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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Reviews: Orange Goblin, Assemble The Chariots, Servants To The Tide, Keys (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Orange Goblin – Science, Not Fiction (Peaceville Records)

ORANGE F*CKING GOBLIN BABY!! That’s how you’re supposed to start every Orange Goblin review right? Cool nailed it! Seriously every new record from the London heavy metal legends should be greeted with open arms and six pack of cans from the offy, you nearly always know what you’re going to get but much like American counterparts Clutch, it’s going to be a tour-de-force of anthemic heavy rock, with Clutch playing on the heritage of their country, Orange Goblin doing the same but with the Anglian mythos inspiring their lyrics, as Sabbath inspire the music.

Since 2012 they’ve been on Peaceville Records and have had Harry Armstrong (Blind River) taking the bass role but the core trio of riff master general Joe Hoare, percussion punisher Chris Turner and party starter-in-chief Ben Ward remain from the debut Frequencies From Planet Ten all the way back in 1997. As they transitioned from the psychedelic stoner/doom of those early records to the leaner, meaner style they have now Orange Goblin have become one of the most respected bands on the UK metal scene, more importantly as I alluded to earlier they’ve been consistent, their recorded work is always been fantastic (their live show phenomenal), the grooves hit just right, the riffs get the head nodding and there’s enough grit and guts in the choruses to get you shouting along.

There’s no change then on tenth album Science, Not Fiction, OG picking a fight with the countless internet warriors who claim their version of things is accurate while science always begs to differ. (Case in point the countless Covid conspiracies), but there’s also musings on spirituality and religion as well, so lots to rage at as we get going with Harry’s dirty Hangnail bass riff, building into a big muscly OG shouter, the psych doom beginnings of the band strong here as is the Sabbath worship. Aaaand we’re off more Goblin, more Orange, more riffs. There’s some Motorhead blues n roll on (Not) Rocket Science, a track that will get plenty of movement when they play it on stage later this year and Ascend The Negative is classic OG, thick riffs, a walking groove and the gravel strewn vocals, slowing down in the middle to a doomy trudge.

Just three tracks in and already it’s taking no shit, they move into a woozy psych to the snide, social commentary on False Hope Diet, Ben Ward's rallying against untruths and falsehoods, delivered with that rough and ready vocal. Then there’s a shift towards another chunky march the voice gets a bit cleaner here as the contradictions of witchcraft and science blur in a malaise of guitar and organ. Speaking of witchcraft, Cemetery Rats ups the spook level and the doom too, with some piano to open into bubbling bass and a slow steady drumbeat build the grungy atmosphere as the main riff cuts in with some punk rock snarling. The way OG can be intelligent but also blunt has always been a key to their appeal, in some ways it’s like a scholar explaining something to you but doing it by shouting it at you. 

Orange Goblin have pulled out all the stops here, delving into every part of their past glories, slapping a little bit of biker blues on The Fury Of The Patient Man, getting percussive and groovy on Gemini (Twins Of Evil), classic proto-metal melodies here. As you get towards the end of this tenth studio record, End Of Transmission swirls with into deep space while The Justice Knife a showcase for fuzzy solos and chest beating riffage. Science, Not Fiction brings the myth of Orange Goblin crashing into its 30th year with an album that reinforces their status as one of the UK’s finest bands. 9/10

Assemble The Chariots - Ephemeral Trilogy Episode 1: Unyielding Night (Seek & Strike)

Christ listen to that drummer. My first thoughts when I heard Assemble The Chariot’s new album Unyielding Night. My second thought was; there’s 14 tracks of this? But no there isn’t a few of those are interludes to tell the conceptual story behind this album. For fans of Orbit Culture and Lorna Shore, Assemble The Chains is high concept, high drama, technically impressive death metal with some shifts into the ‘core’ sound. The orchestrations though remind me of the much missed Xerath or any of the bands on Seek & Strike that can be called ‘blackened deathcore’. The label know their audience and as such the more bombastic and OTT the musical dynamics the better so long as the drums punish, the riffs bite and snarl, there’s solos, breakdowns and vocal grunts/screams.

It’s almost nonlinear, not always doing what you’d expect but creating music that is epic with a capital E. Are the drums triggers? Who cares when a track like Reavers March is just so freaking heavy? The orchestral stings just adding to the cinematic sound of the concept, after this though Ephemeral Stream adds dreamy female vocals and more strings to build with more storytelling into the blasting aggression of Emancipation. It’s an album of contrasts, the abrasive extreme metal against the cinematic soundtrack, but my god it works, what’s even more impressive is that this album is a debut, the scope is mind blowing with operatic vocals coming on Emancipation, each change in sound, genre, style done to suit the progress of the overarching storyline. 

With Keeper Of The Stars, you feel like you’re nearing a climax as all the elements from the album start to confluence, the classic metal solos, the varied vocal assault and huge walls of symphonics, it’s building towards a climactic battle between the people of Aquilegia and Reavers. This is the concept, a sprawling sci-fi epic that takes cues from many galactic soap operas, films and books and it’s just the beginning, a thrilling, fantastic part 1 that made my jaw drop when I first played it. Hopefully part 2 is around the corner. 9/10

Servants To The Tide - When Time Will Come To Die (No Remorse Records)

Inspired by bands such as Solitude Aetrunus, Atlantean Kodex, Manilla Road, Citith Ungol, While Heaven Wept, Savatage and Candlemass, Servants ToThe Tide play epic heavy/doom metal which delivers what is expected in spades. I gave their debut album 8/10, but it has grown on me even more since then, so three years later I have high expectations for When Time Will Come To Die.

The expectation is due to Servants To The Tide no longer being a 'bedroom project' for songwriter/guitarist Leonid Rubinstein, they are now a muscular well verse five piece who have played shows across their native Germany including gigs with Achelous and Atlantean Kodex. With music that could fit on the bills of Up The Hammers or Keep It True, this second album details the story of existence, from the initial spark of the universe to possible futures and the death of the universe.

It's high concept, high drama and come with lashings of tasty riffs, that have been again created by Leon but has been matured alongside the band to make it more dynamic than the debut, keeping the strong foundation of doom but adding classic metal harmonies, power metal orchestrations and bold vocal phrasing. Sitting in the middle of the album is a 10 minute monolith, If The Stars Should Appear, a song in three parts that is a cinematic middle section to the album. It's all here, orchestras, pianos, melodrama, time changes, it's a labyrinthine epic of the highest order

However I'm getting ahead of myself, When Time Will Come To Die begins with a pacey, classic metal gallops on With Starlight We Ride, Leon and Katharina Großbongardt riffing up a storm which feels like the prime 80's Teutonic heavy metal of Grave Digger or Running Wild, a special guest solo is given by David Kuri of Flame, Dear Flame/Writhen Hilt. Beginning with something that moves at a riding pace, we go back to histrionic doom on Sunrise In Eden, Stephan Wehrbein's vocals really shine on this one, trading on the emotion and theatrics of Savatage.

In the back room the drums of Lucas Freise and bass of Sören Reinholdt anchors The Trial (a bonus track on the CD), the moderate cadence of the guitars coming from doom, but the drumming double blasts like it's death metal, shifting into the widdly solo of Jonas Papmeier of Leon's previous band Craving, more Savatage-isms here. Then with just a simple drum fill and a bass thomp, White Wanderer builds the drama and tension, Stephan's vocals grizzled and damaged on this one, set against the slow march of the guitars and the ominous keys/choirs.

Sören and Leon take production, highlighting all the instruments to make for a crystal clear sound, Bart Gabriel's mastering giving it a warmer/analogue glow. I'll have to mention that to me the sequencing is a little strange putting the two ballads to bookend the mid album epic does ruin the flow a little bit, meaning that if you're not totally committed to the genre you may struggle in this middle section and long for a bit of distortion or momentum. That said anyone who loves the metal introspective and powerful will find lots to like on When Time Will Come To Die. 8/10

Keys - The Grand Seduction (Escape Music)

Jake E is the voice of Cyhra and formerly of Amaranthe while Mark Mangold is a keyboard wizard who has toured and played with multiple huge rock stars. Both of them collide in Keys, an all keyboard melodic metal/classic rock band. Yep all keyboards, imagine a rock band featuring Keith Emerson, Jean Michel Jarre, Rick Wakeman, Vangelis and Jon Lord with a power metal/AOR singer then you'll be bordering on what Keys bring to the table.

Joining the core duo are Emanuel Bagge on additional vocals and keys, Irwan Fabrien who designs keyboard-guitar soundscapes, to play keys through a plug in to emulate guitars. Then there are drummers Adde Larsson and Alex Landenburg (Kamelot/Cyhra) who are the rhythms behind this multi genre release.

It's hard to categorize but they mainly stick to classic rock/melodic rock though there's dalliances with prog rock on the title track, which is like a Styx tribute. That's a good thing by the way. The oscillating theatrical melodies undercooked with organ fuzz and a 'guitar' solo that you'd never guess was a keyboard. It's an 8 minute beginning to this quirky rock n roll show.

All I Need comes straight out of the ELP musical kitchen, as Shining Sails adds some shimmering AOR where Jake becomes David Coverdale. Vortex is similar to much of Jake E's day job in the melodic metal sphere, on Turn To Dust there's some strings and low EDM pulses from 90's alt rock as Crazy Town puts Eliminator-era ZZ Top with Uriah Heep.

The Grand Seduction is an intriguing listen if like me you like odd instruments and how they can be used to create familiar soundscapes. It's a rock album and without prior knowledge you wouldn't thing that everything was keys. 8/10

Reviews: Werewolves, Sable Hills, Paul Di'Anno, Far From Refuge (Reviews By Paul Hutchings & Matt Bladen)

Werewolves – Die For Us (Self Released) [Paul Hutchings]

“Same shit…blastbeats and incoherent ranting, sick riffs, that sort of thing. We’ll slip in some big choruses, brilliant samples, a few hints of black metal, one slow track that actually resembles music, and an amazing guest appearance. But at the end of the day, it’s still going to sound like a school bus getting fed into a metal shredder”.

Not my words, but those of bassist/vocalist Sam Bean, of the Australian band Werewolves, describing the fifth album of gnarly, filth ridden death metal. Or Caveman Death Metal, as they are also self-proclaimed, they were after bursting onto the scene in 2019 with the express aim of ten albums in ten years.

Halfway to that target, and still as self-deprecating as ever, something is starting to give as the trio have now added a list of death metal legends that they have played with to their CV. Archspire, Exhumed, Ingested, Mayhem, Ulcerate, all now stand on the list. So, regardless of what Bean, guitarist Matt Wilcock and drummer David Haley protest, they’ve continued to deliver in their own chaotic, aggressive and totally brutal way.

An album that [hopefully] tongue in cheek urges everyone to kill themselves is very much in keeping with the whole death metal sound that Werewolves revel in, but if you were in any doubt, opening track Die For Us removes any final barriers. It’s the start of 35-minutes of snarling, high energy death metal that rarely stops for a breather. My Hate Is Strong sees a guest appearance from Rok from Sadistik Exekution, another Australian outfit, more blast beats and nasty riffing.

In fact, that’s the formula throughout, and even though they switch more to the black metal style in Under A Urinal Moon, with slower pacing and atmospheric intent, Die For Us is another crushingly intense blast that hits you hard, then comes around for a further slap before laughingly running away, leaving you wondering what the hell just happened. Tracks include the vitriolic Fuck You Got Mine and the savage Spittle-Flecked Rant and with a suitably horrifying piece of artwork [by Mitchell Nolte] adoring the album, it’s fair to say that Werewolves are well on the way to achieving whatever their actual objective is. 8/10

Sable Hills – Odyssey (Arising Empire) [Matt Bladen]

Japanese metalcore band Sable Hills have been near the top of their scene for a while now, formed in 2015, their 2019 debut album saw them playing all over their native country alongside many of the American acts they are inspired by musically. Odyssey is their third studio album and keeps them playing the shredding metalcore that has seen them play internationally too, even appearing at Waken Festival by way of winning the Metal Battle 2022. In the bio there’s comparisons to Killswitch Engage, and as guitarist Rict shreds up a storm the influence of Adam D’s virtuoso style playing couldn’t be more obvious, be it with the groovers such as Misfortune or the speedy Battle Cry the guitars really shine on Odyssey

Vocally Rict’s brother Takuya has a strong growl and uses clean vocals sparingly for added melody. There’s also influences taken from As I Lay Dying and Parkway Drive (up to Deep Blue), the breakdowns crushing as they slow occasionally before building back up into the lightspeed riffs. It’s all very exhilarating and the virtuosity of the guitar playing is definitely the most intriguing part of the music, Battle Cry and Bad King, stopping it from being another metalcore band. That’s not to downplay the talent of Ueda (bass) or Keita (drums) in anyway as they make tracks such as TokyoCarry The Torch (which is augmented by some electronics) and Misfortune.

Odyssey brings neo-classical shredding into metalcore as Sable Hills will win themselves a host of new fans on this third release. 8/10

Paul Di'Anno's Warhorse – Warhorse (BraveWords Records) [Paul Hutchings]

He’s a genuine marmite character is Paul Di’Anno. The voice of those early Iron Maiden classics Iron Maiden and Killers, he’s forever etched into the history of the greatest heavy metal band the UK has ever produced. Yet for many, there’s a period when his behaviour and conduct was such that he’ll never pass their ears again. Only recently, a good friend was recounting one of his infamous incidents which has forever blacklisted him.

It's for you to take the moral stance about whether to listen to a man who has been beset by life-threatening health problems for the past decade, many no doubt self-inflicted. However, if we step past the challenges of whether to even press play, we can consider what is the latest release in a fragmented career that has sporadically last over 50 years.

Warhorse, or Paul Di’Anno’s Warhorse as they are also known, has been releasing individual bits of material for three years, starting with single Stop The War / The Doubt Within in 2022, aimed at the Russia / Ukraine conflict. This was followed by the Warhorse single, and then the EP Stop The War released earlier this year. Together with Hrvoje Madircaca and Ante Pupačić Pupi, the full-length album recorded in 2022 and 203 in Croatia and the UK is now ready for release.

Nine original songs with two covers thrown in for good measure straddled just over 35 minutes. Beginning with Warhorse, there’s no messing around, just a good old heavy metal heads down banging. Di’Anno has tempered his vocal delivery, bringing a more throaty, lower pitched voice to the songs, unsurprising and sensible. We aren’t going to get those soaring screams we heard back in 1980 after all.

Get Get Ready confirms that the band’s sound is soaked in the 1980s; a combination of Saxon, Accept and a bit of Maiden / Priest are all in the mix. It’s decent enough musically, and it’s Eastern European metal feel is possibly expected given the personnel on this release. Some stellar guitar work enhances it.

Most songs are short and sweet, only three get over the four-minute mark and subject wise, it’s a bit of a collection of themes. Go is average at best, although I like the hook, whilst Stop The War is now familiar. Latest single Here Comes The Night is a solid song, with Di'Anno’s slightly strangled vocals working well, although I’m not sure how well he’ll be able to perform it on most recent showings. But taking it on face value, it’s one of the strongest on the album.

Now, a song by The Champs may not be an obvious choice for many but Tequila seems appropriate for Di'Anno and the cover here brings a smile to the face for it’s a tune impossible not to singalong to, and I hope it’ll be in any set they do, merely to see the crowd reaction to the surf classic!

It’s followed by Forever Bound which drags for the starting minute before suddenly exploding into a fiery gallop, comparisons with Maiden are impossible to avoid. From a dreadful opening, it expands into one which sees Di'Anno singing at his best and expands into a bit of a banger. And then, the curve ball as a cover of Depeche Mode’s Precious knocks things out of the park. It’s a fine cover, and one that is given a real sensitive delivery. Is it wrong to say that a cover might just be the best song on this album? For this version is simply worldly and demonstrated why Dave Gahan and Martin Gore are so widely respected.

As difficult as it is to follow that, Going Home, with it’s 1980’s Maiden vibe makes a decent fist and concludes what is a far better album than anticipated in fine style. Warhorse have made an album that is way above possible expectations. It may be the last recordings that Di'Anno makes, who knows, but if it is the swansong, then he’s at least going out with a bang, not a whimper. 7/10

Far From Refuge - False Flag (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

False Flag have been a band for 8 years now and the Cambridgeshire prog metal act have released one EP before this just before the Pandemic, so this has been a long time coming. So what is False Flag like then? Well it's an album that is experimental in its approach to genre, there's punk, melodeath and LOTS of metalcore, clean and harsh vocals trading off well as the music comes from a style that comes from the Swedish scene and the early 2000's American one.

Its five tracks long and they kick off with Daybreak, which sets a mean pace, musically similar to Trivium or early BFMV, especially the clean vocals and then it doesn’t really move too much out of that furrow. That’s no bad thing as they have hooky choruses, propulsive riffs and good vocals. There’s just not as much to separate them from the countless metalcore acts out there, with the exception of the djenty title track which is the best track here for me. Modern metalcore from this UK band, there’s a lot of talent here, I just think it needs a bit more deviation from the very saturated sound. 7/10

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Reviews: Excel, Gigi Gold, Braindrag, Lady Rage (Reviews By Rich Piva, Paul Scoble, James Jackson & Matt Bladen)

Excel - Seeking Refuge (Southern Lord) [Rich Piva]

Excel was/is a thrash band out of Venice, California who started out more of a crossover thrash band but by 1995, when this record, Seeking Refuge, dropped, the band was leaning way more towards stoner metal, more Trouble, Manic Frustration era, than DRI, and maybe this was what the band was meant to be because Seeking Refuse is awesome. 

Seeking Refuge came out in 1995 and given what was going on then this could have been a big record, but alas it was not, but at least we get to relive it now with Southern Lord giving us a repress of this lost gem. I mention stoner metal, but these guys could have easily associated with all the heavy stuff going on in Seattle, with bands like My Sister’s Machine and Willard being good reference points. A song like Hair Like Christ is a good example. 

Drowned Out is another, with some serious early Soundgarden vibes musically. Take Your Part Gotta Encourage to me sounds like something from the first Mindfunk record, as Excel certainly has a groove too. Speaking of groove, Excel’s guitarist, Adam Siegel, played lead with Infectious Grooves, which makes sense when listening to Seeking Refuge, as under all this stoner grunge there is quite the groove going on and also some serious Suicidal Tendencies vibes, but the more 90s stuff than the early thrash stuff. 

Alice In Chains vibes? Sure, listen to United Naturally In True Youth for that. For folks reading this of a certain age you will have to wonder how we missed this back in the day, but at least we can get to experience the lost gem that is Seeking Refuge now. Excel was short lived, especially during this stylistic period, but wow is this album killer. Great 90s stuff and if you liked heavy rock back then this should be firmly in your wheelhouse. 8/10

Gigi Gold – Souvenirs (Marshall Records) [Paul Scoble]

Coming originally from West Virginia, Gigi Gold discovered an interest in music at College, forming several bands including Ghost Riders In The Sky and Lyoness. Gigi decided strike out on her own as a solo artist, and Souvenirs is her first EP. Souvenirs is a five track Ep coming in at 18 minutes long. Souvenirs opens with the song Why Should I a pulsing piece of boogie blues with great energy, a wonderful swagger and an awesome chorus. 

After Why Should I comes You Ain’t Changed a great piece of mid-paced americana. It’s got a taut, soulful verse and a much bigger chorus. Stare Up At The Sky is an affecting melancholy ballad with a dark and brooding atmosphere, and a great, very emotive performance. Next comes Black Water Falls, just acoustic guitar and beautiful vocals, it reminds me of some of 40 Watt Sun’s more recent material. The song is achingly beautiful and showcases how strong and full of personality Gold’s voice is. The EP comes to an end with the song Hot Coals. A dark singer songwriter style song, with a brighter chorus that feels like an answer to the darker verse section. 

It’s a great track to bring the EP to an end as the melody from the chorus stays with you, encouraging you to listen again. Souvenirs is a great EP, particularly as it is Gold’s first solo release. The song are very well written and performed, and this sounds like an EP from an established act, not a first solo release, this bodes well for Gold’s future career as a complete album of this quality would be extremely impressive. 8/10

Braindrag - Coure Roent (Wormholedeath Records) [James Jackson]

From the first bar of Nexe Electric, Spain’s Braindrag are pushing an alt rock, sometimes Prog agenda; on their first full length album since the band’s inception in 2013, line up changes and global pandemics seem to have hindered but in no way halted the band’s progress. Vocal duties are performed by Mireia Perez, who joined the band in 2019, prompting an EP which featured remixes of the band’s previous work with her vocals now in place, there’s a quality to her voice that reminds me of another artist but the name escapes me. 

Coure Roent, Red Hot - if my web search is correct, is predominantly sung in the band’s native tongue and whilst the language barrier is obvious, it doesn’t impede the experience, for the most part, it’s an alt rock album as I previously mentioned, though there are moments that push something a little different to the fore, the bridge of Pro Human Race for example holds a taste of Eastern Mysticism about it.

Salta has a very Grunge style riff to open with, progressing through a stripped down verse and groove filled riffs. Lluna d’Argent relies heavily upon an effects laden riff to begin with, those Spanish lyrics, sultry tones on top of a quite hypnotic melody, the song building, adding layers of synth and guitar solos. Harnessing that prog rock influence in the track Batec and courting an almost country style for the intro of Try Not To Fail, a track which then shows hints of Grunge and something almost Trance like to its verses; shows the diversity of genres that Braindrag are more than capable of utilising in order to craft their music. 

Bordering on 8 minutes long the track Rhapsody, previously released as a single, closes out the album and it encapsulates all that has gone before it, a very tripped out, winding riff supported by sound effects, strings and a building but subtle drum pattern, a song about self belief and inner strength that builds into a song very much the opposite to how it started; an urgency to the vocals alongside a more driven musical rock riff brings the track to life and its ultimate fruition. Overall an interesting and enjoyable album. 7/10

Lady Rage – Hear Me Screaming (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Angsty, pissed off and allies to the maligned and forgotten, Lady Rage release their debut album Hear Me Screaming. A set of defiant punk infused metal tracks, formed in 2019, they are a grungy punk metal foursome fronted by Siren Sycho’s raw, savage vocals, Kieren’s (who played on the album) bass lines giving groove to Falling Face First, Dee Chi Manic’s simple but punchy drums and new guitarist Nika playing distorted riffs and even some solos. 

With the description you pretty much know what to expect, while the lyrics are personal, most are about losing hope and generally being lost in the malaise of modern life, the music is pretty simple, lots of repetition and I’m not too keen on the vocals either. Punk is not really my genre, but Lady Rage don’t inspire much for me, in the way a band such as Hawxx do, I’m afraid. 5/10

Monday 15 July 2024

Reviews: Seth, Diskord/ATVM, Endless Floods, Gorgonchrist (Reviews By Rick Eaglestone, Zak Skane, James Jackson & GC)

Seth – La France Des Maudits (Season Of Mist) [Rick Eaglestone]

French black collective Seth return with a vision of the 18th century told through their latest release La France Des Maudits. Strong opener Paris Des Maléfices is flooded with atmospherics and the interweaving of tempo is really engaging and nicely sets up the concept for the album which has been written entirely in French Alexandrine by vocalist Saint Vincent, this is compliment well with sheer ferocity tinged with some great soundscapes on Et Que Vive Le Diable

Starting off with a slightly slower more purposeful approach is La Destruction Des Reliques which then erupts into a furious crescendo with blistering soundscapes before the band take more of a narrative approach for follow up track Dans Le Cœur Un Poignard, laden with more emotive tones it certainly stands out as a highlight track. A Classical Interlude in the form of Marianne breaks up the album nicely, whilst Ivre Du Sang Des Saints forges on as an emblem of decaying faith for a godforsaken era. 

Incorporating subtle piano elements is Insurrection which is one the albums longest track which is paired the follow up with the eight minute Le Vin Du Condamne – This section is particular really presents the albums concept with a sweeping grander which is then closed with the albums closing bonus track Initials B.B which ends this chapter into the enlightening darkness of Paris.

Plein de vile repulsion. 9/10

Diskord/ATVM – Bipolarities (Transcending Obscurity Records) [Zak Skane]

To open up this split EP, Diskord unleashes their toxic marriage of mathcore meets classic technical death metal with their opening track Onwards To Nowhere with it starting with some classic Death sounding basslines before we slammed in the face with some frantic energetic technical death metal riffage that consists of furious single note lines whilst also incorporating Dillinger Escape Plan styled stabs chords in the mix. The drums playing along to this track throw in some technical beats and fills which sound like the track is not recorded to a click or have been edited to the grid which gives this feel of the whole track being on the verge of collapse. 

Pass The Baton sounds like Mr Bungle on steroids with it’s blend of 90’s rock swinging grooves that you would hear from a Primus song to then transitioning to old school Cannibal Corpse sections which feature frantic tremolo picking and blast beats delivered with human feel followed by some Dillinger Escape Plan styled dissonance. Shivering As We Share Our Hides focuses on more progressive death metal territory whilst the bass is pushed to front and centre of the mix creating some bowl turning thick tones as it which complements some of the heavy half time moments in this track. 

In comparison to the rest of the tracks Diskord bring in more Death and A Job for a Cowboy vibes on Shivering As We Share Our Hides. Cogged Pother ends Discord collaboration on this split EP with the continuation of their death metal meets mathcore delivery whilst bringing in some cowbell accented beats from the drums followed by some slayer styled leads. 

ATVM comes in with a more polished approached with the drums sounding a lot more snapped grid tight whilst the rest of the instrumentation becomes a lot more locked in place. Their opening song Cancer begins with some slapping bass lines that are captured with crystal clean precision followed by the technical legato guitar lines which are accompanied….oddly….by samba styled drum beats that crazily complement the guitar lines surprisingly well. 

This then followed by selective picked riffs, proggy odd time signature passages and a beatdown that starts to get quite repetitive three quarters through out the song before it is finished with some break neck fast blast beats and shredding riffs. The closing track Morphine mixes everything from precise technical death metal riffage to the frantically strummed minor toned blackmetal shoegazes to transitioning into some Santana styled Latin sections that feature soulful solos and rumba styled beats.

The split E.P hosted by Diskord and ATVM brings us endless chaotic pandemonium with the ravenous transitions with its smash up of old school technical death metal of the likes Death whilst mixing it with the ravenous Dillinger Escape Plan chaos to the 90’s kookiness of Mr Bungle from Diskord. This is then followed by quite the same characteristics with AVTM but in a more polished form whilst also coming off more dynamic and versatile in the process, especially with the song Cancer that features some sleek Latin grooves mixed with technical death metal. if you like you e.ps pedal to the metal down a road of chaos this split 6 track is worth checking out. 7/10

Endless Floods - Rites Futurs (Breathe Plastic Records) [James Jackson]

The fourth album from French doom metal act Endless Floods, who originally formed in 2015, comes after a five year hiatus, the band reforming with a new line up, joining two out of the original three members. Theirs is an experimental take on the overarching doom genre, blending ambient sounds with the more traditional melancholy music and according to the band, thematically the album is built around the rite of passage.

Album opener, L Eclair, holds an almost folksy feel to its vocal performance, as male and female vocals contrast and collaborate, a trait of Shoegaze, a genre reference within the band bio that I had to look up; and I wholeheartedly agree, for the words “ethereal” and “obscured” are used to describe the vocals which sums up the ritualistic feel that I took from this.

There’s a pattern throughout the album that I, obviously, am introduced to within this first song, musically the track ebbs and flows, stripped down at times to something little more than a guitar melody and a solemn drum beat, to a full band momentum the next, though always melancholy, heavily relying upon atmospherics and time changes rather than lead melodies, though these are present but not as prominent as I’ve heard from other bands within the genre of doom.

I’ve found that first impressions are what counts when doing these reviews and whilst I have liked the album, I think there’s more to it that can only be gleaned from giving it a more thorough listen. 6/10

Gorgonchrist - And Justice For Balls (Road To Masochist) [GC]

I must admit I am already slightly dubious about this album from the comedy title and then I have just had a look at the actual song titles, and they don’t get any better! But can’t judge a book by the cover or title in this case! 

It all starts with Toaster Inferno that is a mix of hardcore punk but with a sludgy sound to the guitars and some black metal inspired vocals, it’s a fast and furious start to proceedings but they also manage to throw in some groove filled break sections, now Pork Sword Of Damocles is the first of the comedy titles and its pretty much as before some punk infused sludge but this time with a more death metal vocal approach and the mixing up of sections here does give a more bulked out sound to the song but it gets a bit samey about halfway in and needs to be shorter for me. 

The Dragons Treasure is a more of a doomy death metal approach to begin with and adds in a sprinkle of thrash as well and has some chugging riffs and has an ok groove all the way through, but I already have an issue which is the songs do get very repetitive very quickly and 3 songs in that does not bode well, then they just completely take the piss on Questions From A Victorian Mortuary Part 4 and unfortunately not in a good way as it’s in a completely childish way with the only lyrics being ‘’ who’s that wanker waking out the window’’ repeated in a not very amusing way it’s just unnecessary and not really even very funny, Legs Of A Penguin is back to the thrashy death metal of previous songs which is again just ok and I am glad I haven’t got a lyric sheet because I imagine that would be shockingly bad! 

And then just like that comes chapter 6 in the stupid song title book I Cum Brûlé and once again it’s a passable thrash/death metal track but it’s about here that I get a bit fed up with what I am hearing, it’s all just a bit boring and repetitive and doesn’t inspire anything and the humour is just so childish and poor you almost cant believe grown men decided to write these songs and that there might be an audience for this? Anal Civilisations starts off with a doomy, slow riff that then just get repeated for a bit and when the song kicks in it is just all too flat and pedestrian it huffs, and puffs but doesn’t blow anything away and is at least 4 minutes longer than it needs to be. 

Moving on we get (sighs heavily) Questions From A Victorian Mortuary Part 69 how fun and rude 69?! LOL! My eyes now begin to start rolling into the back of my head with such force I almost fell off my chair, why they thought another one of these comedy tracks was needed is anyone’s guess? Satanic Cunt Slicer musically is probably the standout track as it pays homage to lo-fi 80’s death metal but once again everything gets so repetitive so quickly I know I won’t miss anything so end up skipping ahead to Monkey Pump which is another sort of mid paced 80’s death metal homage and that familiar stupid humour kicks in about hallway through and it all just ends up sounding stupid and pointless.

I then thank god then that Dr Lovefire is the last song I will ever listen to by Gorgonchrist until I see its 7:22 long which is at least 7:21 to long for me now and I just have to give up an call it quits. This album was an uphill struggle to get through, it started just sort of being maybe ok but very quickly got worse and worse.

To think there is a market for this sort of low quality ‘’comedy’’ metal is both alarming and annoying as someone may genuinely miss out on a decent band and be taken in by the ‘’LOL! Look at our funny song titles aren’t we MAD??’’ and that would be a crime because there is nothing on And Justice For Balls that should make anyone even the vaguest bit interested in listening to it. 2/10

Review: The Home Team (Review By SJ)

The Home Team – The Crucible Of Life (Thriller Records) 


I have been waiting for this release. The Home Team are a Seattle based, self-described “heavy pop” quartet consisting of members Brian Butcher (singer), Daniel Matson (drummer), John Baron (guitarist) and Ryne Olsen (bassist). The Crucible Of Life is their carefully curated third album following the release of their 2021 Slow Bloom and they’ve collectively stepped it up. The drumming is louder, the bass is booming, the guitar is vibrant, and the vocals are echoing confidence through Brians’ rizz. 

The Home Team’s personality shines through the album as they conquer into new territories, maybe only slightly walked by Issues, with their genre blending tracks. You can hear the heavy R&B, pop, punk, and jazz influences sprinkled throughout the 12-track album, transcending the need to stick to one genre. The Home Team/Thriller Records released 6 of the 12-album tracks before The Crucible Of Life was released, so let’s focus on the new tracks first.

The Home Team knock it out of the park from the get-go with Turn You Off. The verbal rhapsody of “Oh no, here we go again.” yes, we do but it’s not an “oh no”, it’s an “oh yes”. Each member showcases their talent in the song with its jazzy invasion of flair. Then, out of nowhere just before the 2-minute mark, it shifts! It’s stripped back to a funky drum beat then Brian swiftly comes in with echoes of “If you know best, if you know best, if you know best…”.

And the bass switch up is so enticing with a dazzle of synth keyboard over “… but now I’m crumbling down at the weight in the crucible of life.” It’s such a pleasure to the ears. “And here at the end of everything, I can feel my skin begin to harden and my gut screams at me that I was right all along.” If anything, this track does the opposite of turning me off (naughty). This is a repeater.

Love & Co (ft. Intervals) is heavier on the jazz and funk elements and that vibrant guitar solo will get you air playing, for those like me who can’t play in instrument, I sure wish I could just to imitate that solo. The track has an upbeat vitality “Do what you love, it’s easy.” I would love to see this performed with a jazz orchestra as this has the potential to be bigger! 

Honest oddly elicits a bit of emotion considering it’s a shorter track but isn’t that the point of music? You’ve got to feel something. “Are you starting to forget the past, don’t keep looking back.” I do wish this one was longer, but that’s probably just me being greedy (I want more!).

Somebody Else’s Face (ft. Broadside) diverts from the signature style initially as it feels a bit more angstier, but then quickly kicks back in to familiar territories. “Tell me you won’t throw it away, to see somebody else’s face.” Followed by the edgier “I don’t think I can help you.” Broadsides vocals slip into the song smoothly and adds an elevated layer, especially when there are echoes in the bridge which makes you want to re-play the song ending on that perfect bass line.

All Squeezed Out is again, another opener which diverts expectations as I imagine this being in a black and white movie. This is all squeezed out before it’s began at a short 1-minute-long song. There’s a kind of role play going on between Brian and the female vocal with Brian initially telling her “I'd be livid if you left without a proper goodbye.” She rebuttals “Then one morning you wake up, the guy’s gone, the saxophones gone, all that’s left behind is a pair of old socks a tube of toothpaste all squeezed out.” It’s a funky track with kind of sad undertones of his fear coming to fruition

Oh, what a funky pop punk tune Love When You’re Used is with a catchy chorus which will get your head bobbing and feet tapping "Toxic, not sick. All your emotions never lost that magic." Another cohesive and enticing track which you can feel a lot of thought and energy went into creating.

Moving onto the pre-released singles, firstly we have Brag. Brian has openly expressed that it’s taken a while for him to get to the point of no longer doubting himself and when he did start to believe in himself, he felt like he was beginning to be arrogant. The sarcastic lyrics emphasis what it would be like to have that level of ego “I got the recipe so try to copy me” and “Cause I don’t mean to brag, come and catch me if you can.”

The Home Team switches it up with the only ballad of the album in Walk This World With Me (WTWWM). Brian confessed that this song is his favourite song he’s ever made, and a lot of time was taken on the instrumentation to ensure it still had The Home Teams’ flare. WTWWM is a personal and emotive song that will make you feel like you’re cutting onions as Brian expresses the need for his partner to be alongside him whilst on this journey “…I know it’s cold, but I need you here to see this open road, so I can feel complete.”

Roommates/Overtime collectively known as Rovertime, these two songs have consecutively been on repeat and are what personally dragged me into discovering The Home Team. The ever so catchy “Losing my patience with you, like you’ve got nothing to lose. I’m obsessed with the things that you do.” in Roommates and “All I’ve ever needed it more time, to bring everything around you to life.” in Overtime. I don’t know what the magic formula is for catchy lyrics, but they’ve cracked that code. Hell is a shorter song which showcases yet again the pure talent from all the members especially the insane guitar from John and bass driven groove from Ryne. The distorted lyrics of "Hell, how?" and “So superstitious that, you can’t swallow up the fact that I’ll still see you in hell.”

Mm there’s about a 66% chance that Loud shouldn’t be an album closer (see what I did there?) which actually is a really fitting percentage. I do like its raunchy lyrics of "Cause I love when you get down, Cause shit gets crazy when you make that sound."

A lot of passion was put into creating the no-skip album whilst still being authentic to themselves and their unique sound. Arguably on the 12-track album, almost each one could have been a title track, which is a hard achievement to accomplish. Although I feel they’ve topped Slow Bloom, I can see that some listeners may feel the songs are quite “samey” some of the tracks are shorter than average albeit, it is a polished, vibrant album and for me personally, potentially the album of the year. 

The music videos are a complimentary addition to the music, shout out to the animation in Hell, the jokes in Loud and the visual effects in WTWWM that really tugs at your heart strings. John phrased it well himself “You either become hardened or crack in The Crucible Of Life – and in this case it hardened us.” The Home Team are already getting ahead in the studio on their next album just as their tour kicks off. What another home run for The Home Team, so, let’s get Loud and Brag about The Crucible Of Life because it turns me on! 10/10

Reviews: Palace, Spektra, The Mourning, Occult Witches (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Palace – Reckless Heart (Frontiers Music Srl)

Michael Palace became a house-writer/guitarist for several Frontiers bands before signing to the label with his own band, ingeniously titled Palace (works for Bon Jovi right?), as well as still being a go to a songwriter, musician, producer, and engineer for other Frontiers acts. Palace immerses himself in the melodic/AOR sounds of the 80’s going as far as releasing two albums a year just like the old days, though this is easier when you play, record and produce everything yourself.

Reckless Heart is his fifth album and it sees Michael again turning to the 80’s as inspiration, but unlike the blocky Tesla Cybertruck, Palace manages to blend retro styling with modern innovations, more of a homage than a crappy copy. Tracks such as the shreddy The Widow’s Web, the Cali-synths of Back In Your Arms, the heavy synth sounds of Back To ’85 (this one is very Toto) while Move Me has the soulful take of FM.

While before he’s dabbled with sleaze, glam, AOR and many more, a lot of the previous albums there to display his prowess as a guitar player, though Stronger By The Day and few others still show his immense six string talents. Reckless Heart is a testament to his skill as a songwriter, if it was 1985, a track such as Weightless would be playing loudly out of every drop top on the Strip. 

There’s a quote in the blurb that states each track has “potential to score a classic action blockbuster or drive the adrenaline of a training montage” and there’s no disagreement from me, Reckless Heart is a breezy blast of the 80’s, Rock That Yacht all the way to the Bay. 7/10

Spektra – Hypnotized (Frontiers Music Srl) 

The second album from Spektra sees refinement and rocking taking centre stage. Influenced by Journey, Foreigner and Winger, this is stadium rock with a bit of prog intelligence, built around the punching drums of Edu Cominato who played with Mr Big in South America, bassist and producer Henrique Canalle, flashpoint guitarist Leo Mancini and singer BJ wo has played with Jeff Scott Soto and is also the voice of DangerAngel. With his Glenn Hughes-like vocal sound, it gives track such as Taste Of Heaven that 70’s rock chug, undercut with the 80’s synth sounds.

Because of the vocals and the harder edged compositions, Spektra have a bit more substance than the countless AOR/melodic bands on the Frontiers label. They’re all virtuosos in their own way and lean more towards Journey/Winger comparisons because of that, behind the gloss there’s a technicality from all involved, a bit like Damn Yankees too with My Voice For You. To be honest talking about Mr Big, Hypnotized is the sort of record I wanted from them, a few big ballads but lots of virtuoso rocking that can get plenty of radio play. For fans of Winger and Night Ranger, Spektra continue to do stadium rock well on their second album. 7/10

The Mourning - Hush (Self Released)

US prog metal band The Mourning finally release their debut album and it's a fitting farewell to co-vocalist Eliana Blanchard, this is her last recorded performance with the band she joined before their debut EP. 

Eliana's role has been taken over by Zai Alyenora but on her swansong she elevated the sound of this band. Without her voice they sound not too dissimilar to Coheed And Cambria due to band co-founder Johnny Ray's higher register, with it there's that additional layer of harmonies, playing off each other on the moody I Feel The Rain. Let's see if Zai can reach these heights but first we'll concentrate on Hush

Co-founding member Jason Berlin's drumming is something to really latch on to on Hush. Right from the outset of this debut his drumming is dextrous and expressive, those Coheed influences strong on Chaos Machine as there is on Cries Of The Mind, there's more nifty percussion on I Feel The Rain as the the fluid guitars of Francesco Pinter weave their way through the varying prog influences that make up this album. 

With the title track Loren Whitaker's bass is the chunky djent rhythms with the keys and sound design of Alex Nasla fleshing it out, while he takes My Own Hell into drum and bass. The same can be said of The Wind as My Own Way feels like a Dream Theater track and features a great synth solo and one of the only guitar solos where Pinter is alone, the rest he's joined by special guests who add guitar solos. 

Hush is a complex, engaging prog metal album from a band who are extremely talented. If this is their debut then I'll be following the rest of their career with great interest. 8/10

Occult Witches - Sorrow's Pyre (Black Throne Productions)

I'd never heard of Occult Witches before this fourth album but I'll be checking out their other albums on the back of Sorrow's Pyre. It's retro, occult and packed with fat riffs as they play songs about witches, magic, corruption and the nature of faith.

With a tracks such as Faustian Bargain, they dwell on good and evil, swirling psychedelics shifting between smoky bar room deals and exploratory guitar solos from Alec Marceau, then bang as you're lifted into mystical worlds, the strutting riffs of Flesh And Bones and Tumbling Through The Dark brings you right back to earth again with four on the floor proto metal goodness.

There's buckets of psychedelic jams on this album, be it the end of Bluesman (Sunrise Cocaine) or the freak out section that closes the Sabbath worship of The Fool. It's with these explosions where Eliot Sirois' drums achieve some Keith Moon wildness, as Danick Cournoyer adds the Sabbath-like grooves on tracks such as Sorrow and gets a bit more jazzy on Faustian Bargain and Interlude In E-Flat Minor.

Vocally Vanessa San Martin has that gritty soulful style of Elin Larsson (Blues Pills) or Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer), two bands who these Canadians are very similar too in sound. It's retro, it rocks, it grooves, it's a witchy good time for all. 8/10

Reviews: Axxis, Black Capricorn, Legions Of The Night, Eternal Remembrance (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Axxis - Coming Home (Phonotraxx Publishing)

Coming Home is the final chapter of German power metal surviors, Axxis' long history. Releasing their debut album Kingdom Of The Night in 1989, they have had their fair share of ups and downs as a band, but never got away from their core following. Many of their albums have reached critical acclaim and they have played all over Europe for many years releasing a total of 16 studio albums. But this all ends with Coming Home, band founder Bernhard Weiss is still the driving force alongside keyboard player Harry Oellers who joined the band in 1990.

With them are Matthias Degener (guitar), Rob Schomaker (bass) and Dirk Brand (drums) and inside their own Phonotraxx studio they created an album that attempted to sum up 35 years as a band. To accompany it they will play a tour at the end of the year with two anniversary shows before calling it a day. So what is Coming Home like? Well it's got a modern sheen but musically they go back to their early days with some Germanic hard rock/metal, choosing to make three versions of the album, original, mixed and compact versions.

I'm sticking to the original here and there's a lot of what Axxis such a revered band on offer, from the waves of keys and baroque stabs to that vocal which is just as good now as it was then, but is honed and aged well. That's a metaphor for the whole band really as if you didn't know it was the end you'd think that they could go another 30 years! 8/10

Black Capricorn - Sacrifice Darkness And ... Fire (Majestic Mountain Records)

Italian fuzz, psych doomsters Black Capricorn return with their newest album Sacrifice Darkness And ... Fire. Again they heavily worship Sabbath alongside the proto metal of Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge, while the likes of contemporaries Reverend Bizarre and Lord Vicar are also major influences, the latter given tribute on A New Day Rising.

Again released through Majestic Mountain Records, this is their second album on that label and their seventh overall, they don't change what they do too much from the previous six efforts as Rachela (drums) and Virginia (bass) Piras create the sludgy, fuzzy grooves, the expressive drums and ear drum battering bass has a blues root to it but turns up the volume and the distortion to make it some hammering proto-doom.

With this crushing foundation everything else is the role of Fabrizio Monni, the reverbed vocals, the psychedelic, effects drenched guitars, the claustrophobic production, the engineering and even the artwork. The trio sync together well as you'd expect for a band who have played seven albums together. Sacrifice Darkness And ... Fire is another sonorous slab of psychedelic doom from this Italian trio. 8/10

Legions Of The Night - Darkness (Pride & Joy Music)

It's surprising that we haven't covered Legions Of The Night here before, seeing as I do love most of the projects that Henning Basse is involved with. To rectify that let's get into their third album Darkness, rapidly following their 2020 debut and Hell in 2022, Darkness is an album of melodic power metal that has a melancholic edge to it, there's some darkly romantic ballads, tough riffs, blast beats and the diverse vocals of Basse.

Drawing influence from Ashes Of Ares, Orden Ogan and Savatage, it even features a cover of Tonight He Grins Again, Darkness is quite theatrical, continuing the style they established on the two previous records. With Henning Basse (ex-Metallium/ex-Firewind) on vocals the rest of the band are guitarist Jens Faber and drummer Philipp Bock, both from German power/death metal band Dawn Of Destiny.

There's a lot of similarities to Dawn Of Destiny here with the blast beat drumming on Hate and Another Devil, the more aggressive side of the band while Let The River Flow and Better Man are the slower more thoughtful side. There's symphonics on One Moment, a heavy chug on I Don't See The Light frequent use of acoustic beginnings and interludes on tracks such as Leave Me and pianos on the title track, all of this extra instrumentation, the orchestrations etc remind you of Savatage so it's only right the album ends with their cover.

A band on the heavier side of melodic metal, Legions Of The Night, puts two great players with one great singer for another set of muscular anthemic heavy metal. 7/10

Eternal Remembrance - Tales Of A Dying World (Self Released)

Founded in 2022 Eternal Remembrance crowdfunded their debut full length album Tales Of A Dying World through Kickstarter (remember that?). It's quite an eclectic album but stays mainly in the melodic death metal realms, though there is a huge amount of orchestrations, synths and atmospheres. They've been compared to Amon Amarth, Equilibrium, I'd say you could add Wintersun and even Enslaved to that as well. Folk sounds come through on both the gothic Slaves Of Fear and Gūđ-Cyning which is the first track that shows off the clean vocals from Ragnar Hårfagre, but his guttural growls and black metal roars are both incredibly impressive, often layered over one another to create an extreme vocal harmony.

These strings and orchestral flourishes come from Stefan Kechter's keyboards and do a lot to raise the musical nuances of Tales Of A Dying World, an album with a lot of different genre styles throughout. Take Denied and Black Shield, the first is a modern breakdown infused death metal track based around Leon Ellenberger's thick basslines and Nick Meyer's impeccable drumming while the second starts as melodic almost ballad before exploding into progressive black metal before Moonlight allows the record to transcend into piano based balladry, again with clean vocals. Then things go totally wild with Pirates, as this turns into a pirate metal album.

The switching between genres may put off some but it's a really showcase of the whole bands talent, especially guitarist Sebastian Stell who can turn his hand to nearly any style with virtuosity. For me the last two songs let the album down a little but Eternal Remembrance showcase their skills with this debut. 7/10

Friday 12 July 2024

Radar Festival 2024 Preview

Radar Festival Preview By Matt & Tom Bladen


Radar Festival 2024 is on the horizon and it's the most diverse eclectic line up yet. We're going to give you a run down of the big hitters and some of our personal selections.

Headliners

The main stage headliners are perfectly suited to this festival. To start the party on Friday are The Midnight, the Atlanta duo play cool, trendy synthwave that will bring the beats, to Manchester making us all go mad for it. Expect slick lighting shows and pumping bass on the mainstage. (Tom)

On the second stage the headlines is Caskets, the Leeds quintet features ex-members of Glamour Of The Kill and will get you built up for synthwave with alt-metal/metalcore that features powerful choruses and a emotional strength.

On Saturday it's veteran djentlemen Tesseract who take to the main stage. One of the most impressive live shows around, their light show is mesmerising, their music euphoric and the performance filled with passion and precision. A major booking, Tesseract are now ready to progress to the next size of venues, legitimate arena/festival headliners who will look to cement their place as not just one of the UK's best progressive metal bands but best metal bands period. They have something truly special lined up with the Choir Noir and their biggest stage show to date.

Before them though on the second stage is the crushing grooves of Conjurer, like a sledgehammer to skull Conjurer marry technicality with primal force the foursome and anyone who has seen them live will know their forcefulness and they'll be a perfect way to lead into Tesseract as they too are technical, progressive and downright heavy.

On Sunday it's something quite special, Norwegian prog masters Leprous return to Radar but this time they will be doing something totally unheard of. They are doing an in real-time by request set, so I assume they will be making their way to the stage with a few things in mind but the majority of the set will come from requests from the audience in situ. This will be brilliant for sure as of there's any band who can pull this off it would be Leprous as I would assume they know all of their songs off by heart anyway.

It's almost beast into beauty as the second stage headliners for Sunday are Humanity's Last Breath, the last time they played Radar my (Matt) ears were ringing for hours after so I'll need some of the snazzy ACS earplugs to combat that. However if you love a breakdown then HLB are for you, as they will bring pure aggression before we move towards the more gentle tones of Leprous.

Names To Watch

Elsewhere there are a fair few names to watch as for me (Matt) it's Friday that presents the best bands of the weekend as Vola are a must watch with their beautiful prog metal, then there some instrumental brilliance from Plini and Earthside. Prog/stoner/riffers Giant Walker will be kicking off the second stage with tonnes of groove as Cestra will provide the industrial/orchestral wonder and there's also a hint that there may be a collab with Tesseract in the offing.

On Saturday Tom is expecting crazy time signatures and post hardcore vocals from two favourites The Fall Of Troy and Hail The Sun. There's aggression from Heart Of Coward, Graphic Nature and Car Bomb while Tribe Of Ghosts have a gothic oddness and there's righteous hardcore from Ithaca and classic keyboard heavy prog from Kyros. Long term Radar fans will rejoice at the return of Dirty Loops, expect a lot of improper dancing.

On Sunday I'm looking forward (Matt) to watching Adharma for the first time after loving their album, bands such as Future Static bring their alt metal vibes and Blood Command will cause pits galore on the second stage. Sungazer will add jazz, video game themes and prog ready for some angular grooving while the special guest are Welsh future megastars Holding Absence.

With a slew of Masterclasses allowing you to get closer to the players and learn their tricks and techniques, a host of post show entertainment at Rebellion venue, games arcades, instrument market, stalls and improvements to the O2 Victoria Warehouse insuring that anything their loyal fanbase has brought up has been addressed for this year. Radar continues to be a festival for the fans, a safe space, with an eclectic line up that is always three days of discovery.

Reviews: Black Lava, Turin, Ananda Mida, Mothman And The Thunderbirds (Reviews By Mark Young, GC, Paul Scoble & Rich Piva)

Black Lava - The Savage Winds Of Wisdom (Season Of Mist) [Mark Young]

The Savage Winds Of Wisdom is the second album from Melbourne’s Black Lava. Two years after Soul Furnace, the 4-piece have pushed themselves further, desperate to keep the creative juices flowing.

Colour Of Death with its grinding opening as the guitars slide in and out leads you think that they are going down a tried and tested path of restrained start followed by a Superspeed attack. Not so, there is a roar of announcement from vocalist Rob Watkins but instead they subvert expectations by placing their focus on guitar parts that move the song forward, using the drums for the heavy lifting. 

There is a wicked groove to this, and the avoidance of standard tropes is very welcome here. There is some fast riffing but not to overwhelm. This is setting the scene, bringing you onboard and getting you ready for what is to come. That mix of techniques makes this sound so fresh, no reliance on chug or trem picking for the sake of it.

Dark Legacy is royal, that groove is back again as well as throwing in some technical flourishes but it’s the main riff that excites. Tightly focused, heavy but with a clarity. When they let the guitars ring out, its immersive as guitarist Ben Boyle deploys a great command of what should go where. Backing up here is some supreme drumming from Dan Presland and completing that rock solid foundation is Nick Rackham with bass duties. It sounds fantastic, especially through some decent headphones.

It’s the sort of release that creeps up out of nowhere and bang, you are engaged with it. The influence of the other bands they play in, be it thrash, or death metal comes together to give them a unique approach. As I mentioned, they don’t rely on the traditional tropes but with the heady brew of melody and countermelody you don’t miss it. There are those fast parts we love and that are present, for example on Wrapped In Filth as it closes out but the work they have done leading up to that means it hits organically, like it is the logical next step without it sounding tired. 

Unsheathing Nightmares combines those delicious but brittle sounding chords with some top-class bottom end riffing. Ben is puling some heavy work here because everything that comes out just works so well and there are some mad techy bits in there too. This is where you think how the hell has he managed to get that in there. 

There is just no drop in the quality of the songs at all, they have everything you could possibly want in new extreme metal, it’s a release that ticks all of the necessary boxes whilst sounding true to itself and again a top example of this would be Ironclad Sarcophagus, a gut stomper that shows more and more of what they can do as it unfolds. 

Yes, there are blasts but these are set within those glass like guitar lines and I think it’s the choice of those chords that won me over. The songs are heavy without the reliance on standard arrangements or guitar lines used by everyone else. Of course, there has to be an end and it’s the majestic title track, easy going rhythm and gentle lines growing into a monster of full-on metal until they decide to stop and pull back.

The background music, the rising choir like singing as Rob goes full throated roar is a sight to hear. It’s just awesome how it builds together and is my stand-out on here. Did I mention the guest solo on here from Benjamin Baret (Ne Oblivscaris) Is completely mental. And totally appropriate too!!

A lot of the extreme music go with upping the strings, lowering the tuning to get them where a song is heavy and to an extent its true. Sometimes that approach loses something in how it sounds, where it doesn’t have that clarity and it can put you off. Not with Black Lava. 

They have managed to get the sound so spot on, so you don’t miss anything at all. Because of this, it sounds heavy in all the right spots. Even when the melodic lines are occupying that lighter shade, they is still a heaviness to them. The band should be stoked about this, it is a ripper that should take up residence on your albums to keep on rotation from now until they release something else. 9/10

Turin - The Unforgiving Reality In Nothing (MNRK Heavy) [GC]

Of all the ‘’cores’’ deathcore is usually the most ridiculed and reviled, because hardcore fans think it’s for fucking posers and death metal fans think it not heavy enough, these opinions are both of course total bollocks! I like both hardcore and death metal, LOTS, I also like deathcore vey much but do agree that its very hit and miss and understand why a lot of people just don’t bother with it, so today I have UK deathcore crew Turin’s new album to review, lets see where they fall in the discussion.

Opener Envy definitely has the intensity needed and is a furious way to start the album rammed full of savage beatdowns they also manage to insert an elegant beauty into the waves of sonic brutality which is a nice way to start things off and following such a devastating start was never going to be an easy task but they manage it with ease on Abyssal which while it doesn’t feel as hectic or emotional it is still devastatingly heavy and definitely takes the death metal influence firmly by the horns and runs with it with more walls of thundering riffs and unrelenting drums. 

I Am The Truth then adds an ambience and melancholic feel to the mix of styles and adds another string to the Turin bow but, don’t think that this makes the song anything less than savage and horrible because if anything it makes it seem even heavier if that’s even possible? There is absolutely no regard or care here, it’s just pure brutality but its aimed and honed to perfection, it’s not just noise for noise’s sake, it’s thoughtful and violent and that’s what I like. 

Apostate has an atmospheric and eerie feel to the main body of the song and while its not exactly melodic death metal, its probably as close as Turin will get to it and it also has a definite Swedish death metal sound permeating throughout, Ghosts is just a lull in the middle of the storm and is just a minute or so of ambience that allows you to gather yourself the next assault in the shape of Reflections which feels to me more on the hardcore side of the cores we have had so far, the riffs are big and chugging as you would want and the pace is a bit stop start but it shows definitively that when a deathcore band wants to they can 100% create a massive hardcore stomper and still infuse all the death metal goodness into it! 

Title track The Unforgiving Reality In Nothing is absolutely huge and has such an anger seeping through it you can’t help but be impressed, the visceral nature of that way this song is delivered needs to be studied because from start to finish not one second is wasted and not one fuck is spared for how it may sound, truly remarkable stuff. Loss is one of those tracks that finds a way to really get under your skin and the proceeds to get better and more savage with every listen and the guest vocals of Enterprise Earth’s Travis Worland are fucking brilliant! 

Hopeless Solutions is a whirlwind of visceral vocal anger, blast beats and stabbing guitars that are once again layered with atmosphere and haunting beauty but continue to always sound disturbingly heavy, so then Our Reality In Nothing comes along to finish off and does so with another song dripping in atmosphere and dread its probably the slowest and most doom fuelled track on the album and it’s a suitably bleak and emotion filled way to round off this staggering collection of nastiness.

If you are in the I hate deathcore mob, I would highly recommend you listen to The Unforgiving Reality In Nothing because once you do, you will instantly shut up and change your mind, this album is absolutely fucking world class and it should do massive things for Turin going forward because if they continue to write music as good as this then there really is no reason they cant be one of the biggest bands in the metal scene. If you listen to one album today, make it this!! 10/10

Ananda Mida – Live At Duma Jam (Heavy Psych Sound) [Paul Scoble]

Forming in 2015 Ananda Mida is a musical collective based around Max Ear and Matteo Pablo Scolaro. The collective has a variable line up with collectives from 3 to 6 members. The musical cooperative released their debut album in 2016, entitled Anodnatius, three years later they released album number two, Cathodnatius, another four years passed before the band released their last album Mythologically.

The band have a reputation for very interesting live performances with extensive visual aspects to their shows. So, Heavy Psych Sounds releasing this live album recorded at Duma Jam should open up their live show to people who were not lucky enough to see them in the flesh. The lineup on this album features David Bressan on bass, Max Ear on drums, Conny Ochs on vocals, Matteo Pablo Scolaro on guitar and Alex Tedesco also on guitar.
 
Duma Jam is a private Festival held in Sardinia since 2006. The gigs that make up the festival are held on beaches around Sardinia, and tend to have small audiences of approximately 150, giving the performances the feel of a small gathering of friends, rather than a major festival. This has had a small effect on this recording as the recording has very low levels of audience noise between the songs.

The set kicks off with the song Swamp Thing, which has a slow build up to mellow, meditative psych rock. The vocals are clean and very tuneful, there is also a great bluesy guitar solo in the softer part of the song. In the second half of the song the tempo picks up and we are now into fast, driving psych rock with very interesting guitar work. The song then goes back to slow Psych Rock for the ending which has an echoed, Dub feel to it. After Swamp Thing we get Blank Stare, a piece of fast, punky psych rock which is very rapid, a perfect fast head nodding tempo which is huge fun.
 
Next we get several parts of a longer composition, starting with Doom And The Medicine Man (Pt V). Doom And The Medicine Man (Pt V) is mid-paced and has a bit of a New Wave feel with fast clean guitar riffs and is full of energy. In a couple of places the song feels reminiscent of British Indie band The Libertines. Next comes Doom And The Medicine Man (Pt VI-VII-VIII) which is soft, clean folky rock.

The feel is mellow, meditative and blissful. As the song progresses it becomes tauter and more dramatic, becoming less blissful and more tumultuous. Next comes Doom And The Medicine Man (Pt IV) the final part of Doom And The Medicine Man. A piece of mid-tempo psych rock with a great guitar solo. The song drops to a softer, mellower and cleaner feel in the middle of the song, before building itself back together for the end of the song.
 
The album comes to an end with the song Lunia, a fast driving song that is purposeful with great fast vocals and a punky feel to the rhythm. The song is a great blast of positive energy that is a great way to bring the album to an end and must have been a great way to end their set.

Live At Duma Jam is a great live album. A lot of the material is subtle, but always interesting and engaging. The material that is faster and more aggressive is full of a great energy, massively tuneful and is a huge amount of fun. The fact that the audience noise is muted, doesn’t affect the album too much, you can’t hear them that loudly, but you can feel the energy from the band to the audience and vice versa. Really enjoyable live psych rock, highly recommended! 8/10

Mothman And The Thunderbirds - Portal Hopper (Self Released) [Rich Piva]

Alex Parkinson is the mad genius behind the always fun and always a tad crazy project Mothman and the Thunderbirds, and he is back with the most complete and fully realized output till date in the form of the new album, Portal Hopper. The band’s sophomore full length is all over the place in the best sort of way, leveraging everything from prog, to shoegaze, to dream pop, to metal and lots of stuff in between, but it never, for the most part, too much for the listener to digest and is an overall delightfully weird and fun listening experience.

Portal Hopper is best experienced end to end as it is a concept album, but the songs stand quite well on their own as well, starting off from the opener, Ruby Skies, that sounds like if Mew got the drummer from Behemoth. This one rips while also being whimsical, a paradox that Parkinson excels at. The track Flatwoods Monster is one of my favourites and incorporates an almost 90s grunge feel to its spacy prog rock vibes with excellent results, even with that crazy synth part in the middle. MATT can be super catchy too, case in point the chorus of the also great Liminal Spacetime Continuum

This is weird 90s alt rock goodness personified. How about we get funky? Well, the bassline on Fractals is there for you, but this is space funk, as Hawkwind vibes blow in to the picture as well, but there is this underlying heaviness to this song as well. Like I said before, a lot, but never not fun. Squonk Kingdom is another fun track that shows how Parkinson’s vocals have grown over releases and includes some nice straight ahead riffing as well, but there is nothing straight ahead about the synth work on this one. 

The riff on Akashic Records sounds like Prong which will always make me happy, and combines nicely with those heavy 90s alt rock vibes that are all over Portal Hopper. Harmonies too! I also love the dreamy and spacey slow burn of The Zaratan and the closing one-two punch of the quick up-tempo So Long (Portal Hopper) and the acoustic ending of the journey, Attic.

Portal Hopper is by far the most realized work by Mothman and the Thunderbirds. Be it the songs or the story, this album is end to end fun and a complete picture; a concept record that is great as a whole story but does not lose any of its quality as individual tracks. This should be the record that takes this crazy fun ride to the next level. 8/10

Thursday 11 July 2024

Reviews: Amorphis, Meltem, Lord Buffalo, Disloyal (Reviews By Paul Hutchings, Paul Scoble, Rich Piva & Mark Young)

Amorphis – Tales From The Thousand Lakes: Live At Tavastia (Reigning Phoenix Music) [Paul Hutchings]

Recorded with what appears to be no audience, and with no reference to this release on the band’s social media, one has questions that are not clearly covered in the press release that I received. Hence the assumption here that is one of those horrible lockdown events, it’s amazing that Finns Amorphis were able to summon the enthusiasm to make this a reasonable recording. A live show with no crowd isn’t a live show in my opinion. (Check out Queen Of Time Live at Tavastia or Live At Helsinki Hall for other live recordings)

Regardless, this package does provide an opportunity to see Amorphis perform their seminal album in full, celebrating over 30 years since its original release. And to their credit, on the Blu-ray version I watched, Amorphis give it everything. And if nothing else, it’s a timely reminder to reacquaint oneself with this seminal album, whilst watching the band’s intensity and drive as they perform.

Recorded in the iconic Tavastia club in Helsinki, Finland, Tales From The Thousand Lakes is a concept album based on the Finnish national epic Kalevala, a piece of 19th century poetry compiled by Elias Lonnrot from Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythology. Often regarded as one of the influential releases in the genre, this was the first Amorphis album to feature the keyboards of Kasper Mårtenson, who left the band three years later.

Of all the many metal bands from the Northern countries, Amorphis are one of the most influential, and they have maintained their originality and creativity from debut The Karelian Isthmus in 1992 through to the most recent opus, 2022’s Halo.

And what this release does do is bring this album roaring back into focus. From the blistering Into Hiding that opens the album, to the Deep Purple-esque keys that drench The Castaway, this is a reworking that ticks all the boxes. The sound is crystal clear, you can hear each instrument as they combine in glorious majesty.

Having had a stable line up for nearly 20 years, one can now fully appreciate the cohesion and fluidity that the band present. Vocalist Tomi Joutsen, the last member to join the band in 2005 possesses a vocal range that straddles the harsher growls and soaring cleans with ease, whilst the lead guitar of founding member Esa Holopainen cuts through with clinical precision.

In an album filled with classic cuts, there are some choice selections that demand even more attention. The majesty of Black Winter Day, with its wall of riffs that provide Santeri Kallio’s keys and the dual guitars of Holopainen and rhythm guitarist Tomi Koivusaari has always been a highlight, and it remains a favourite here.

There are many other gems on this album, but I’ll finish with specific reference to the sheer bombast of Magic And Mayhem which is just glorious, and which sounds incredible, 30 years after it was first unleashed on the metal world, and the brutal death metal drive of Vulgar Necrolatry, which lead to the mazy conclusion that is My Kantele, one that shows the band’s native roots.

This recording has certainly brought this album back to the attention and reminded me just how good are Amorphis. A special version perhaps, and probably one for the hardcore fan to shell out for. It’s one for the collectors. Me, I’ll probably just enjoy it and wait with anticipation for the band’s next album to drop. 8/10

Meltem – Mare Nostrum (Discos Macarras/Nafra Records/Nooirax Producciones/Quebranta Records) [Paul Scoble]

Meltem are a Catalan three piece playing a style of super heavy psychedelic doom metal. The Barcelona based band is made up of David Giménez on bass guitar, Pep Caravantes on drums and vocals and Daniel Pozuelo on guitar. The band released their first demo in 2022, Mare Nostrum is the bands first album.

The style on offer on Mare Nostrum is a mix of very heavy doom metal and folk from the Mediterranean area, to my ears it sounds like there are elements from Turkey, Greece and North Africa. The folk is mainly percussion with stringed instruments providing subtle backing and tuneful lead passages. The album is split into four songs, two very long and two that are slightly shorter.

The album opens with Tretze, the first very long song. Tretze starts with crushingly heavy riffs with a relentless feel to them. The music is super heavy and is joined by clean clear vocals with a very powerful feel. The song then takes a turn towards a softer sound with the guitars becoming clean and after a few bars chanting is added. The chanting is religious in style with a sacerdotal feel. The song then starts to build in heaviness and aggressive vocals join the mix, until the song is back to the super heavy and relentless sound we first encountered at the beginning of the song. In the last couple of minutes Tretze speeds up racing to a very heavy ending.

Next comes Curcuna one of the shorter songs. The first half of Curcuna is Mediterranean Folk, with lots of percussion and a hypnotic string melody. After this the drumming goes back to a doom metal style and clean guitars are added. The song then builds to heavy doom at which point we are dropped into much faster riffing with a great tempo that has lots of energy and aggressiveness, before a huge slow and heavy ending.

Mandragora is the second of the very long tracks. The song is made up of three different sounds; riffs that feel tumultuous and dissonant, taut mid-paced doom that is heavy and purposeful and section with big drumming and clean guitar. The song segues through the three sections several times at one point adding an echoey Tremolo Picked riff to the taut mid-paced doom and near the end adding the religious chanting to the final clean Guitar section and ending on a melody lead.

The album comes to an end with the song Oasi, the shortest track on the album. Oasi is a taut Folk instrumental with drumming, strings and bells, it’s a very striking way to end the album. Mare Nostrum is a great album. The doom is super heavy and very enjoyable, in places some of the heaviest doom I have heard. The folk elements were very enjoyable and worked well with the doom, it adds an extra colour to the sound and always had my head nodding. I also enjoyed the chanting which had a genuine Religious quality to it, and added some melody and atmosphere. 

There were a couple of places that thought could do with a little more complexity, however as this is a debut album I don’t think that is a huge problem, complexity can wait for album number two. This is a great debut and Meltem should be very proud of it. 8/10

Lord Buffalo - Holus Bolus (Blues Funeral Recordings) [Rich Piva]

I’m pretty sure I am going to get killed for this one, but I am really struggling with the new album from Auston, Texas band Lord Buffalo. I have a feeling I am going to be alone on this, but I found their third album, Holus Bolus, to drag around the multiple instrumental tracks that to me really don’t go anywhere. Now, I am always up for a difficult listen, but for whatever reason I can just not latch on to these seven new tracks.

Now there is some stuff I really enjoy on Holus Bolus. The title track for example. This has some serious Murder By Death vibes and I am always here for that. I love the dust bowl vibes of this track and the atmosphere surrounding the song is top notch. The use of the violin adds to the mystique of the record. The flip side of that is the next track, Slow Drug. I can understand building atmosphere, but this is six minutes that could have been a shorter interlude, as it acts as more of a distraction than anything else, especially as the second track on the record. I also would have wanted it to go into something that it was building up to, but instead it ends and we get Passing Joy, which is a great song, but not exactly what I was expecting Slow Drug to build to. 

The western creepy vibes are strong on this one too, kind of like Nick Cave partnering with the aforementioned Murder By Death, and I love it. The trend of every other track I dig continues as Malpaisano, an acoustic and voice track fails to capture me, but I Wait OnThe Door Slab does, driven by the violin and a catchiness you don’t always hear from Lord Buffalo, this song actually reminds me of the band Cursive, specifically during The Ugly Organ era of the band, which is an extremely high complement from me. So dark and so good. The trend breaks with Cracks In The Vermeer, as this one is a haunting slow burn that has a lot of the same vibes I mentioned earlier. My issue is more with the closer, Rowing In Eden, which is seven plus minutes that would fit better in a Cave/Ellis soundtrack than it does as the closer to this record.

Maybe I was not the right guy to review this record, but I will say the stuff that I like on Holus Bolus I really like, but there is just too much filler for me that tends to drag on. I love the vibe Lord Buffalo brings, I am just missing the full vision of this album (ducking from tomatoes thrown at me). 6/10

Disloyal - Divine Miasmata (Black Lion Records) [Mark Young]

The 5th Album from Polish death metal veterans, Disloyal frustrates and amazes in equal measure. As we go through the review, I hope you get the sense that although it didn’t totally land with me, that is not to say you won’t find it to be a stunning exercise in Death metal.

It starts with an intro track, Divine Miasmata which is a scene setter of a visitation from a demon most black. I know I complain about these normally, but in this case, I’ll make an exception as it tees up Silent Revolution to come in with those discordant guitars and razor-sharp drumming that is full-on in the mix. It is an odd start, the furious trem picking and melody lines that run into a drum pattern that is like a clock that keeps the oddest time. Instead of going for a full-on assault, Silent Revolution feels like it is two ideas thrown together, each fighting for supremacy with neither coming out on top. The vocals are suitably grim and have a tightly focused sound. 

Even the lead break sounds strange, off-kilter, and not what I expected at all. It evokes a feeling of time being stretched and compressed at the same moment and I’ll be honest it is jarring. The Black Pope on the other hand comes flying in, super rapid double bass with a riff line that is more like it. And it is a stormer, hitting all the right notes even when they drop those discord parts again. This time, it fits and conjures up an expansive cloak of sound. However, even though it hits like a closed fist it loses some of the impact because it runs too long.

1347-1352 shows that there is more to them than just pure battery. Mixing in a fantastic melodic passage amongst the heaviness, it is supplanted for what I can only describe as a head-scratcher of an arrangement, of the music within being stretched once more until they break out into superspeed. This mixing of technical/off-time motifs upsets the flow, and I cannot get a handle on it, do I like this or not? What is now apparent is that the comment of songs running just that smidge too long looks like it is going to repeat. The actual musicianship on display is faultless, the lurching forward and pulling back on a whim is impressive but it kills the flow. 

Stella Peccatorum has a crushing, technical opening that launches into some magic riffing, that gallop/triplet attack that is just royal It is a pity that as soon as it gets going, they drop back to opening arrangement again. It is too soon and once again it slows the momentum down. And it is starting to annoy. There is some phenomenal guitar work on this song, in fact the whole package is quality. Once it flies it represents some of the finest death metal that Poland (or anywhere) has to offer but they seem hell-bent on sabotaging it. 

Betrayed Faith comes in, and again the opening is spot-on and leads into that top-drawer musicianship once more. Double bass, tidy fills, and lightning-fast flurries are on the menu here. On here they get it completely right, the slow-down with voice-over is dense, layered and then they pull out of it with guitar lines weaving in and out until they hit escape velocity again. This is just next-level stuff, and you wonder why they couldn’t have done this before. Religion Of Warfare comes in, picking up where Betrayed left off, keeping that approach in play which pays off to a high standard as it navigates a crazed path, taking in atypical lead breaks amongst the pummelling rhythm work.

Ravens Of Starvation keeps the wizardry going, notes hit in flurries with rampant whammy abuse and it feels more cohesive now, there is less going on which makes it so effective and the arrangement is focused properly, it knows what it wants to be and like Betrayed Faith and Religion Of Warfare it delivers sonic battering of the highest order. The Ascension Of Abaddon is our final track, with an opening of glass-like chords that are firmly stepped on for an exercise in rapid-fire rhythm. A mid-paced melodic break ushers in those chords from hell once more, a slow clenched fist of a death metal breakdown before they blast off once more. Despite this late burst, it still suffers from the overlong lengths that were an issue earlier on, which is frustrating because had they been a little ruthless, we could have been having a different discussion today.

Frustrating is probably a good description, in that there seems to be a lack of direction in what they wanted to go in. The songs suffer as a result and add into it that they run too long meaning that at least for me they lose a lot of the visceral impact required. The later songs show a more concentrated approach and work better because of that but it means that you wonder how those earlier songs would have been had they been focused like the latter. 6/10

Reviews: The Radicant, Mr Big, Blasfeme, Voice (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

The Radicant - We Ascend (Kscope)

Vincent Cavanagh has one of the purest voices ever put to record. The frontman of Anathema since it's inception, alongside his brother's Daniel and Jamie they were not only one of the most important bands in the death/doom sphere but as they grew, they became probably the most emotionally resonant and beautiful prog rock bands of the last two decades. Their split hurt, a world without Anathema was unthinkable for a while but once I saw that Vincent was returning to music with The Radicant I had to consume it as soon as possible.

Apparently a term from botany for something that will grow anywhere, I suppose it's a metaphor for creating music when there seems to be nothing. The Radicant is not just music though it's a full multimedia approach, merging music with visual art, Cavanagh inspired to link these electronic compositions with inspiring, thought provoking visuals that have been honed due to his many collaborations with visual, augmented reality and virtual artists, creating the soundscapes, field recordings and spatial audio for multiple pieces and artists.

These sonic dalliances inspire the debut EP from The Radicant, the experimental style of audio similar to Steven Wilson projects No Man and Bass Communion, Mariusz Duda's Lunatic Soul, the collaboration between David Sylvian & Robert Fripp and electronic artists such as Aphex Twin or Boards Of Canada. There's pulsating DnB, ambient dreaminess, sprawling electronica as well as the previously discussed spatial audio and field recordings that add a ticking clock on We Ascend, or a white nosie hiss on the angular Anchor.

The production is layered and evocative, Cavanagh and French producer Ténèbre making sure that it sounds huge but intimate, Sam John's mastering, claustrophobic but welcoming. Wide Steppe builds as if played with strings, each turn introducing another layer, I'll be honest I thought this was a lost Anathema track, the ethereal operatic vocals, emotional substance it's just wondrous in it's simplicity.

The Radicant is imbued with 11 albums worth of recording experience but tries something that Vincent himself has been perfecting since Anathema spilt up. It's different but with Vincent's voice and ear for composition The Radicant will have a long tenure. 9/10

Mr Big - Ten (Frontiers Music Srl)

When you press play on Mr Big's new album, you realise that All Good Luck Trying needs is some organ and it could easily be a Deep Purple song. It's got that bluesy, jazzy sound to it that Mr Gillian has loved for years. Eric Martin with the sneer of an old crooner, reminding me a lot of solo David Lee Roth, the link here being Billy Sheehan's virtuoso bass work.

We're back to Mr Big business on I Am You, Paul Gilbert's acoustics and echoed The Beatles-like guitars adding a bit of power pop. Yep Mr Big are back! Currently on their farewell tour, named The Big Finish, they didn't want to close things out without one more record. Ten is their tenth and probably final studio album and serves as a tribute to their late drummer Pat Torpey.

His loss the reason why they are calling it a day, but here the percussion is taken by fellow virtuoso Nick D'Virgilio, his percussive prowess displayed on the Aerosmith-like Right Outta Here, the spirit of the blues very strong on Ten, more so than on any previous Mr Big releases. With Nick joining the trio of Billy, Paul and Eric, he is able to adapt to any style they want to play on this album.

As I've said that style seems to be blues meets The Beatles, Torpey frequently singing Beatles songs while performing his drum solos, Gilbert and D'Virgilio are both Beatlemaniacs so these influences track, however there's also Mr Big balladry on the soulful Who We Are, as What Were You Thinking brings back the choppy rock n roll.

That's something that is lacking on Ten, it's bluesy, ballady, poppy but there's a lack of rock, there's no Addicted To That Rush, no Colorado Bulldog, none of the full on shredding from Gilbert or Sheehan. It's a band you feel are at the end, laid back and enjoying playing the music that inspired them, it's Mr Big paying homage to their fallen brother and to their idols, but they've lost their bite. 6/10

Blasfeme - Black Legion (Wulfhere Productions)

Blackend flames once again arise to reject God and all his works and spread their unholy blaze.

Described by us as a set of unholy hymns, Bristol's Blasfeme' debut album, Iniquity In Salvation, was both proceeded and succeeded by an EP, but Black Legion is their second full length. Uncompromising in their commitment to the darkness, their heretical extreme metal takes from both black and death metal, smearing itself in goats blood and corpse paint, then viciously tearing you limb from limb with malevolent intent and a sadistic grin.

Sacrificial daggers sharpened on a whetstone, Black Legion doesn't waste time with setting a scene or creating a phony atmosphere, it lets fly instantly with tremolo picking from Moord and Parusight, they also trade off vocals, both harsh and evil, grunts, screams and growls that speak of devils, demons and the occult.

It's full force from the opening chords, blistering pace and ferocity as the metallic blasts of Striga Hell's drumming and Dialgar's bass, carves through these songs such as the visceral blasting opener Purified By The High Flames Of Hell and Czernobog which has a hint of venom to it. As the frothing rage increases on Wolves Of Karpathia.

There's muscular classic metal riffs too that creep their way into the extreme metal savagery of Ritualistic Exsanguination and the battle metal of the title track. Black Legion wages war on the faithful, swords sharpened ready to fight for his infernal majesty, join their side before it's too late. 8/10

Voice - Holy Or Damned (Massacre Records)
 
Making their comeback in 2017, German metal crew Voice follow up an album from that year with their new one Holy Or Damned. Their sixth album in total is another piece of melodic power metal that they have been playing since 1988, though their debut album was released in 1996. So expect keys augmenting the riffs, anthemic choruses and that Teutonic chug present with bands such as Accept.

Still containing three of the founder members in guitarist/keyboardist Thommy Neuhieri, bassist Sören Glas and Oliver Glas, they keep things simple sticking with the sound they established way back in the 80's/90's shunning a lot of the modernity their compatriots now have for a retro sound. Oliver has a gruff voice (Grave Digger style) which means that they play down-tuned even with ballads such as Tears In The Dust

He's soulful in the way he sings and the music is a cinematic style of heavy but melodic power metal, so Holy Or Damned is a decent heavy metal album if you like the German power style. 6/10