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Friday 1 December 2023

Reviews: Orphaned Land, Paradise Lost, Unprocessed, The Company Corvette (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, James Jackson, Matt Bladen & Paul Scoble)

Orphaned Land – A Heaven You May Create (Century Media Records) [Paul Hutchings]

I think it’s reasonably well known that I like this band, a lot. There’s something about their fusion of styles, their ability to cross boundaries and their ability to shift from heavy to light that makes the Israeli outfit something a bit special.

I’ve seen them live a few times, although not for a few years now, although I am hoping to get to their show in London in early 2024 if the stars align. Anyway, I digress, for this is meant to be a review of their 30th anniversary show, played in 2021, in a gap between lockdowns. Set in the ‘hall of fame’ of Israel, the Heichal HaTarbut in Tel Aviv, 2500 excited fans joined the band in celebration. But not just the fans, for a symphony of 60 players were also part of the event, making this a very special night.

Live albums are often a bit hit and miss, with studio edits, reduced crowd noise and numerous other elements making them appear a bit artificial. This is nothing like that. From the opening crowd cheers as the band take to the stage and launch into Mabool, this has the hairs standing on the back of the neck. Kobi Farhi remains the central figure of the band, but this is an evening when the sum of the parts was clearly greater. Orphaned Land have always been driven forward by bassist Uri Zelcha and he is once again locked in tight.

The show spans the three decades of music that the band has created. From The Storm Still Rages Inside through to The Cave from most recent studio album Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs to the emotion of Brother and All Is One, this is an epic release. It’s evident that the partisan crowd are fully invested, chanting along at will, whilst all the time lapping up the expansive guitar work of Idan Amsalem and Chen Balbu, enjoying the choral harmonies, the delicate passages of play, which contrast with some crushingly heavy sections.

In a time of darkness in the world, bands like Orphaned Land shine like a candle. The complexities of Israel and Palestine are far too detailed for most of us to comprehend. Orphaned Land’s message is unity and understanding. Here, we just appreciate an amazing rock band performing at their peak.

If the likes of All Is OneSapari or Norra El Norra don’t stir emotions in you, then maybe you need to have a word with yourself. This is a band at full power, and after 30 years, there appears to be much more yet to come. 10/10

Paradise Lost - Icon 30 (Nuclear Blast) [James Jackson]

Re-recorded and re-mastered… so many albums from band’s early, formative years are getting the same treatment for various reasons. Cradle Of Filth did it with Cruelty & The Beast and Dusk & Her Embrace, both great albums from the start but remastered to provide more creative control or just to right a few recording studio wrongs. So when it was announced that Paradise Lost were re-recording their Icon album my first reaction was an obvious why ? The album is now 30 years old, but hasn’t aged like some albums of a similar life have, it was as it is now, an absolute classic of British Heavy Metal and the album that really put Paradise Lost on the map. 

So why fix it if it clearly isn’t broken, the answer lies within content control, to actually own the rights to the material that they had written, Nick Holmes and company have not only re-recorded the album but redesigned the artwork and undoubtedly all other aspects of the album. One of the biggest differences you notice throughout the album is the drum sound, it sounds thicker and fuller, little accentuations that either weren’t in the original recording or weren’t as prominent now fill the pattern, there’s more timbre to the drum sounds. 

The same can be said of the lead guitar work, though without listening to the songs from both versions of the album at the same time, it’s hard to tell whether anything has been added or whether it’s just that this version is clearer. It’s certainly apparent with Nick Holmes vocals, there are points within the songs that his vocals seem harsher than before, emphasis added to certain lines in order to give them more depth and meaning. Icon 30 is a clearer, better sounding album, though that’s a sign of the times, as developments in sound recordings have changed immensely in the 30 years since the original version was released, for fans of the band this will undoubtedly be a great addition to their collection, a tonne of new merch has come out, with a rather limited UK tour taking place this month. 

For people just discovering the band this is a great place to start, it’s an iconic (I tried not to) album. Whether it’s the original version of the album or this new release, Icon is Paradise Lost at their best. 9/10

Unprocessed - ...And Everything In Between (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Do you like your metal music to be non-linear, indirect, hard to grasp, technically gifted and unworried about boundaries or expectations? Great there’s a new Unprocessed album dropping this week and you’ll be scratching your head and awkwardly dancing into Xmas. 

Always proponents of complex song writing and virtuoso performances, they have broken out of the djent mould successfully, moving away from the heavy with their last album as they embraced pop, trip-hop and other non-metal soundscapes. On this new record, which seems to be released independently, the German band have bridged several musical gaps with a thrilling and intense album of multifaceted music. 

Manuel Gardner Fernandes (vocals, guitar), David Levy (bass, synths), Christoph Schultz (guitar) and Leon Pfeifer (drums) make up this foursome, establishing what happens on this record as the next step of their collective journey, drawing from what has come before and refining it all into the defined Unprocessed sound. In the accompanying PR they are likened to The Dillinger Escape Plan (on Purgatory/Hell), Bring Me The Horizon (on I Wish I Wasn’t/Thrash) and tourmates Polyphia (on Die On The Cross Of The Martyr); Tim Henson and Scott LePage appearing on the album as guests, the confidence needed to be all of these things and more is startling. 

Somehow though Unprocessed pull it off, weaving angular, obtuse soundscapes that swell with palm muted basslines, subsonic throbs, brain melting guitar playing, that’s intricate one moment then crushing the next, drumming that rivals most jazz players, all swept up in the most brutal music the band have produced, a sonic black hole that eviscerates expectations. Whether it’s the angsty cleans or ferocious harsh screams, vocally Manuel gives his best performance, switching between the two with ease, knowing just when to dial up the anger, just listen to the industrial gloom of Abysm

It’s the musicianship that needs the most time to digest. The drumming first does things I’ve not heard, blasts when you don’t expect them then absolute silence when the rest of the band go nuts. The bass too is used as a lead instrument on tracks such as the unhinged Lore, underpinning the clean beginnings of Blackbone before those djent grooves crash in for some meaty beatdowns. 

Switching between the thunderous grooves, to fluid cleans and screaming solos is mesmerising, I can only dream about having that much talent in my fingers, but the virtuosity doesn’t stand in the way of song writing as the choruses are huge and it all just makes sense with a track such as Glass where the space is used well to build atmosphere before it finally comes down with heaviness. 

Unprocessed stride into their future with music that is forward thinking and breathtaking, after being disappointed with their last record, ...And Everything In Between is Unprocessed out on their own and thriving. 9/10

The Company Corvette - Little Blue Guy (Strange Mono Records [Paul Scoble]

The Company Corvette have been making huge and heavy noises since 2006. The three piece, who are based in Philadelphia, have made three albums before Little Blue GuyThe Company Meeting in 2009, End Of The Summers was released in 2011 and their last album Never Enough was released in 2016. Making the aforementioned Huge Noises are Ross Pritchett on Bass and Vocals, Zach Price on Drums and Alecei Korolev on Guitars.

The Company Corvette play a very stoner style of doom, the sound is very bass heavy and other than in a couple of places is not fast. Although the style is mainly Stoner Doom, there are places where the pacing and aggression are taken up a notch to near Sludge proportions.

The album opens with the title track Little Blue Guy, a long, slow very bass heavy track of simple Stoner Doom. The tempo feels drifting and definitely will not be hurried, there is a minimal, introverted section that brings everything down before the song builds itself back together again, but this time the song feels more purposeful, and has some very good guitar work. Next is Marshmallow, a track that starts with slow, simple and fairly minimal Doom that builds in intensity and heaviness, adding a nasty discordant guitar solo and some harsh vocals.

Tremolo picked riffs come in making this feel a little like Blackened Doom, and the song continues to get nastier, near the end this is all feeling huge and very nasty, before everything drops back into the slow and minimal that we started with, for a great ending.

Out Of Control is another slow and very heavy track, it features some very good guitar solos, great harsh vocals and builds to a huge end. Next comes the wonderfully titled Brain Cells...But Who's Buying, it’s big and slow and has an alternative rock feel to some of it. Coming in at just over three minutes it’s short and to the point. The next track is another song that does not outstay its welcome, at two minutes seventeen seconds Stupid is the shortest song on the album. The song is a mid-paced piece of school yard bullying, that sticks in your head and is an equal mix of infantile and brilliant.

The next track is a short, brutish piece of Punk / Sludge called DragDrag is a fast punky piece of Doom with harsh vocals and a great guitar solo. The song is full of energy and drive, surrounded by all the slow and heavy on this album, Drag really stands out. After the short blast of Drag, comes Ted Tedder, a song that is all about build and collapse, ebb and flow, the song builds and diminishes and then builds back the intensity. The song is full of melody, and has a great head nodding tempo, right up to the huge and very intense ending.

Little Blue Guy comes to an end with the track Lit The Wrong EndLit The Wrong End is a great piece of lazy, fat Stoner Doom. The guitar is nicely Wah-Wah infused, the bass is warm and full of melody and the song has a great chorus that will stick in your head. The song has a very heavy section in the second half of the song before going back to slow and very melodic for a great end to the song and album.

Little Blue Guy is a great album. Once the tunes and choruses have wormed their way into your head you will be humming this to distraction, the mix of very heavy with very melodic is great and it’s nice to review an album by a band that has a sense of humour. Hugely enjoyable album, highly recommended. 8/10

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