fans of Anathema, Draconian and Moonspell, My Dying Bride and Amorphis, I’d definitely add Insomnium to that list and the more I’ve listened to the album the more that comparison rings true. 7/10

Slodder - A Mind Designed To Destroy Beautiful Things (Majestic Mountain Music) [Erick Willand]

Sweden’s not usually known for producing a lot of filthy swamp drenched sludge metal so this alone puts Slodder somewhat in a league of their own. Having formed from some nasty misanthropic primordial ooze sometime in 2018 they have dropped two EPs and two full lengths including this fantastically titled heep. Let’s get our wellies on and get mean and muddy.

Instantly greeted by feedback that bleeds into a fuzzed out riff and soggy, insistent drums punctuated by the raw throated bellows of a dude simply known as H. He literally sounds on the verge of just breaking down into a screaming fit. Like a swarm of flies that feedback never actually goes away and leads through the cypress trees to the title track A Mind Designed To Destroy Beautiful Things. Opening with a slower drudge of a riff that quickly opens up to a rolling groove that keeps your head moving while you skip across dark, gator infested waters on Slodder’s filthy airboat, your face soaked with swamp water.

Slodder uses feedback like the songs of massed cicadas, it permeates the under-background of almost every second of this album and Shitwalker is no exception. It rips open reality here to bring in a swaggering rhythm and down right mean vocal beating. When H croaks out “Shitwalkerrrrrrrr” you feel that and are glad he’s not aiming it at you. 

There is no quarter asked and none given on this album, no peace among the misanthropic swamps as the endless feedback brings us Warpaint next for yet more sonic punishment in a somewhat longer form at 5 seconds shy of 7 full minutes, like getting your feet stuck in that deep black swamp mud while ‘locals’ pelt you with alligator apples and watch you sink. Bumrush just continues this beating but ups the crunchy groove while still keeping the sodden aggression, vocals duties are seemingly taken over by the legendary and very angry Skunk Ape. These songs each feel like a trilogy, feeding and fitting together very well, like a lead line through the swamp fog from one hunting shack to the next.

If the first half of this album is the ‘woe is you’ part, then the last three tracks are the ‘woe is me’ part. 

Starting with Still No Friends and its slower, anguished, almost ritual-like vibe that haunts and lingers like swamp gas. Then, in an attempt to blow that gas out of the space comes a short, punky gust of humid wind in the fuzzed up form of 46, like a blast of nitrous in the engine for that last boost. That being the aptly titled Reptile, a song that proves these grudge holding mud kickers are competent hunters and have saved the epic for the final gator fight. At 7 minutes and 36 placing this in the final slot was clearly the right choice, reading after the fact that this album was recorded in one solid go like a live set makes it just that much spicier. You need to hear it, something I don’t usually say in a review but, yeah, there it is.

As impressed as I am not all was a happy airboat tour here, when I said that feedback and reverb drench every inch of this I wasn’t kidding, no rest from it and kind of bleeds the songs together a bit. Though it gives the whole album a non-stop insistent vibe that works, if you find that stuff annoying then you will clearly be annoyed. Lastly, the logo is cool but the cover art is kind of lazy, no points there I’m afraid.

Anyway, I’m going to squeeze into my Gator Waders (real item btw) and see if I can get some pics of a Skunk Ape. A Mind Designed To Destroy Beautiful Things fogs up at 7/10

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