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Thursday 21 December 2023

Reviews: Skyward, Cryptworm, Crossfire, BlackFlow (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Skyward - ...Still Aiming Skywards: 30 Year Anniversary Edition (Symmetric Records)

Discovering the old demos from his first band Skyward on the internet, he was surprised and disheartened, the youthful talent was there but their inexperience in recording marring what could have been. So with a multifaceted musical backing and his own studio he set about re-recording the songs, in a modern way while retaining the original ethos of songs as much as possible. 

He also decided not to use a new singer using AI technology to extract the original vocals from the master tapes. Katsionis worked on the process of restoring these songs for a while re-recording all the music himself, the process inspiring to include two tracks from a previous band called Mirage. A band that brought female vocals to power metal, which was a rarity then, with these songs Bob has brought in Dimitra Panariti (Meden Agan) and Mike Livas (Silent Winter) on vocals. So what does it sound like? 

Fly With Me kicks off with some classic early power metal, which is the point, the vocals sound good considering they are 'sort of' manipulated, almost echoed but the music. Imbrue The Land is a bit nastier, the voice more grizzled as we go into classic metal realms before Rain brings in AOR as the weakest song on the record. 

Magician's Circle comes back with more galloping heavy metal while the bardic acoustics of Blind Guardian open False Design, giving the record lots of variety in it's scope of power metal. Mindless Slaves brings a bit of prog thrash and some explosive solo guitars, as Divided It Stands and The Tragedy Of Burning Birds, goes back to the early power metal era. The level of musicianship is high but I'm not sure if that's to do with the re-recording or the originals themselves.

The final two tracks probably stand as the most modern ones, guitars and keys in glorious union like so many symphonic metal bands, both vocalsists, Livas and Panariti bringing their own style. Skyward is Bob Katsionis rediscovering his first works, adding his well earned years of knowledge to make this an interesting and entertaining power metal record. 8/10

Cryptworm - Oozing Radioactive Vomition (Me Saco Un Ojo Records)

Bristol's Cryptworm release their second full length album, only a year after their debut. Oozing Radioactive Vomition is probably the perfect name for this album as the vocalist sounds like it he's spewing up after a heavy night on the tiles. This is only 6 songs but you get some 34 minutes of brutal death that comes from the same sewers as Autopsy and early Carcass. 

No wonder then that features the rhythm section of Seprevation, Joss Farrington (bass) and Jamie Wintle (drums) absolutely battering on Engulfed By Gurgling Pure Fluids, the thrash elements coming on Submerged Into Vile Repugnance. Farrington is also the bottom end of Cryptic Shift, proggy changes coming on the title track. The production is nicely raw, on the drums especially. 

The creative force though is Tibor Hanyi, he is not only behind those extreme growls but he's also the guitarist shredding up a storm on Miasmatic Foetid Odour, and grinding on Necrophagous. Fun, filthy death metal from close to home just in time to give as a present to your annoying cousin. 7/10

Crossfire - Switch To Reset (Wormholedeath)

Say Irish thrash and you'll no doubt think about Gama Bomb, well I suggest you also think about Crossfire as they don't have the same kind of crossover style where thrash meets punk and trad metal but they do remind me a lot of Metallica and Megadeth with the strains of Evile and Xentrix too. 

With songs such as Lost All Control and Who Goes There, they balance the slow and the fast elements well, allowing themselves a stomping chug on the former, while the latter opens with some nifty dual atmospheric leads and opens again into melodic thrash as Kevin O'Connor-Conroy and Matt O'Brien link together for some shreddy guitar work throughout. 

Lyrics based around sci-fi and horror are shouted by a voice that is partly Hetfield and partly Mustaine, while they have all the trappings of classic thrash musically, Conor Jordan (bass) and Dan O'Connor (drums) keeping it fast and groovy. If you're a fan to classic thrash metal then you'll soon be talking all about Crossfire. 7/10

BlackFlow - Seeds Of Downfall (Personal Records)

Formed in Chile but born out of the European sound, BlackFlow's debut full length album Seeds Of Downfall, is a doom metal record inspired by the epic style originated by Candlemass, Solstice and of course Black Sabbath.

Their 2018 EP was seen very positively so they set their sights on recording a follow up. 8 tracks, 54 minutes of epic doom where low, slow riffs conflict with chugging classic metal riffs, the album cinematic and dark but carries with it hope, in the lyrics particularly. Yes it's Sabbath worship but it's more like the Tony Martin years where there's a lot of drama to the music, Felipe Vuletich (bass) and Miguel (drums) beginning Neo Middle-Ages with some triumphal blasting drums and crunching bass lines, getting the 7 minute opener going at pace until it slows down towards the end.

Egomaniacal Fraternity increases the pace again in the choruses mainly, the Candlemass influence particularly strong here with Victor Prades' excellent vocals, he's joined on closer Aspiration Of The Speices by Claudio Carrasco (Poema Arcanus) who provides gutteral growls, but gives some himself when things turn into the death/doom style of My Dying Bride/Paradise Lost. The powerful production makes all the songs ring out of your speakers/headphones, meaning you can pick out every piece of Victor Silva and Frane's guitars on melodic tracks such as Indifferent To Others or the concrete crushing doom riffs of Iron To Rust.

Seeds Of Downfall is a superior epic doom record, using many facets of the doomsphere for a well rounded, very listenable record. 7/10

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