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Thursday 7 December 2023

Reviews: Orbit Culture, Nimrod, Axenstar, Saffire (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Orbit Culture - The Forgotten (Seek And Strike Records) 

Swedish mechanised riff machine end their steallr 2023 with a three song EP as a thank you to everyone that supported them this year. Written during the Descent sessions, these three tracks didn’t fit in with the rest of the album so they are presented here on a digital only release. 

The two latter songs The Upheaval and Sound Of The Bell, continue to bring that death/tech/metalcore sound Orbit Culture have refined and perfected, with nods to Trivium and Gojira, both featuring growled verses and clean choruses, there’s lots of the Gothenburg scene too, but just louder and harsher, Sound Of The Bell really leaning into synths and orchestrations as an 8 minute feast, clean guitar lines move into industrial blasts, that scream Trivium but also touring partners Avatar. It’s about mass shootings in the USA so the heavy subject matter dictates the emotive instrumentation and atmosphere. 

Their touring with Trivium has clearly influenced this track, however the band have also opened for Mesuggah six times, and their sound has been used on the punishing While We Serve, as The Upheaval moves towards blackened deathcore due to the drumming especially. A stand alone treat to end the year, Orbit Culture are on their way into the stratosphere. 8/10

Nimrod - Legacy Of Death (Metalapolis Records)

It seems Chilean guitarist Chris Ira won’t let South American thrash band Nimrod die. After gaining a following in the 80’s signing to a label but never releasing an album Chris left the band and it lay dormant. That is until 2004 when the demo was remastered as part of compilation of old material, cue another break then in 2009 Nimrod B.C was born playing festivals and shows and even releasing an album in 2017. 

Nimrod B.C is dead, long live Nimrod as the thrashers come back, without the suffix (though if you search them use it to find out info), Chris recruiting musicians from his extensive address book to make this new, new, new version of the band. Featuring the line up from the last record but also a former bass player, another guitarist, two drummers and another singer, who actually plays on this album is a little confusing but no matter as they make some good second wave thrash that sounds like Exodus, Testament or Forbidden, heavier, nastier and louder than the originators, there’s touches of death and classic metal, a feast for the ears if you’re a thrash fan. 

Musically it’s pretty good, well in the style of thrash metal I like (my opinion is that Testament is the best thrash band of all time), the vocals having a Bobby Blitz (Overkill)-like shriek. If having a load of new music wasn't enough Legacy Of Death features two covers. The first is Merciless Death by Dark Angel which features founding Dark Angel vocalist Don Doty behind the mic, then the last cover is Neon Knights, from Dio-fronted Sabbath, that Dio-like vocal coming from Ronnie Romero (you know that guy). The covers are fun, but any fan of second wave thrash will love Nimrod, a real suprise to my ears. 8/10

Axenstar – Chapter VIII (Inner Wound Recordings)

Compared to Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Sonata Arctica, Chapter VIII is the eighth album from Swedish power metal band Axenstar. 

Formed in 1998 as a covers band they have been releasing their own music since 2002 and they stick to a rigid form of power metal, mainly owing to the battle metal of Hammerfall and the more galloping Sonata Arctica. Over the years they have hand a number of line up changes and record labels but this is their first on Inner Wound Recordings. 

There’s lyrics about spirituality throughout which makes me think if they may be religious but nothing is too overt so it’s just run of the mill power metal with Through The Fire And Brimstone getting heavier as guitarists Jens Klovegård and Joakim Jonsson down tune rather than stay in their normal more melodic tone, The War Within also keeps things brooding the drumming skill of Pelle Åkerlind obvious here. As for Magnus Winterwild, he’s a better bassist than singer but there are worse out there. 

There’s not much else I can say about the record as if you like power metal then there’s a lot of it but after 8 albums they do what they do, so don’t go looking for revolution. 6/10 

Saffire – Starhunter EP (ROAR Rock Of Angels Records)

As they gear up to release a re-mix of their album For The Greater Good in 2024, Swedish heavy rockers Saffire preceded it with a three song EP entitled Starhunter, the three songs here are the title track, Law And Disorder and Dynamite and as soon as Starhunter gets going with its strutting riff and organ swells, there’s a soulful hum and we’re into some Rainbow-esque hard rock, vocalist Tobias Jansson sounding like Jeff Scott Soto.

Victor Olsson and Dino Zuzic spar like Blackmore and Lord, on Law And Disorder especially, while the rhythm section of Magnus Carlsson and Anton Roos make Dynamite explode. If you’ve not heard Saffire before then this is the perfect introduction to their groovy, slightly proggy heavy rock. Listen in anticipation of the album next year. 7/10

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