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Wednesday 13 December 2023

Reviews: Varathron, ΧΞΣ (Sakis Tolis), Fuel Eater, Lethal Fate (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Varathron - The Crimson Temple (Agonia Records)

One of the corner stones of the Hellenic Extreme Metal scene Varathron spearheaded the genre along with Rotting Christ and Necromatia, the unholy triumvirate establishing black metal as it's own force in Eastern Mediterranean. With Rotting Christ the unbelievable force they are today and Necromatia now finished, Varathron could be considered to be overlooks a little in the last few years. 

With this seventh album they return after the critically acclaimed previous album Patriarchs Of Evil, still fronted by Stefan Necroabyssious, with Achilleas C on guitars & keyboards, Sotiris on guitars, Stratos on bass and Haris on drums, with The Crimson Temple, Varathron have sculpted 10 tracks of cinematic black metal, the uncompromising vision of Stefan playing tribute to those that have followed the band for over 30 years. Ascension gets us going with Balkan/Hellenic folk instrumentation, building into the first song proper Hegemony Of Chaos, a maelstrom of frantic double kicks and thrashing riffs. This is before it slows to anthemic fist pumping and groove, those traditional instruments sticking around for the melodic choruses. 

It's these shifts that make Varathron such a well respected band in the genre as they shift between different stylistic approaches. Crypts In The Mist goes back to a more death metal with the classic metal gallops on Cimmerian Priesthood putrong speed metal with orchestral swells. The twin guitars of Achilleas and Sotiris weave a rich tapestry on this record between the tremolo picking, heavy grooves and trad metal soloing, Achilleas also gives the album, and Sinners Of The Crimson Temple especially, the stirring orchestrals and synths. 

Haris' drumming is musclar linking well with the thick basslines of Stratos for the crushing Immortalis Regnum Diaboli. Varathron again show their mettle on The Crimson Temple, more melodic at times than Necromatia, having a more progressive bent than Rotting Christ, their influence is felt throughout the Hellenic scene and beyond, enter this temple and prepare to worship. 9/10

ΧΞΣ (Sakis Tolis) - The Seven Seals Of The Apocalypse (Self Released)

If any of this seems familiar, it's that the idea of the seven seals of the apocalypse (Revelations) were referenced and quoted throughout Aphrodite's Child's seminal 666 double album. The lead song of that record; Four Horsemen has been covered by Sakis Tolis' day job Rotting Christ so as he is a man that has always been staunchly anti-religious, the idea of him quoting Bible scripture (whether it's about the apocalypse or not) is quite odd.

But then all of Sakis' solo stuff is different to what he does with the Hellenic black metal legends. Among The Fires Of Hell was more gothic but still had hints of extreme metal. On this second solo album under the name ΧΞΣ, he has turned the scriptures into a musical assault very similar to RC, full of blistering blast beats, extreme metal riffs and the snarled vocals of Sakis, put togther with spoken word and choral liturgies, it's a record that is cinematic and all-consuming, the slow unveiling of the seven seals as the four horsemen bring about the rapture, is a wonder to behold. Disturbing and enthralling equally, The Seven Seals Of The Apocalypse is an album that you definitely shouldn’t overlook. 8/10

Fuel Eater - Echoes Of Absurdity (Self Released)

Third full length album from Patras heavy riffers Fuel Eater, brings a new maturity to their music as they are now in their second decade. They've changed their bass player since 2018's Soberian Kinship, but the main trio of Vasilis Koutsobinas (drums), Thanos Dritsas (guitar/vocals) and Gordon Kansas (vocals) are still the core of the band with George Moustos joining on bass. Echoes Of Absurdity, throws a lot into the pot from the Seether/Nirvana style Of Dust And Lust into the Latino QOTSA groove of Ill Noma, continuing on the woozy, repetition on Sen

I mentioned the maturity if this album and Echoes Of Absurdity feels more...adult, using introspection and emotion in the lyrics to carry the stripped back balladry of The Whisperer, a song that owes a lot to Alice In Chains, dual vocals and all, Equidistant meanwhile has a bit of Stone Temple Pilots about it with the loud and soft dynamics. With the grunge overtones, progressive swirls on The Book Of Absurdity and some heavy psych riffs Fuel Eater step up on this third album. 7/10

Lethal Fate - Argonauts (Self Released)

Weirdly, Lethal Fate formed in 2010 but this is their debut album. There's also no information about the band at all so you'll have to bear with me a little. What I can tell you is that Lethal Fate play epic/classic metal that sits between Manowar (Edge Of Madness) and Iron Maiden (Sworn To Secrecy), though much more Bruce's solo and 2000's Maiden than the earlier stuff. 

This is where it stays, little variation but bags of talent in emulating the British metal institution, if it's a band, then they all play well, if it's one guy then he's not only got the musical talent but a good voice too. Swords, sorcery and epic adventures make up the lyrics, especially the title track, conceived around the quest for the Golden Fleece. Basically if you like Maiden, you’ll like Lethal Fate. Simple. 6/10

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