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Sunday 31 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Pantheïst, Ofnus & Thrakian (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Pantheïst, Ofnus & Thrakian, Fuel Cardiff, 30.12.23

The final gig of 2023 was a funeral, putting to rest what's been a surreal year for many. Natural resources continue to decline, energy prices continue to increase, wars are taking place in the Middle East and Europe. 

The rise of the extreme right is visible everywhere, those seeking asylum are held on floating prisons or sent to Rwanda and the bloke from Wetherspoons has been given a fucking Knighthood.

For so many of us music is the escape, a place we can go to for enjoyment, escapism, to be transported to another place, away from daily troubles and lose yourself in music. In Fuel on the penultimate day of 2023, we had a selection of three of the best riff slinging, atmosphere inducing, noise making bands in the extensive doomsphere. 

Opening up the evening was the abrasive sludge noise of Thrakian (8), aggressive and confrontational they straddle the NOLA scene and the crushing UK sounds of bands such as Conan. 

Dragging this funeral for the year into life kicking and screaming, they make an impression live as the repeating distorted riffs and screamed vocals reverberated around Fuel's walls. Having seen them with the headliners before I knew what to expect but Thrakian are always a little dangerous to witness.

Next it was the mighty sounds of Ofnus (9) capping off their inaugural year as a band with a (now rare) hometown show, having honed themselves all around the country supporting their incredible debut album Time Held Me Grey And Dying. They are well drilled, goosebump inducing machine that lean heavily on black metal but escape from the confines that restrict it. 

Playing tracks off their album the drumming of Ethan was as always intense, the bass of Rich aligning the pace as the guitars of Alyn tremolo pick, alongside James who throws in a few proggy lead breaks and solos. Up front too Will has become a consummate frontman, his between song banter is much more confident while his voice is fantastically diverse. 

After their current closing salvo of A Thousand Lifetimes concluded they went on to debut a new track thay looks to be coming on album #2 and was brutal. Watch this band in venues this size while you can as there's potential and drive here to see them ascend as high as possible. 

So the final liturgy of this funeral came from doom veterans Pantheïst (9), drenched in synth and organs, the riffs are so low and loud that the bass affects the P.A and can actually be felt under foot. The drums weave the pace between flurries of extreme metal energy and spacial textures while all points in between are filled by the keys/synths for a fully formed cinematic sound. 

Utilising songs from their catalogue they played choice selections that suited the addition of Linda Dumitru's soaring Celtic soprano, the addition of her voice in contrast to Kostas' echoed growls and low cleans is incredibly affecting, even this cold black heart was brought to tears during Be Here

Elsewhere the additions she provides to Don't Mourn and Wilderness are notable, adding a new dimension to what Pantheïst do on the live stage. It was mesmeric and I found myself just letting the music wash over me, every sinew and nerve ending stimulated by the atmosphere they created. Even a few sound niggles couldn't detract from the experience of Pantheïst live. 

The closing track was the leviathan title piece from their upcoming EP Kings Must Die boding well for more incredible doom to come in March. A revered, veteran band in the underground scene, it was a fitting way to lay 2023 to rest, not quietly or meekly but burning it down in flames with mesmeric, emotional doom metal wonderment. 

AOTY 2023: Mark Young Top 15

Presented in no order:

Celestial Sanctuary – Insatiable Thirst For Torment

Burner – It All Returns To Nothing

Sermon – Of Golden Verse

Spotlights – Alchemy For The Dead

Forcefed Horsehead – Monoceros

Sarcoptes – Prayers To Oblivion

STAHV – Simple Mercies

ORO – Vid Vägs Ände

Hellripper – Warlocks Grim &Withered Hags

Heretoir - Wastelands

Din Of Celestial Birds – The Night Is For Dreamers

Dødheimsgard – Black Medium Current

Grant The Voyage – Voyage

Pupil Slicer – Blossom

Svalbard – The Weight Of The Mask

AOTY 2023: Zak Skane Top 20

20. Kirk Hammett – Portals

This cinematic four track brings a different side to the famous Metallica lead guitarist. Throughout this 27 minute journey we get to greeted by waves of ambience, textures and orchestras that will take us through this emotional journey. I was very this outcome especially this being on of the first side projects to stem from Metallica.

19. Spite - Dedication To Flesh

The Deathcore meets Beatdown crew have came out in 2022 with the Dedication to Flesh. 7 years and 3 releases later the band can still pack a punch with low tuned of guitars with their signature sound of jolty riffage whilst the singer Darius Tehrani gives us some of his anger filled guttural gymnastics. Tracks like Caved In, Made to Please and title track will snap the necks of many hardcore head bangers.

18. Slaughter The Giant – Depravity

The Belgium Melodic outfits have stuck out me that you can still have young fiery passion but still come with an old soul. Check out their singles The Undead and Compliance.

17. Counterparts – A Eulogy For Those Still Here

Counterparts are still coming into 2022 more emotional and angry than ever with the furious Whispers of Your Death, and Unwavering Vow and the melodic A Eulogy for Those Still Here. This band still know how to create a good Melodic Hardcore album.

16. Silverstein – Misery Made Me

Misery Made Me still proves that the band still have the fire that they had on their earlier albums When Broken is Easily Fixed 2003 and Discovering the Waterfront 2005. With heavy songs like Die Alone and Ultraviolet to their classical emo driven track Cold Blooded this band are still willing to give us the goods to still bringing something new to the table.

15. Kublai Khan – Lowest Form Of Animal

Kublai Khan still wearing their 5 track Lowest Form a Animal. Each track starting with their opening song Swan Song to their closing track Dynasty the band still know how to rip your face whilst still being honest and whole some.

14. Northlane – Obsidian

The Australian modern metal act have been melting minds with their mix up of ‘Djent’ and trance metal crossover, from the trance driven Clockwork, to the topical title and pop sounding Echo Chamber and the soaring Carbonized. After 12 years this band still know how to turn heads, especially mine.

13. The Devil Wears Prada – Colour Decay

I have been a fan of this since they released Deadthrone back in 2011. The band have been noticeably pushing the boundaries with the metalcore sound since their Space E.P in 2015. So when I checked out that they have done a post-hardcore driven album I was sold! This album is very songwriter driven by swapping well structured breakdowns for emotional lyrics and heavy pulling of heart string melodies with tracks such as Exhibition and Salt but fear not this album still has it’s heavy moments such as Watch Tower, Time and Noise.

12. Polythia – Remember That You Will Die

Another installation from the modern kings of shred from the neo classical and trap mash up of Playing God, to introducing vocals into the mix from guest appearances from Sophia Black on ABC, Lil West in Chimera, Chino Moreno from Deftones on Bloodbath to appearances from the G.O.A.T himself…see what I did there Steve Via in their closing track Ego Death. This band are still pushing boundaries and still guitar driven music fresh.

11. Slipknot – The End So Far

The bands most experimental albums since Volume 3 Subliminal Verses, from the risky choices of songs like Adderal and Acidic to the crowd pleasing The Dying Song, The Chapletown Rag and Hive Mind to my personal favourite Yen. This was a satisfying to some but divisive to others.

10. Gutlocker – To Be Alive

Going from strength to strength Gutlocker have been gigging the UK underground scene for a good 6 years (according to their socials) and in 2022 they have treated us to their debut album. Through out the course 11 tracks the band have melded their Groove metal, Hardcore and Southern metal perfectly especially with personal favourites Sink or Swim, To Be Alive and Once a Snake. Defiantly go and check this band out if you are a fan of Lamb of God, the sludgy side of Mastodon and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

09. Lamb Of God – Omens

The groove metal legends still striding through 2022 with their second album with new drummer Art Cruz. In the this we get to see Art getting a lot more settled in the role with some coming up interesting drum grooves in the opening track Nevermore which we get to hear Rhandy Blythe mixing harsh and clean singing. The southern groove is still present as ever with Vanishing and they can still spit the venom with Ditch. 9 albums in and the band still know how to deliver the punch.

08. Meshuggah – Immutable

The modern masters are back with a raw approach, still adapting their polyrhythmic assault from their most recent albums but carrying on their organic production style at was featured on their previous album Violent Sleep of Reason. Tracks like Broken Cog, the lower tuned power of Phantoms and the groovy leads of Ligature Marks will please the followers and win the newbies.

07. Korn – Requiem

Back with their 13th studio album the grandfathers of Nu metal are still here to help us through their darkest journey. This album has been mentioned in quite a few Bad Albums of 2022 videos but I thought this album still continues their emotional turmoil from their previous album The Nothing but in a more polished form. In the this album we get to see Jonathan Davies stepping back from the harsh vocals to incorporate more melody in his vocal patterns, but fear not this album still punches. Monkey and Head are still delivering the low end punch especially on songs like My Confession, It’s On It’s Way and Disconnect, Ray Luzier still delivers the groove and Jonathan still touches our heart strings, so don’t hesitate on giving this album a listen.

06. Electric Callboy – Tekkno

The German party metalcore are proving that metalcore does not have to be serious with Tekkno. Containing dance floor hits like the chad energy filled Pump it, the bouncy We Got the Moves and the Pop Punk parody of Fuckboi featuring Conquer Divide. I am definitely placing this on my good mood playlist along side Tenacious D and Steel Panther.

05. Spirit Box – Rotoscope

Just after the metalcore community have just recovered from the silk smooth assault the band have a collection of them still pushing the sonic boundaries of what we know as Modern Metalcore. From the industrial opening track of Rotoscope, the bouncy Sew Me Up and the anthemic track Hysteria. After listening to this three track masterpiece this band leave us wanting more.

04. Bleed From Within – Shrine

The Scottish groove masters released their most commercial effort to date with choruses becoming more quote in radio friendly in comparison to their older releases fear not this band still know how to bring the heavy, especially with tracks such as I am Damnation, Levitate and Stand Down. I can’t wait to hear what this band has got in store for us in the future.

03. Bad Omens – The Death Of Peace Of Mind

The pop metal driven act have come out with their new master peace The Death of Peace of Mind. From start to end every track its own identity from the melancholic title track The Death of Peace of Mind, The fast paced of Nowhere to Go and the aggressive groove of Artificial Suicide. There is something for everyone in this album.

02. Fit For An Autopsy – Oh What The Future Holds

Continuing the shire brutality from the their 2019 release the Sea of Tragic Beasts, Oh What the Future Holds uses the same formula but the band have smoothed the edges to make this one modern metal masterpiece.

01. Malevolence – Malicious Intent

The Sheffield crossover kings have made one of the best albums in their catalogue to date. Importing more hooks into this bands sound has not softened them by any means, this album may be more accessible in comparison to their older material but this band has kept their venom especially with tracks like Life Sentence, Karma and Broken Glass whilst inserting melodic driven tracks such as Higher Place On Broken Glass. This is one of the most consistent sounding metal albums since Machine Heads The Blackening and Parkway Drives Ire.

Saturday 30 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Eulogy & Painted As Monsters (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Eulogy & Painted As Monsters, Fuel Rock Club 29.12.23

It’s been a good year for both bands on tonight’s bill. Stabilisation for Painted As Monsters, now an established outfit on the circuit and with new music slipping onto the streaming services, their slow methodical approach is working well. As for the headliners, well, debut album Rebirth hit all the right notes earlier in 2023, and they have been playing on a regular basis throughout.

Tonight is a celebration and it’s heartening to see a good crowd assemble in the venue for both bands. Sadly, Feral Sun are unable to join the party due to illness, so doors are pushed back to 8pm. This allows time for food and a couple of drinks beforehand.

Painted As Monsters (8) are improving on every showing. Their musical style is a combination of progressive metal, alt-rock, and a little bit of everything else thrown in. It works well, with a decent sound allowing Rhys Evans’ vocals to cut through. He’s a decent guitar player too, and although there aren’t huge numbers of searing lead breaks, when he does get to unleash, he does so with aplomb. They play an expansive set, beginning with Welcome To The Mainframe, throwing in the Trep standard Silence The Crows before concluding with Start Calling Me The Enemy, newly added to Spotify, as Rhys is keen to point out. Backed by the serious rhythm section of Chris Machin and Matt Jones, Painted As Monsters sound and style continues to impress. Keep an eye on them in 2024.

It's no coincidence that Eulogy (9) have found a new confidence in the last 18 months or so. Their album Rebirth has hit over 600,000 streams, earning them a whole £12.50 as frontman Neil Thomas laughingly tells us during the set, whilst drummer Josh Bird and rhythm guitarist Brian Perkins have added additional quality and solidity to the band.

They start strongly, with new song Tomorrows Loss and older staple Corvid heating up the room. Thomas stands proud, his vocals strong and bass playing anchoring with Bird’s thunderous drumming. He’s flanked by Perkins and lead guitarist Mike Williams, who is soldiering through despite a nasty bout of the coughing virus that seems to have spent the entire winter in South Wales. His playing remains fluid and expressive.

Back To Life and Cross To Bare see the audience singing along, whilst a cover of The Cranberries Zombie gets even more reaction. Neil explains that 2024 has some big plans, including some exciting touring, and I for one look forward to seeing where it takes them.

The riffs flow on Pain Is Mine, whilst Narcissist is a track that stands out every time its played. There's another newie in Pariah, which sounds great, before Slipknot’s Duality ensures that the Fuel crowd have one more chance to exercise their vocal cords. With a big thanks to all for coming, Eulogy finish with Laudanum, which finally sees Mike pick up his gleaming white Fender Stratocaster to shouts of “play something by Rainbow” by some naughty hecklers!

It was a fine evening, and for £4, incredible value. It’s these shows that make live music the joy it is, and I get far more reward here than in a 7000 crowd in an arena. Live music needs to be appreciated in all its guises, and tonight we get it at its best.

AOTY 2023: GC Top 20

1. Acres - Burning Throne

2. Ringworm - Seeing Through Fire

3. Acacia Strain - Step into the Light/Failure Will Follow

4. Ironmaster - Weapons of Spiritual Carnage

5. Widows Peak - Claustrophobe

6. Closet Witch - Chiaroscuro

7. Calligram - Position Momentum

8. Jesus Piece - So Unknown

9. The Arcane Order - Distortions Of Cosmology

10. Eyes - Congratulations

11. Allfather - A Violent Truth

12. Black Stone Cherry - Screamin’ At The Sky

13. Hatesphere - Hatred Reborn

14. Go Ahead And Die - Unearthly Mechanisms

15. Filth is Eternal - Find Out

16. Polar - Everywhere, Everything

17. Downfall of Gaia - Silhouettes Of Disgust

18. Chelsea Grin - Suffer in Heaven

19. Lust - Invictus

20. Elder Devil - Everything Worth Loving

*Please note that I did give a high score to another artist that has not made this list as I have since discovered that the people behind it seem like utterly vile cunts and all-round disgusting humans, so that review has been rescinded, thanks. GC

AOTY 2023: Paul Scoble Top 20

20 - Tilintetgjort - In Death I Shall Rise

Unbelievably good Raw Black Black Metal, really creative and innovative treatment of a form of extreme metal that is usually thought of as simple and basic.

19 - Nordicwinter - This Mournful Dawn

Another fantastic album of Atmospheric / Depressive Black Metal from Nordicwinter. Probably my favourite Depressive Black Metal act, nobody else manages to mix dark feelings with melody and drive quite as well as this Canadian one man band.

18 - Thy Catafalque - Alföld

Once again Thy Catafalque have managed a brilliant mix of Black Metal, Electronica, Folk and World Music. This one is inspired by the bands older material, making this the most extreme Thy Catafalque album for quite a while.

17 - Witch Ripper - The Flight After The Fall

Fantastic mix of Doom and Sludge that is also inspired by the band Muse. In fact if you were wondering what it would sound like if Muse made a Heavy Doom / Sludge album, then this album is the answer.

16 - Lucid Sins - Dancing In The Dark

Beautifully taut, melodic psychedelic Folk Rock, not very heavy, but with songs as good as these you won’t notice or care.

15 - Church Of Misery - Born Under A Mad Sign

Church Of Misery release another masterpiece of Serial Killer obsessed Stoner Doom. Huge grooves and wicked riffs tell the stories of maddest to walk this earth.

14 - Saint Karloff - Palaeolithic War Crimes

A fantastic tribute to their sadly departed Bass player, Saint Karloff have made a great album of Psychedelic Doom, Southern Rock and Blues that make a fitting salute to their friend.

13 - Werewolves - My Enemies Look And Sound Like Me

The Australian Death Metal Lunar-tics, Werewolves have yet again released the Old School Death Metal Album Of The Year. Apparently next years Old School Death Metal Album Of The Year has already been recorded and will be released in the first half of next year.

12 - Hellripper - Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags

Hellripper released another slice of ridiculously super energised Black Thrash this year. This one features some NWOBHM influences and some (Shock Horror) slow bits, making this Hellripper’s most mature album yet, although there is still loads of high velocity thrash to keep all of us happy that do not want to grow up!

11 - Dozer - Drifting In The Endless Void

After a long break Dozer return with an album of subtle and understated Stoner Doom. It isn’t that in your face, so it takes a little while to realise just how good this album is. Brilliant album that I keep on returning to.

10 - Dopelord - Songs For Satan

A great piece of Occult / Stoner Doom. Great riffs, Awesome Grooves, Wonderful Vocals and Choruses you will be humming to distraction. What a wonderful present, Satan should be very grateful!

09 - Slegest - Avstand

Hugely energetic Blackened Punk Rock. Wonderful high speed stomping Punk Rock drenched in Blackened ferocity. Great songs, massive energy and a Status Quo cover, what more could you want?

08 - Power Trip - Live In Seattle

Absolutely incendiary Live recording of the Best Thrash Band. It highlights what an amazing frontman and Lead Vocalist Riley Gale was, and what a tragic loss his passing was. An amazing live album that, despite how good it is, will make you feel sad.

07 - Mizmor - Prosaic

Savage Black Metal mixed with the most crushingly heavy, and desolate Doom. Mizmor are the best Blackened Doom band, no-one else even comes close.

06 - Isole - Anesidora

By dialling back the heaviness and aggression and by increasing the vulnerability, Isole have made a Masterpiece of Melodic Doom. It’s still heavy, but the overriding feeling with this album is how breathtakingly beautiful it is.

05 - Graveyard - 6

A wonderful mix of Hard / Southern Rock and Blues. This is an album that will will wrap you up in it’s velvet gorgeousness, and make you feel worm and comforted, it’s just lovely!

04 - Margarita Witch Cult - Self Titled

Ignore the band name and late nineties Microsoft Paint cover, this is a brilliant piece of Stoner Rock with NWOBHM and psych rock influences. It’s a beast of an album that will get into your head and will have you singing the choruses to distraction.

03 - Ahab - The Coral Tombs

Ahab continue their seafaring, but this time they are descending below the ocean waves with Professor Arronax on a mission to find Captain Nemo, and The Nautilus. This beautiful, affecting piece of melodic Funeral Doom is an amazing piece of work.

02 - Green Lung - This Heathen Land

Delivering on the promise of their last two albums, Green Lung deliver a staggering piece of melodic Hard Rock full of catchiness, amazing choruses, brilliant melodies, hooks you could land a Great White with. This album is a monster that gets better and better the more you listen to it.

01 - Hail The Void - Memento Mori

Memento Mori isn’t a particularly groundbreaking album. It’s a fairly traditional Doom album that doesn’t stray too far from the oldest Metal style we have known and loved for years. What is special about Memento Mori is the quality, what Hail The Void have done is to make the Best Traditional Doom album I have ever heard. Every riff, every bass-line, every groove, every vocal, every chorus is better than any Traditional Doom I have heard before. It stands up over time as well, I’ve listened to this album massively this year and it has only got better, I fucking love this album, and that is why it’s my Album Of The Year!

Friday 29 December 2023

AOTY 2023: Rich Piva Top 25

1 Hail The Void - Hail The Void

2 Ritual King - The Infinite Mirror

3 Green Lung - This Heathen Land

4 Mount Atlas - Poseidon

5 Moon Coven - Sun King

6 Church Of Misery - Born Under A Mad Sign

7 Hot Spring Water - Of A Morning

8 Dead Feathers - Full Circle

9 Dead Shrine - The Eightfold Path

10 Golden Grass - Life Is Much Stranger

11 Hippie Death Cult - Helichrysum

12 Acid Magus - Hope Is Heavy

13 La Chinga - Primal Forces

14 High Priest - Invocation

15 Borracho - Blurring The Lines Of Reality

16 Margarita Witch Cult - Margarita Witch Cult

17 Dead Quiet - IV

18 Isaak - Hey

19 Love Gang - Meanstreak

20 Westing - Future

21 Mondo Drag - Through The Hourglass

22 Blood Ceremony - The Old Ways Remain

23 Velvet Insane - High Heeled Monster

24 Purple Kong - Blood Lightning

25 Tidal Wave - The Lord Knows

AOTY 2023: Joe Guatieri Top 10

10. Somnuri - Desiderium

9. Foo Fighters - But Here We Are

8. Mizmor - Prosaic

7. Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall

6. Warrior Pope - Papal Bull-Shit: Live At The Louisiana

5. 100 gecs - 10,000 Gecs

4. Mondo Generator - We Stand Against You


2. Queens Of The Stone Age - In Times New Roman…

1. Fawn Limbs & Nadja - Vestigial Spectra

Thursday 28 December 2023

AOTY 2023: Rick Eaglestone Top 10

1. Ofnus – Time Me Grey And Dying

2. Wytch Hazel – IV: Sacrament

3. The Suns Journey Through The Night – Worldless

4. Host – IX

5. Weald And Woe – For The Good Of The Realm

6. Green Lung – This Heathen Land

7. Hellripper – Warlocks Grim & Withered Hags

8. Fen – Monuments To Absence

9. NONE – Inevitable

10. Daever – Delirious Rites

AOTY 2023: Paul Hutchings Top 10

Top 10 Albums – 2023 - Hutch

It never gets any easier to pick ten albums that really set your world on fire, especially when you review almost one a day. The joy of returning to Musipedia Of Metal kind of eclipses all those albums that kept you going through a year of highs and lows but here’s ten that really did float my boat … a lot. 

1. Cirith Ungol – The Dark Parade

Whilst 2024 is their live swansong, it is hoped that the band may continue to record. If they continue to create music as powerful as The Dark Parade, it would be travesty if they didn’t. Full of classic Cirith Ungol sound, the mix of traditional heavy metal put this album firmly in my top spot.

2. Green Lung – This Heathen Land

A band that are destined to be huge, their third album is simply brilliant. A mix of the old in their Sabbath worship combined with a contemporary feel, the pagan occult style works on every level and this album has rarely left the playlist since being released last month. 

3. Obituary – Dying Of Everything

Their best album for many years, Dying of Everything saw the Floridan death metal legends start off the year with a ferocity that few could match. Adding a thrashier element to their sound, this was an album that demonstrated that Obituary still stand at the top of their genre.

4. King Kraken – MCLXXX

The debut album by the South Wales quintet contained some huge tracks. Heavy on the riff count, the green terrors rightly received high praise for this release. 2024 looks to be an exciting year as well.

5. Blind River – Bones For The Skeleton Thief

One of my favourite all-time live bands, Blind River’s third release continued their rich vein of form with another album that captures their live sound. Recorded with no wizardry or click tracks, it’s their honesty that makes them such a great outfit. It’s a rip snorting hard rocker that ticks every box.

6. Overkill – Scorched

Probably my favourite thrash album of 2023, the New Jersey band had the audacity to go head-to-head with legends Metallica on the same release day as 72 Seasons, and to my mind blew their peers away with an album that is as essential today as Feel the Fire was all those years ago.

7. Empyre – Relentless

The second album by the miserable quartet from Northampton, Relentless is an album that grows on every play. They backed it with plenty of live shows this year, including a sold-out evening to remember at The Patriot – Home of Rock. 

8. Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons – Kings Of The Aslyum

Without doubt their most assured release, Kings of the Aslyum saw PCATBS move a little bit further towards their own sound. An album full of anthems and earworms, the debut recording of singer Joel Peters is full of passion and energy. Just brilliant stuff.

9. Voyager – Fearless In Love

Ridiculed by many for their foray into Eurovision, this album is the perfect blend of metal and pop. I had it on repeat for months and couldn’t stop playing it. Catchy and fresh, I just found this an album that worked on every level. 

10. Frozen Soul – Glacial Domination

It was between Enforced’s War Remains and Frozen Soul’s latest for the final slot. It could have been, but I went with the ice obsessed Texans for the sheer savagery that they delivered on this album. Their live shows were intense too!

I could have added another 40 albums to this list. A shout out to The Answer who saw a fine return after a six-year absence with Sundowners, South Wales black metallers Ofnus whose debut Time Held Me Grey and Dying would have sneaked in at another time, the brutality of Scottish blackened thrashers Hellripper’s Warlocks Grim and Withered Hags, the beauty of Swedes Soen with Memorial, the delicacy of Bruce Soord’s solo release Luminescence, and the fine debut Reinvent Me from Swansea’s Zac And The New Men.  Here’s to 2024 and music just as excellent. Cheers!

Wednesday 27 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Cardinal Black (Live Review By Paul Hutchings)

Cardinal Black & Tom Jenkins – Newbridge Memo, Newbridge 22/12/23

You’d have to be hiding under a rock not to be aware of Cardiff outfit Cardinal Black. The band formed by lifelong friends Chris Buck, Tom Hollister, and Adam Roberts in 2020 may have received numerous accolades in the past year, but they’ve worked damn hard to ensure that their rise has been fully deserved. 

A year after debut album January Came Close, the band, completed by bassist Sam Williams, have toured the world, taking their brand of beautiful classic blues/rock to the likes of Scandinavia, Germany, and the Netherlands. The photos on social media are evidence, if evidence was needed, that the band are likely to be huge with the right guidance.

This was a special show in a year of special shows. Their headline set at Chepstow Castle back in August was incredible for those who made it to that special setting but there was a far more poignant reason for tonight’s show. Back in September, Buck’s father Dory passed away at the age of 67. Rather than a wake, Buck felt that a gig in his father’s memory was a more fitting tribute to the man who introduced him to the guitar, and who was described as his best mate for 32 years. It’s no wonder that the show sold out quickly.

The queue winds its way through the entrance area to the Memo and down the street. 446 seats in the venue’s gorgeous auditorium are up for grabs and the fans, many clad in Cardinal Black shirts are eager to get the best vantage points. It’s a civilised way to spend Black Friday, and probably one of the last opportunities to see this band in such an intimate venue.

First up is Tom Jenkins (8), sheep farmer / musician whose honest set has the audience entranced. His songs have an edge of Dylan about them, stories of his life captured with a gritty realism that resonates with the crowd. He’s got a wit about him which keeps people engaged, his story telling complementing his solo work. He talks about the making of album Meadow, how he realised he could do it “on the cheap” for a fraction of the price. He tells about the song When The Coal Dust Settled, how it always gets at least one member of the audience in tears, and he’s not wrong. He’s in the heart of the South Wales mining communities after all, and his melancholic delivery merely adds to the song.

He sprinkles his set with chat, jovial enough for laughter, serious enough for attention to be paid. Be There for You tells of his time in another part of the world and how difficult it was to communicate via landline, whilst his dream of doing karaoke with Tom Jones raises much mirth before he launches into the song of the same name. He’s gracious, thanking Cardinal Black for the opportunity to play support on most of their shows. The ovation at the end of his set is well deserved, and evidence of why you should always get to a show in time to catch the support. This was an unexpected bonus.

A short interval follows, before the lights drop. The words Cardinal Black (9) illuminate the stage, a simple yet efficient approach. The band enter with no fanfare in the darkness, before launching into Terra Firma. It’s a strong opening song, allow Buck’s Gilmour-esque playing space and opportunity. It’s slightly marred by a mix that sees Buck’s guitar too loud and Hollister’s vocals low in the mix. It takes a while for Hollister to speak to the crowd and check how it sounds, but the message gets through and by Rise Up the mix is much improved. It’s evident that there are some nerves even for a band as seasoned as Cardinal Black, for this is an important night. Buck gets to grips with any nerves quickly, settling into his fluid and natural style of soloing quickly, allowing his instrument to sing and soar above the audience. Alongside Hollister’s delightfully rich vocals, this is mesmerising stuff.

Last year I saw Cardinal Black play back-to-back sold out shows at The Patriot – Home of Rock in nearby Crumlin. Vocalist Tay Cousins had joined the band in 2021 to guest for a few shows. A year later and she’s an integral part of the band, her backing vocals giving the songs an extra dimension. She and keyboardist Gregg Hollister bring a richer sound to the band, giving Buck more freedom to express himself through his stunning guitar work, whilst Roberts and Williams keep everything locked down with a calm assuredness which only comes from playing together.

It's a set that contains just about everything you’d expect. Tom isn’t feeling his best, explaining that his three-year-old daughter has been bringing home bug after bug from school in recent times. He’s a trooper though, soldiering through til the end. His voice is a little strained, but his quality is such that he makes it look a lot easier than I’m sure it was. They draw deep from January Came Close, the intoxication of Jump In comes early, with Buck’s playing sending chills down the spine. Halfway and On My Own are delightful, whilst Tell Me How It Feels sees the capacity crowd up for a dance and singalong. 

Many don’t sit back down, for despite the melancholic vibe, Cardinal Black manage that thing that few do; they stir the soul. Warm Love sees the audience help again, before Buck unleashes another classy solo that demonstrates why his Best New Guitarist in the World Award was so richly deserved. He’s technically excellent but it’s the feel with which plays which stands him apart from his peers. Unassuming in style, he’s softly spoken on the rare occasions he comes to the mic between songs. But you can’t really take your eyes off his hands as he makes his instrument sing with a joy you don’t often get.

The evening finishes with the delicate and bluesy Tied Up In Blue. The audience is on their feet, as the band bring their 2023 touring to an end. It’s been an emotional evening, with smiles plus a little sadness around the venue. It’s a fitting tribute to Dory Buck, and a celebration of the band that he no doubt had a hand in shaping. A beautiful show, and with 2024 already looking busy, it’s unthinkable that Cardinal Black won’t be playing much bigger venues in a year’s time.

Thursday 21 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Fury & Luke Appleton Power Trio (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Fury & Luke Appleton Power Trio, The Gryphon, Bristol 20.12.23

I observe few traditions over the festive period, but one of the ones that I will try to do without fail is the annual Xmas gig out on by a band full of my friends. Initially it was Triaxis, but now Fury are the band who manage to make me feel at least a little festive. Shraing this year again after reuniting with one of my best friends makes it all that little bit more special. 

This year's edition took place in The Gryphon, part of the Bristol Metal Quarter, it's an intimate little venue where the band play something equivalent to a front room, however it makes for an exciting, if a little moist atmosphere.

This time joining the headliners were opening band Luke Appleton Power Trio (8), shortened to just Power Trio they contain 1/3 Absolva/Blaze Bayley, 1/3 Dakesis and 1/3 Babylon Fire, mixed togther for some classic heavy metal action. The Power Trio were born out of Luke Appleton's acoustic solo project, Adam Harris behind the drums and Rishi Mehta the one man guitar army, giving the harmonies in not only the guitars but the backing vocals behind Luke's gritty lead vocals and his big bass riffs.

Playing rocked up tracks from the acoustic albums along with the made to measure songs from Forever Viking, including What Heroes Do and the title track. Having been playing together for around a year, (literally like December 2022) musically they are are spot on as Luke continues to grow into a frontman. With more gigs slated for February, the Power Trio will go from strength to strength.

Next up though was the "Best Band In The Galaxy" Fury (9) who have seen a meteoric rise in the last few years, and seem to be getting better and better. According to Julian Jenkins, they were supposed to have this year off to write but have been busier than they were 2022, most recently supporting Phil Campbell in Europe, touring all over the UK, playing Bloodstock and next year they support Firewind on their anniversary London show.

But we got them up close and personal in Bristol, this was my first viewing of them with Tom Atkinson on lead guitar officially. Two Toms do indeed make a right as in long term stickman Tom Fenn they have a drummer who abuses his kit with a controlled frenzy, his drum solo slot gets wilder each time, as even in the more straightforward heavy rockers he's double blasting. With Atkinson Fury have a guitarist that enjoys shredding a solo or two, on the opener Get To Hell First and the proggy Lost In Space, but plenty of others on between. Though he was at risk of braining himself on the speaker behind him for most of the gig.

A set made up of new ones they also threw in a couple of oldies such as When The Hammer Falls, though of course it was the songs from Born To Sin and The Grand Prize that were leaned on the most. The interplay between Julian and Nyah Ifill's vocals is much more balanced now not just on Rock Lives In My Soul which was written as a duet, many of the songs now such as Prince Of Darkness use both of their voices. The backings broader too from Becky Baldwin and Tom Atkinson.

Becky's "RickenBecky" rumbles and rocks with grooves on Rock N Roll, Burnout and Road Warrior especially bouncy, Julian holding down the rhythm guitars while also leading the crowd as a consumate frontman. He introduces their bass player reminding everyone that she played for Mercyful Fate this year across the pond, so what better time to cover a song by the Danish masters of the macarbe, unfortunately it wasn't No Presents For Christmas, but the grooving Evil, JJ snarling and Nyah hitting the highs. Becky laying out that demonic groove with Fenn as Atkinson got to be both Denner and Shermann.

Any band who can keep a crowd hungry and wanting more when the play two big ballads; Shadows And Dust and Upon A Lonesome Tide, retitled here as Boats N Shit, deserve to be commended and as JJ says, you boo now but you'll be singing it later. Singing was not in short supply as Embrace The Demons, Road Warrior and Casino Soleil all kept their place in the set to get everyone dancing. It was hot, sweaty and joyous the spirit of drinking and good will to all people definitely in the room. Finishing with one final encore of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, it was over and Fury closed one of thei biggest years yet, with only two home shows to go.

I love seeing friends doing well, I love seeing a band absolutely reaching their nadir, this version of Fury is the slickest I've seen and I've been watching them for over 10 years. There's more music, more shows to come as they cement their place again as one of the hardest working bands around.

Reviews: Palace Of The King, Taxi Caveman, Imperatore, Rash Panzer (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Rich Piva)

Palace Of The King - Friends In Low Places (Reckless Records) [Matt Bladen]

I've been following Aussie rockers Palace Of The King for a while but they did drop off my radar for a bit, happily they have just released their latest album, their fourth full length, Friends In Low Places and it reminds of how much I enjoyed the bands previous work. They haven't released a record since 2018 but during that time they have been touring with numerous bands For me they have the rock n roll swagger of a band such as the much missed Temperance Movement, The Black Crowes and also The Answer. Soulful blues, Americana and good old rock n roll.

A track such as Get Right With Your Maker, will appeal to any fan of the Brothers Robinson, gospel influences and organs of Sean Johnson against those brilliant vocals from Tim Henwood. Johnson's keys are also integral to the swaggering Tear It Down, a proper strutter driven by the drums of Cameron McGlinchey while the title track has the fuzzy punch of The Hives or Wolfmother, Leigh Maden (who returns after sitting out the last album tour), Johnson and Henwood's guitars distorted and grubby. Rounding out the band is bass player Anthony Licciardi who gives the low groove to Tell It Like It Is and the soulful I'm Sorry Blues which has plenty of Steve Marriott and some Red Hot Chillis too.

Friends In Low Places re-establishes how good Palace Of The King are as a band. Hard rocking comes on Tear It Down, the three guitars in glorious union while One Of These Days brings the sneer of Aerosmith or Rose Tattoo, as does the mouth harp fuelled Dead End Blues. Christ this is good, one of 2023's best rock records released just as the year comes to a close. They are going to tour the hell out of Oz during their summer over the next couple of months, hopefully they come back over here soon. 9/10

Taxi Caveman - UGH! (Interstellar Smoke Records) [Rich Piva]

Every time Warsaw, Poland’s Taxi Caveman releases new music I seem to be surprised that it was coming. I never seem to have a heads up like I do with almost every other band I dig, so new Taxi Caveman material winds up being a nice surprise for your reviewer. The new and second full length from this fuzzy stoner power trio, UGH! Is chock full of what I dig about this band; fuzzy heavy stoner rock with California desert influences that can be both riff-filled heaviness as well as catchy as hell. UGH! Doubles down on this, bringing some of the heaviest and best material that the trio has delivered till date.

Duke Nukem and Black Magic Hole, the first two tracks on UGH! are the perfect example of how the band has amped up the heavy. The former has some crunchy riff goodness with an aggressive vocal style and just enough melody to remind you of their influences, such as Kyuss and Fu Manchu. The latter has an almost hardcore punk feel, but with a vocal melody that will stick with you all day. I love the vocals on this track as well as the solo, and this may be the heaviest song in their catalog. 

The excellently titled Sexy Caveman brings the heavy and musically reminds me of early QOTSA in all the best ways. More punk/cross over thrash vibes hit you with the short blast of the title track, and they pull it off perfectly. The fuzz gets cranked up to 11 on Funeral Kingdom, with another chunky riff and a more slowed down doomy pace and works nicely within the flow of the record. 

The last three tracks of UGH! goes in a very different direction, starting with the melodic rock of What A Day with guest vocalist Macias that shows that these guys can take their music in many different directions. There is a more chill, psych vibe to this more straight-ahead rocker. One thing is for certain though, What A Day rules and may be my favorite from them so far, and I really enjoy Taxi Caveman. Dig that fuzzy solo. The final two tracks are covers, with a more straight ahead take on Katatonia’s Wait Outside (but with a nice TC spin) and a super fun take on Tay Tay’s Don’t Blame Me.

Another surprise from Taxi Caveman has once again delighted me. The band has yet to disappoint and now brings you some new direction and some of their best work on UGH! Yeah, there is a Taylor Swift cover, which could be considered a bit cliched at this point, but even that brings the fuzzy stoner rock goodness that Taxi Caveman is becoming known for. Great stuff. 8/10

Imperatore - Imperatore (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

If like me you spent the festive season listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra records then you'll be very aware how they bring together classical music and heavy/power metal. Usually they have a host of operatic vocalists and stirring orchestrations so when I saw that Aussie band Imperatore pair opera and heavy metal I was intrigued to hear if it sounded like TSO or were they just clutching at straws.

Thankfully this album has all the bombast I could want, a debut concept album about Julius Caesar, the Imperatore in question, it's got the heavy/power metal you'd want, Invisible Hands sounding a lot like Kamelot or Serenity, a major point in their favour, keys/synths augmenting the guitars, bass and drums. Layers of acoustics too used well to increase those classical influences and musical dynamism.

Their vocalist though is the main attraction, he has a proper operatic singing voice, his gritty singing voice swelling into a top tenor, massive range without ever being jarring. His diversity vocally is perfect for the cinematic/concept of this album as they take some progressive routes into the sound of Virgin Steele on Second Coming and folky title track and ballad Angel Eyes adds Blind Guardian to the influences.

It's bombastic, baffling and bonkers, but bloody entertaining! For a debut this is a bit of a risk but it pays off for the most part, going forward they need a little refinement but if you want an album that brings something a little different then take a journey to the Roman Republic via Perth Australia. 8/10

Rash Panzer - Liberation (7hard Records) [Rich Piva]

Talk about time between releases! The Swiss band Rash Panzer has apparently been around since 1979. I personally had never heard of them when assigned the review by the boss, but in my research found that they have only put out a handful of material in their time as a band, including an EP that apparently had some legs in 1988-89, gaining them some exposure, even in the States, but after that only three total full lengths, one in 1989, 2013, and now ten years after their last and four plus decades after starting the band, we get Liberation. That is a long time to be a band and have such little output, but in many cases, quantity does not mean quality. Let’s see what these guys do with such a long break.

I hear hints of Scorpions and early (hobo, not drifter) Whitesnake from the band on Liberation, as they play straight-ahead, no-frills party rock. The first two tracks being perfect examples, where the vocals have a Coverdale type feel, especially on the chorus of Rock On. Freewill is a weird track after the first two, with some almost spoken word vocals and a bit more heaviness than the rocking bar band vibes you get from the first two, maybe hearing some Accept here. Great guitar work on this one and throughout Liberation

Rock Saved My Soul moves make towards the territory of the first two tracks, but I hear some AC/DC vibes coming into the mix here too. No Way has an early rock and roll heavied up vibe too it, and it is a fun listen, but like most of Liberation, nothing that is going to sound unique or something that is not borrowing from the greats of early metal. That is not to say it is not worth a spin, because it is. You head into the stadium rock anthem territory with Testament. You even go into some hair band territory, you know, when the hair bands tried to be blues influenced, with Wild Roses. Liberation is like a tour of all things early 80s hard rock/metal, done over twelve tracks by guys who have been around and lived it.

Rash Panzer’s third album in 40-something years is worth your time if you enjoy some straight head hard rock/metal fun. You will hear all sorts of influence on here, as the band hits pretty much every big band in that category. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking on Liberation but listen if you want some good time rock and roll from guys who have kept it together for so long for the love of the music. 6/10

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

Wednesday 20 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Bokassa (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Bokassa, Häxan & Risperidrone, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff, 18.12.23

When faced with a cancellation, there are very few things you can do, if you're a band based in the country you're playing it means going home or finding somewhere local to play. If you're from another country and don't have that luxury, you have to work damn hard and hope that there are venues that may want you to at least give a show.

This is the conundrum Norwegian stonerpunks Bokassa were faced with then their tour as the opening act for Therapy? Was cut short due to a family illness in the headliners camp. It meant they had to abandon the scheduled shows in Birmingham and The Globe in Cardiff.

A cry out came on social media, "if you book them, they will come" and the always enterprising Fuel Rock Club stepped in to ensure that there would be some proper rocking in Cardiff on a Sunday night. Unless you count Glamsters Sweet, who were playing The Tramshed as proper rock (you'd be wrong).

So show saved, headliner returning to the venue they played back in 2021 and perhaps more importantly supports secured. I have the utmost respect for any band who can commit to a show with 24 hours notice and luckily two of the South Wales scene's bands got themselves on the bill, making it a more tantalising evening for you £10, and also a great way to make up for the disappointment of not being able to watch the show you intended.

With all this in mind it was tine to head into Fuel for the festivities. The first band up for the evening were Risperidrone (8), an act I've wanted to see live for a while but seem to miss all the time. They play groovy doom metal that owes much to both Type Of Negative and Paradise Lost, long slow distorted riffs, abridged by moments of clarity that create atmospheres before crashing down again. The echoed vocals shift between a drone-like incantation and a scream, unveiling some very mesmeric doom with a pinch of death. Love it. Will definitely be seeing them again.

The 15 or so punters who bought a ticket greeted all the bands with a warm reception, the fire lit by Risperidrone, but it was second support band Häxan (8) that got the flames burning. Returning to support the headliners for the second time in this venue. This lively rock trio always get the place rocking, their enthusiasm infectious and their songs packed with big rock riffs and sing along choruses, dipped in some punk attitude and glam rock oomph. It's a heady concoction that makes you dizzy but ensures you have a good time.

Kicking through their set with professionalism and heaps of experience, tracks such as Bring The Thunder ably got the crowd bouncing. The band treating it as a bit of party gig seeing as it was their last of the year so they threw in a cheeky cover of Lipps Inc's Funky Town. If you want to start a party bring Häxan, there I said it.

Everything in full swing, crowd suitably inebriated, it was time for the Norwegian trio to get on stage and do their thing. Bokassa (9) have supported Metallica in the past, so they are honed to a tee but they never let that spoil their, wildness and raw energy. After their first song they asked if we wanted the full set or their truncated support set, of course we opted for the former, one of the Häxan lot suggesting 84 songs but was voted down as Bokassa had a plane to catch.

I said they are called stoner punk and that's exactly what they are a fusion of groove driven stoner riffs and punk rock aggression, the fact that their guitarist was wearing a Fu Manchu shirt not lost as Bokassa share musical cues with the stoner veterans, as they do with The Atomic Bitchwax, especially with the trio of vocalists. Ripping through the set, with a few stops to thank the hardcore that came out to see them on a Sunday night after the initial issue with their tour.

They crank out riffs like nobody's business, giving lots of movement to the Fuel stage while their sound was top notch (all the bands had great sound), it was their lighting that will linger in my retinas for a week (all strobe). Playing some deep cuts and a few newbies including a song with some synthy parts, their rip roaring Let's Storm The Capitol and the Motörhead grizzle of Lost In The Ozone, put together with stuff like Molotov Rocktail and So Long, Idiots.

Have you ever seen a band kick the shit out of 21 people? I have and it was like prying victory out of the jaws of defeat, this my friends was the real Ballroom Blitz in Cardiff that night!

A View From The Back Of The Room: Gogol Bordello (Live Review By Tom Bladen)

Gogol Bordello, The Great Hall, Cardiff 15.12.23

Know to many for that one song that was played on a lot of rock radio stations, the one about wearing a specific colour. American gypsy folk punk band Gogol Bordello (8), have somewhat of a rabid following.

At times chaotic, at others, almost unhinged, their stage show has taken them from Download to Glastonbury with all the stages in between, a collaboration between musicians of many origins, they straddle multiple genres with a sound that relies heavily on Balkan/Romani traditional music, accordion and fiddle mainly along with New York flavoured punk.

It's a shame that the venue doesn't really work for so many key instruments as sometimes things could get washed out but their sound tech team did the best job they could at on the fly mixing for the key fiddle/accordion/acoustic/electric guitar parts etc.

They're a band who crossover genre wise, you'll see hippies, trendies, rockers and even your normal suit wearing types at their gigs, but they don't ever change the show because of it. Gogol Bordello bring their wild, musical caravan to every stage at full force.

Punk in the truest sense of the word, the show was wild from start to finish, the nine members of the band all in a frenzy from the first moments like a multi coloured Slipknot sans the masks, it was a mishmash of sounds that kept the whole crowd dancing and jumping.

Imbued with boundless energy, Eugene Hütz leads from the front charging around the stage, the photo pit and everywhere else, destroying his mic stand, showering the front row in beer and proudly waving a Ukrainian flag.

His gruff vocal sings their anthemic songs of political defiance, cultural acceptance and protest. Even if the lyrical power doesn't sink on while you're swimming in alcohol and sweat down the front then the music will entice you into just letting go.

I went in knowing nothing but came away smiling at the sheets ridiculousness and energy. Alive experience that flits between wonder and chaos Gogol Bordello is something you have to experience at least once.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Darkness (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

The Darkness & Bad Nerves, Bristol Beacon, 14.12.23

Permission To Land Tour, Cardiff University 2003, Permission To Land 10th Anniversary Tour, Cardiff University 2013 and now Permission To Land 20th Anniversary Tour, Bristol Beacon 2023. Punctuated by various tours and festivals in the interim it's fair to say I like The Darkness. Around 2002/3 when I was really getting into music, their Spandex clad classic rock posturing grabbed my attention and I've followed the band, and their offshoots since. While they have released some brilliant records their seminal debut will always been the one that gets the most support so no wonder than that every venue on this 20th Anniversary Tour was sold out.

The closest to me was the recently reopened Bristol Beacon, gone under a name change due to statue being destroyed, they have had a tonnes of cash injected into the venue by the Bristol Music Trust to revamp the auditorium completely. This was my first official visit to the venue for a show since the revamp (I've actually been there for works during my day job). The revamp is excellent, bar a few seats so narrow you'd have to have no legs. The sound was crystal clear and the ability to tak all of the seats for full standing flroom was a revelation.

So to the bands and with a punk playlist before then Blitzkrieg Bop and White Riot kicked out louder and Essex boys Bad Nerves (8) took to the stage with a brand of energetic punk rock that was a mix of both bands. Stylistically from the depths of CBGB's, their frontman is affable and very sweary, encouraging the crowd to get louder and louder, most of the time to little response but lord loves a trier and by the end of the show he and the band who are kinetic in their energy and synchronised in their split jumps managed to get their attention and adulation. Even with the odd gap in the set with just a drum and whistling before they "1, 2, 3, 4" and off the went the rocket again. A set that flew past, it's not the sort of thing you'd expect before the headliner but variety be the spice of life and all that.

Up next though were a band who were a 10 year in the making overnight sensation, The Darkness (10), worked their asses off on the toilet scene in the latw 90's before releasing their debur albun Permission To Land in 2003, this catapulted then into the stratosphere and unfortunately completely destroyed the band. Much of it is shown in the new The Darkness documentary, but a brief aside from Justin Hawkins before Givin' Up has him give a brief apology for "fucking things up" all those years ago. However since then he and they have been redeemed, four or five albums since their reformation has lead them to be one of the UK's most loved bands, long past being a joke or a snigger what they are now is a veteran rock band who play music you can shout along to, performed with a cheeky wink and a knowing grin.

Playing all of the songs from Permission To Land, plus some of the B-Sides, THAT Christmas Song (the benefits of touring in December) and their cover of Street Spirit by Radiohead, The Darkness kept the punches rolling as Black Shuck and Get Your Hands Off My Woman, got us going though there was a brief pause for Justin to admonish certain C U Next Tuesday's (his words) in the crowd for filming. This came into Growing On Me which got the first big reaction of the night, everyone in the Beacon singing along.

Same can't be said of the bluesy The Best Of Me or Makin' Out, but personally I love the the B-Sides as it shows the different side of the band, especially the playing of Dan Hawkins, who takes more of the guitars as Justin revels in the frontman role of just singing, taking a guitar from tech Softy (who's the fifth member of the band) for his solo and lead parts. Back to the original album, explaining that people who film on their phones are the aforementioned C.U.N.T, it was Stuck In A Rut, into the massive ballad Love Is Only A Feeling, the walking bass of Frankie Poullain (still the best dressed man in rock n roll) leading the way with Rufus Tiger Taylor's powerhouse drum skill. Stuck In A Rut kept things going into another B-Side and Radiohead.

The crowd were completely enthralled with the set, the between song banter and asides are all pitches, you're never sure if Justin is being serious and the way that he invited huge call and responses during Friday Night was ingenious, keeping the audience on their toes as he was decked out in a bejewelled Les Paul and Christmas arrived, Softy on acoustic and added Sleigh Bells too. It was festive nonsense but enjoyed by all as a snippet of Immigrant Song brought us to the final song of the main set. The huge single; I Believe In A Thing Called Love, closed the main set, Justin giving us a synthwave interpretation just before.

Cheers as they left the stage, returning a short time after in some silk robes to swap instruments, Dan on drums, Frankie on acoustic guitar, Rufus on bass, Softy on keyboard, as they played I Love You 5 Times in the lounge jazz style, returning to their own instruments for a triumphant Love On The Rocks With No Ice to close out and evening of joyous, retro, camp as anything rock n roll. Filled with all the songs you'd want if you'd never seen The Darkness before, it was an anniversary of the album that made them and broke them initially, it's a tribute to the legacy of The Darkness, UK rock is lucky to have them.

Monday 18 December 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Ingénue (Live Review By Mark Young)

Ingénue, Lute & Onion Mash, The Peer Hat, Manchester 11.12.23

Joining a WhatsApp group has some crazy benefits. Tonight, at The Peer Hat we have Onion Mash, Lute and headline act Ingénue who are releasing their new EP, Mixtape For Saving The World. The Peer Hat has that amazing feel to it, downstairs in an enclosed space which is ripe for a something atmosphere. And to be fair it's pretty full in advance of the first band starting which is always good.

Onion Mash (7), hit first with some hard rock, the 4-piece deliver a quick 30 mins set. The first song has that solid groove, with Rach providing strong vocals and is received well. There is a hard edge that is rounded off by having Rach in the vocal seat. They are the sort of band that can come in and give proceedings a proper kick and get the assembled throng moving. We’re Not Twelve Anymore opens their set and It’s like sleazy 70s rock, which is quality. 

Lonely Between Two has that filthy feel to it and they can speed when they need to, with Killdozer mixing it up and is a quick blast of a thing that leads into final song Legal Slave, and we are back on that 70s riff foundation, which is spot on. With more gigs under their belt, they are sure to become more confident and it does come through to an extent, although stage size constrains them a little. They are a great start, with songs that have an energy and are a top curtain raiser for what is to follow.

Lute (8) are next, with a prog heavy sound that announces a definite change of pace. Prog can sometimes lean into long songs without real foundation, but this is not the case here. Their sound is royal with a bottom end that just pummels you. They are as tight as you like, all locked in to provide a rock-solid sound that moves, building in waves becoming monstrous in its final throes. What I love about them is that they got up and delivered three songs in their allotted stage time, and like Onion Mash they didn’t overstay their welcome. 

By their own admission, their songs are long, which you can forgive when they are like these. It wasn’t noodling for the sake of, or repetitive guitar moments to fill them out. when they rip, they rip. The songs just fly and take you on a journey with them, moving from soft and subtle moments into killer heavy phases which would satisfy any lover of Prog Rock and a mark of quality for me was how Now I Am One segued into Escape And Return with no audible join, completely organic and top class. The band are mixing their new material now, which is due early next year, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the finished results.

Ingénue (9) are now up, and the place has filled up to sell out status which is a cracking turn out for them and fitting considering that they play a blinding set, with each of the band pulling together to give as much as is possible in their performance tonight. Their set list spans the sum of their music to date, with their new EP nestling within a packed list. And packed it is, kicking off at 9.30 running through to 11 or so, and you definitely get that vibe that they would have continued to play if allowed. 

Confident with a great set of songs, they are heavy with a swing and groove, so dancing is inevitable and expected. What I loved is that over the course of their set there was no repetition of ideas as each song came and built on the one before. Where they played the new material, you can hear the step up in craft with a real progression in the music and they deliver them so well. Trying to pin them in terms who they sound like was a fruitless exercise because whatever influence they have, they have developed themselves, so their music is an extension of them. 

They also don’t stay in one lane, adding grit as required and taking it away for others and there's a great sense of fun between them, especially on Save Our Goats and its infectious for the crowd. They are having a blast and it’s feeding back resulting in big smiles all round. There is a break, as they drop in an instrumental showcase that shows off the respective talents and it has some incendiary fretwork which was just brilliant. 

The remaining songs lean into numerous styles, with some ska in there, funk underpinned by a rolling bass that is spot on. They don’t stay at one pace, and on Tetris Cyclone issue a shout for a pit, which is one of the most well-behaved pit’s I’ve ever seen. Tides finishes their set and is a mid-pace stomp that takes off and wraps with a fret melter of a solo. Final, final song is a blinder, and to my shame I didn’t catch its name, but it ends a triumphant launch night for them.

Similar but different acts, in that they all love a riff, and a catchy melody line. Onion Mash rooted in the heavy rock, Lute bringing some mesmeric music and Ingénue go for all points in between. Brilliantly curated night courtesy of J, PR who put this together and to The Peer Hat for their gracious welcome.

A View From The Back Of The Room: Green Lung (Live Review By Rick Eaglestone)

Green Lung & Wytch Hazel, Electric Ballroom Camden 10.12.2023

For my last gig of the year I enjoyed an impromptu trip down to London for a show that on paper was just too good to miss, as even though I had seen Green Lung very recently it was a crammed atmosphere and although they didn’t put a note wrong, I maybe didn’t enjoy as I should’ve.

Anticipation grew even more as the London show sold out and a limited poster was created for the event (only 100) by the artist Slippery Jack *Spoilers* I have one.

I was excited to see the headliners again for sure, but co headliners/ support Wytch Hazel were just the prefect choice for this date, I accidentally stumbled across them a few years back and when they released IV: Sacrament I became obsessed with them, the album very, very nearly got my top spot of the year and I have even joined their Fan Club, yet this was actually going to be my first time actually seeing them live

Although the Electric Ballroom was sold out it was at least double the size of the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham and luckily the air conditioning was working, there was a great buzz in the air for the imminent outpouring of Occult Albion but just before that there was going to be some old school heavy metal with a splashing of the lords blessing.

Wytch Hazel took to the stage and to be honest it was perfect. Their set started off with The Fire’s Control and also included Still We Fight, Angel Of Light and concluding with Wytch Hazel, they were completely unfazed for such a big show and absolutely delivered and I am honestly pinching myself that this was my first time seeing such a phenomenal band, another thing that made me happy was seeing the mass of people after their set rush of the merch stall and also sign up to the band’s mailing list. I had already grabbed all my merch early on before they started hence why I got the poster, a cd, and a t-shirt.

Up next were headliner’s Green Lung not only playing their final date of the tour but also their homecoming show, at although the set was the same as when I had previously seen them it mattered not as once again it was flawless in delivery and a bit more captivating this time, the new album This Heathen Land perfectly showcases the bands NWOBHM Occult flare, they’ve been a band that I have listened to periodically but there is something different with the new album that means I just can’t stop listening to it.

They missed a trick not having Wytch Hazel join them in for Let The Devil In but by the end of the set I was already lining up tour dates for next year.

A terrific way to conclude the year. 10/10

Friday 15 December 2023

Reviews: Infernal Execrator, Mavis, Gula, Cyrax (Reviews By Paul Scoble, Zak Skane, Joe Guatieri & Matt Bladen)

Infernal Execrator - Diabolatry (Pulverised Records) [Paul Scoble]

To most people the words Black/Death/War refer to an absence of Colour or Light, the ending of a life and a horrific conflict usually caused by the privileged elites of different countries having an argument that leads to the mass slaughter of the working classes. However, if you are into extreme metal then Black/Death/War Metal is the most extreme and over the top sub genre of metal. Starting in the late eighties this genre was birthed by Blasphemy and their unbelievably influential debut album Fallen Angel Of Doom…. the genre has grown over the years to be a thriving sub culture within metal.

An important part of that scene since 2005 has been Singapore based Infernal Execrator. The band have released a load of splits, EP’s and 2 full albums before Diabolatry; first album Ad Infinitum Satanic Adherent in 2014, and their last album Obsolete Ordinance in 2018. The band is made up of Lord Ashir on Vocals and Guitar, Kommando Antichristo on Bass, Christslaughter on Drums and Helphas D. Nihilist on Guitars. It’s been over five years since Infernal Execrator released their last album, is the follow up crazy enough to fit in with their past discography?

The style on offer on Diabolatry is mainly super fast, very extreme Black Metal made up of fairly simple riffs, with completely unhinged Vocals, screaming atonal Guitar solos on all the tracks that have clearly been influenced by early Slayer, and some of the fastest and most aggressive drumming you will hear this side of Revenge. The albums opening track Aeternalis Diaboli Satanas is a good example of the style, the song opens with big slow Guitar chords before the song drops us into one of the super fast blast beats with nasty riffs and harsh and very angry vocals. The song boasts a shredding solo full of dive-bombs and one slow and heavy section to give the audience a bit of break before the song concludes in whirlwind aural violence. So to answer my own question: Yes this is crazy enough to fit in with the bands already ridiculously extreme history.

I did say earlier that this album was mainly super fast, the song that takes this from all super fast to mainly super fast is the track Infernal Storm Of Oblivion which has a much more measured Mid-paced pacing with a simple and nasty little melody that runs through the song. The song has an unstoppable and relentless feel to it, it’s simple and direct and reminds me of early Black Metal. One of the effects of having this slower track is that the material that surrounds Infernal Storm Of Oblivion ends up feeling faster and more savage, the juxtaposition works very well and the next two track Marauders Prayers Of Profanation, and Terrorized Consecration feel even more rapid than they already are (and they are both bastard fast tracks) due to this juxtaposition.

The other track that has some slower sections is the track Blazing Acheronic Tyrants which opens with a slow bass line which then morphs into a slow and heavy riff that batters the listener for a while before the song drops us into staggering fast war metal that shreds the listener before going into a fast and relentless section that reminds me a little of Von. The song has another slow and heavy section right at the end of the song, bringing it to an end in a heavy and powerful way.

Diabolatry comes to an end with the title track, which for the first half is a super bastard fast and simple track full of blasting riffs that have a bit of Grindcore feel to them, with another great screaming solo. The song then goes into a soundscape section featuring a Church Organ, Keyboards, A Choir, and harsh vocals, in some ways it remind me a little bit of the final track, Cremation, on King Diamond’s classic album Conspiracy. It’s an interesting and effective way to end a very extreme and very enjoyable album.

is a cracking piece of Black/Death/War Metal. It won’t be for everyone, almost by definition this style of music is always going to be a niche, but those that like this level of nastiness and aggression will be very happy with this album, it is savage, ridiculously fast and so extreme it only just counts as music and not assault and battery. If you are looking for an album that is the aural equivalent of being beaten death by 10000 maniacs, congratulations!!! You have found it! 8/10

Mavis – Grief Is No Ally (Arising Empire) [Zak Skane]

The German metalcore quartet have released their debut album Grief Is No Ally via Arising Empire. Through out this album guitarists Manu Weller and Mo Amrein go from silky ambient layered leads and Napoleon styled technical melodic riffs in their opening track Insight to djenty string skipping goodness on songs like Calypso, Reflections to the periphery styled riffs in Furry Tongue

When you start to think that this band are just another modern djent metal band they’ll come and provide you with some classic deliveries of nu metal riffs in the track Hollow Eyes and some thrashy goodness on the song Marcescence. From track to track their drummer Jakob Schulz-Klein can go from rudimental inspired snare fills to scuffled paced footwork on their opening track Insight. Bouncy beats that are collaborated with some trap beats and sprinkled with some metric modulation on Hollow Eyes, whilst the beats are locked in with the djenty stabbed chords in reflections. 

Finally lets talk about the vocal efforts by the one and only Phil Donay. From the emotional charging harsh vocals on their more melodic hardcore driven tracks like Insight and Furry Tongue to spitting bars on Hallow Eyes but it is not till their mainstream track Limerent which brings a more melodic side to their sound. Limerent showcases the bands ability to extend their sound to additional lengths with some classic whoa whoas chants, anthemic choruses alongside poppy infused chord structures, delayed guitars and dance beats. 

The bands debut release Grief Is No Ally shows a promising start to the German quartets journey. Each track shows the band executing each modern sub genre with absolute perfection. For fans of Northlane, In Hearts Wake and The Amity Affliction. 8/10

Gula - Birds Of The Apocalypse (Self Released) [Joe Guatieri]

Hailing from the Netherlands, Psychedelic Doom Metal band Gula brings us their second studio album Birds Of The Apocalypse

The opener Bhoga is my favorite song on the record. Immediately it’s reminiscent of the Alice In Chains classic Would as the bass echoes nervousness, feeling like something bad is about to happen. By 1:05 you are transported into a world of dread as heavy fuzzy guitars make their attack upon your ears, bringing the hazy feelings of bands like Bongzilla and Electric Wizard. The drums here are so precise making for a solid foundation for to build upon as a strained lead wah-wah infested guitar later enters the fray, coloring the track’s strikes of intensity. Despite its length this track never outstayed its welcome. 

Track three Ana Is Anna feels lost in the field that the album art depicts, eerie synthesizers fill your ear as something more strange is afoot. The groovy bass acts as your uneven steps as your jaggard walk then becomes a full on sprint with the booming drums quickly becoming more anxious in their pace as a beam from a UFO sees you as its next target. Jumping over fences as guitars descend the scale in a measured manner as if fate has decided this. The vocals are used very sparingly here but when they are triggered, they sound like a cry for help. Thankfully you managed to get away from the unknown for now.

The final track Pigs In Space is a much needed breath of fresh air using humor as its weapon of choice compared to the bleakness that came before it. A hilarious grouping of weird noises that feel in tribute to the Butthole Surfers is married to the classic sounds of Stoner Rock. The verses bounce along at a fun speed before the vocalist tells everyone to shut the fuck up and listen. 

Overall Birds Of The Apocalypse presents creepy soundscapes with a hallucinogenic tinge that is always presenting something new. While a lot of the changups work very well within the songs, a few miss their mark and feel unexpected and misplaced. 7/10.

Cyrax - Novo Deus (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

I don't know what this is? I'm genuinely stumped, Italian band Cyrax call themselves an experimental prog band, on this fourth album experimental is the operative word. World Music has always been part of the prog/art rock, from Peter Gabriel to The Tea Party, to newer acts such as The Hu and Heilung. The use of ethnic/traditional music has been a surefire way to bring interest. 

Well consider me interested in Novo Deus as the band seem to travel the world with their music from the Chinese influenced Yuéliáng, the African rhythms of Hewa Kunikosa, Indian influences on Bhagavad-Gita and it goes on like this. Each track taking us to another location on the globe and having all the trappings of that location. 

Of course there's metal, Marco Cantoni (vocals), Gianluca Fraschini (guitars) and Lorenzo Beltrani (drums), playing with the same verve as a band such as Haken. The second track, reminds me a lot of Diablo Swing Orchestra, adding Russian melody Korobeiniki (or the Tetris theme) to the song, while the title track has some Bossa Nova taking us into South America, the North American sounds starting with the country of Twelve Valiant Saints, through rap, sax-driven French New Wave, culminating in Germany. 

Mixed by Alessandro Del Vecchio it's musically impressive from a performance aspect but I have no idea why. Novo Deus is a journey, but ultimately doesn't seem to have a destination, yes they can turn their hand to many styles but this record would sound more coherent if there was more of the metal and less of other influences, or perhaps stick to one region. 5/10

Reviews: Therion, Evergrey, Catalysis, Overlorde (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Therion - Leviathan III (Napalm Records)

Christofer Johnsson has been at the helm of Therion for 35 years, practically spearheading the symphonic metal genre, they have rarely left the template they established in that time. While the membership has fluctuated the guitars/keys and compositions of Johnsson have always been what draws people to them. Leviathan III is the third part of their Leviathan trilogy of records that started in 2021, this is their nineteenth album and continues to showcase the versatile cinematic sound of Therion.

There’s a sense of finality too as this is the finale so to speak, the fantastic tales being spun by the dual vocals of Lori Lewis’ operatic highs and Thomas Vikström’s lower cleans and growls, present from Ninkigal, a short start at just over three minutes of rampaging metal, Johnsson and Christian Vidal intertwining guitars while the rhythms of Sami Karppinen (drums) and Nalle “Grizzly” Påhlsson (bass) come thick and fast. Dark and brooding is how we started but of course with a backing choir, acoustics brought in for the Medieval-like Ruler Of Tamag as classic rock strains from Johnsson’s other project LLO are brought on the organ driven An Unsung Lament.

Leviathan III
moves towards the high theatrics of TSO, orchestral scores are met with metallic instrumentation throughout Maleficium, and the whole album, blending all of the influences that Therion have played with over the years, from gothic metal (Midsommarblot), to power metal (Baccanale), to melodeath (Ninkigal) and classical music (Duende). It’s all done with many years of experience and a sense that they can do whatever they want as a band by this point. 

Closing out the Leviathan trilogy with style, Therion continue to be one of the bastions of the symphonic metal genre. 8/10

Evergrey - From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits (Napalm Records)

To celebrate 30 years as a band, Swedish progressive metal act Everygrey release a special compilation entitled From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits. Not a ‘best of’ but a compilation of live performances, displaying the bands might and magic on stage, then there’s a few piano/vocal versions of some of their tracks, which sound like the Silent Skies project band leader Tom S Englund has with Vikram Shankar, this anniversary record closing out with some instrumental/demo versions of famous tracks. 

Drawing from their vaults over 30 years, the album is treat for fans, much of this material not heard before. On the live songs, it’s the voice of Englund that stands tall, he’s got one of the most emotive voices in the prog/power arena, whether it’s’ on their symphonic recent material, the incredible King Of Errors, the heavy recent material My Allied Ocean or their more gothic earlier stuff such as Recreation Day or A Touch Of Blessing

The piano versions all come off the newest album A Heartless Portrait, giving you a different side to these massive metal epics, stripped back to their core sound, but losing none of the impact. While the rough versions are a closer inspection of the writing process. There is some overlap, as I’m not sure I need three versions of Call Out The Dark, or piano and rough demo versions of three of the same song, but this is a package definitely for the fans, I perhaps would have preferred a straight live record, but then many will disagree. 

With a special digisleeve editions, complete with photos and behind the scenes stories etc, - From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits is an Xmas treat for the Evergrey fanatic in your life, for most though it may be nothing more than a curio, I can’t fault the music, but it’s not a must purchase unless you’re a megafan. 6/10

Catalysis - Betrayer (Self Released)

Citing Machine Head, Sylosis, Chimaira, Gojira, The Black Dahlia Murder as influences, Dundee five piece Catalysis have released four EP's and a debut album in 2020, since then, they've played many shoes around the country and in Czechia, winning the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses in 2022 before focusing on recording their second full length album. 

Catalysis is a groove driven metal band from Dundee that grab your collar from the first moments of Kingmaker, Sean Ranson (rhythm guitar), Paul Edwards (bass) and Calum Rennie (drums) lay down a snarling heaviness that is retained throughout the album, the melodic death metal influences coming in as Drew Cochrane's lead guitars are let loose for melodic intricacy. 

The mixing/mastering of Hans Petter Solen is a perfect fit for the more experimental and heavier nature of this album. It sounds dangerous Col MacGregor's vocals, shouted furiously the lyrics that are personal to the band. Confronting topics such as the environment, racism, government and mental health, the lyrics becoming more personal on this album as the musical scope has gotten bigger. 

The band call it a culmination of 18 months work and it's a got a lot of good stuff all over it, from the blistering opener Kingmaker which unshackles the vand once more the balance of melody and metallic force is just right. Endless is aggressive and muscular but has a big clean chorus and some slick soloing, Mea Culpa moves towards Nu-Metal as Gallows goes towards hardcore. Groove driven melodic death metal that comes from numerous influences, Catalysis release their most competent album on Betrayer. 8/10

Overlorde - Awaken The Fury (No Remorse Records

Cited as legends in the underground of the US power metal scene Overlorde release their new studio album Awaken The Fury. Having released an EP in 1987, an album in 2004 and now their second full length in 2023 (just). Released on No Remorse Records it could well be from the 80's as the production is delightfully old school giving it the same sonic scope as those early albums from fellow New York bands Riot and Manowar. The latter because of George Tsalikis' Eric Adams-like vocals, crooning and shreiking from the title track to the closing strains of Migraine, growling on Destroy Us All

The instrumentation is handled by founders Mark "M.E." Edwards (guitar), John "Kong" Bunucci (bass) along with George Janeira on drums. Kong's bass playing is as thick of syrup, (whether he rips off his bass strings after shows remains to be seen), but on Fire In The Sky he's definitely established a lead instrument along with M.E.'s Flying V. While I said about Manowar and Riot; The Madness Within is very Judas Priest, that riff coming from the Stained Glass era even the solo featuring those KK dive bombs. 

Drumming wise Janeira is a powerhouse, syncing and juxtaposed Kong's brilliant bass work. This record has been a long time coming, a really, really long times coming, and while it offers a lot of musical might it's a throwback release that comes from those halcyon 70's/80's rock and metal years, adding a progressive bent on the atmospheric Gargoyles

Awaken The Fury clocks in at nearly an hour of music, so it's been worth wait in terms of quantity, but I'd also say of quality, if you're fan of the classic heavy/power metal sound. A long time coming but a masterful throwback through the mists of histrionic heavy metal. 7/10

Reviews: Children Of Bodom, Serpent's Oath, Revulsed, Severe Lacerations (Reviews By Mark Young & Matt Bladen)

Children Of Bodom - A Chapter Called Children Of Bodom (Spinefarm) [Mark Young]

Recorded for posterity and to hopefully serve as a fitting marker to the talents of Alexi Laiho who passed away aged 41 years back in 2020. His struggles have been discussed elsewhere and rather we should look to this, the final live recording of the band, taken from the Helsinki Ice Hall on the 15/12/2019.

I’ll go out on a limb right now. This will not be an objective review on my part. I won’t sit here and tell you I was the biggest fan, or that I’d listened to everything they have ever released. But I heard Hate Crew Deathroll and saw them supporting Machine Head and Slipknot at the Manchester Arena in 2008 and thought they were exceptional that night.

This is just a great collection of music, delivered with power and energy that is at odds with the internal problems that were plaguing the band at that time. The sound captures their essence as they blast through the 18 tracks captured here. It’s assumed that some will find fault with the track list but putting that to one side, it starts off with Under Grass and Clover, delivered with that ‘bounce’ that sets that high bar from the off. You forget just how innovative they were, meshing those razor-sharp riffs with synths in a perfect unison. And heavy, In Your Face cracking you across the back of the head with that opening riff, it’s a fantastic reminder of what they could do.
What you get from this is the feel of a band giving all that they can, feeding off the crowd determined to sign off as best they can. Shovel Knockout is as rapid as it could possibly be, as they just go for it stretching that tempo as far past as they can without losing the structure of the song. Its like this all the way through, each of the band playing out of their skin. My absolute favourite, Needled 24-7 is just awesome here, positioned in the set as they are entering the home straight and their performance underlines just how good a song it was. 

Hate Crew Deathroll is another standout, as is Lake Bodom as the pair are torn through before we get to Downfall, a fitting end to an exceptional live album. Sitting down in one go with this is the way to go, get comfy and just take it in as the experience it is meant to be. Its spinetingling in moments, especially when you consider the circumstances to follow. 9/10

Serpent's Oath - Revelation (Odium Records)

Inspired by the Satan worshipping black metal of Dark Funeral and Gorgoroth, Belgian extreme metal force Serpent’s Oath invert their crosses again for their third full length album Revelation, their debut on extreme metal label Odium Records.

Coming off the back of two critically acclaimed albums, Serpent’s Oath have it all to play for with their third record, do you re-tread the same (left hand) path or dare to expand your sound in fear of alienating an often fickle cvlt fandom. Well they masterfully do both here, giving tracks such as Beyond The Void enough fire breathing intensity to peel flesh but also adding moments of atmosphere (from the three intro/interludes that split the record) and melody on the opening of Path Of The Serpent, for a broader brush stroke.

Much of the power of this record comes not only from the performances but the production values as Yarne Heylen uses his death metal associations to make sure Revelation is raw and frostbitten but also has a bottom end grunt so you can hear the work Draghul (drums) and Mørkald (bass) are putting in on Gateways To Tiamat or Drakonian Gnosis.

Baelus and Daenum twist and jerk through tremolo riffing on Purification Through Fire and Beyond The Void especially. Slithering through the fires of satanic mastery Tes Re Oth squawks and growls through the 12 songs on this record, using both on Cult Of Death and the closing epic Pandemonium

Revelation cements Serpent's Oath as an upcoming force in the black metal world. 8/10

Revulsed - Cerebral Contamination (Everlasting Spew Records) [Mark Young]

Revulsed return with Cerebral Contamination, some 8 years after their debut Infernal Atrocity dropped. Just by looking at the cover art alone, you know exactly what you are getting into. Its brutal, occupying that space where the songs are compact to make an impact on you without it just being one note attack. Equitable Sufferance has a case of the Death Metal Janglies, jabbing chords that break into more traditional solo break territory. Those sidewinder guitar shapes herald in Asomatous Existence which drops that classic bottom end chug but not content to stay in one zone they change direction and speed to make sure they keep you from pressing skip.

Musically it’s got some prime Death Metal on here, taking influence from Cannibal Corpse for sure, but those discordant chords give it something more. What I am struggling with is the growls, the actual vocal style. It sits in that particular register that I have never been a fan of. The style notwithstanding you cannot argue with how they attack, its upfront, direct and absolutely full of twists and turns. As I said earlier on Asomatous Existence, they hit with about 4 different styles in one song and when they do go for a ‘traditional’ approach, such as on Perditional Enslavement they still have a load of things going on that you will miss on the first listen.

Nefarious Devourment shows that they can do technical with the best of them, starting with a pulverising kick off into some fretboard magic. It's insanely fast, with some intricate parts that are something else. There isn’t a bad track amongst them, the level of creativity on display is top level. Inconceivable Hallucinations is so dense that it could collapse at any moment but with amazing clarity that you can hear, and this is especially so on Deistic Repudiation with some fiendish guitar work that combines brutality and complexity whilst serving the song.

All told, it’s a great package of Death Metal that lands just in time for Christmas. It does what it needs to do and does it to a very high standard. As I’ve said there are no duff tracks here, each one possessing a high level of quality in the music presented. It’s fast when it needs to be, slow and crushing elsewhere mixing in that technicality that carries the songs further rather than just relying on a one-note attack. 

Fans of Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation will dig this, as they take influence from them and truly put their own stamp on it, so you get that flavour but pepped up to suit. Good to see that at this time of year we are still getting vital releases, a worthy 8/10

Severe Lacerations - Burning The Mortal Coil (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

A fairly new death metal band inspired by the 90’s heyday. Sound familiar? Well there’s been a glut of them over the last few years, a lot of them championed by or featuring Kieran Scott of Ashen Crown/DeathCollector. 

He is now championing Cumbrian brutalists Sever Lacerations but there is a reason for that, Lee Cummings who he plays with him in DeathCollector is the founding member of this band, leaving in 2005 but returning in 2020. On this album is Cummings (guitar/bass/drum programming), Ian Maxwell (vocals) and Fil Rourke (guitar), the trio writing the nastiest, filthiest death metal they could ready to punish the world, sadly Fil Rourke passed away earlier in 2023 after an illness but he urged his band mates to “Make sure they get heard.” 

After the funeral Cummings looked through guitar takes from Fils practices and their emails between each other while demoing/learning the tracks, it was these that were used as his parts on the album. It's on Fils insistence Severe Lacerations lives and breathes and this debut record of nine bludgeoning death metal tracks are his tribute. Mixed and mastered by Gord Olson of Darkened, it was all hands on deck to get this record out as a CD, Picture disc etc by 12th December which was Rourke’s birthday. (I’m writing this review on that day and they have achieved it). 

A triumph over adversity, it’s difficult to be too critical of this record, not just because it’s Rourke’s legacy (his last recorded guitar parts) but also that it’s quite a decent slab of studio death, tracks such as Unholy Revenge juggling a biting riff and some divebombs/lead solos before it shifts back into outright blasting. Terror Signal goes into a death metal crush, Subjugation is discordant grind while Atavistic employs some great lead guitar, title track combining thrash and death. Burning The Mortal Coil, is a way to honour their friend of Severe Lacerations and sets the groundwork for more shows and hopefully more music. 8/10