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Wednesday 24 January 2024

Reviews: Mountain Caller, Sovereign, Kill The Thrill, Hyloxalus (Reviews By Mark Young, Paul Hutchings, Patches & Matt Bladen)

Mountain Caller - Chronicle II: Hypergenesis (Church Road Records) [Mark Young]

Now I’ve got to tell you that I am excited for this. I heard The Archivist last year as part of a pre-order for this and have avoided any further songs until this week. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live in Manchester with Tribe Of Ghosts and Urne in December and they were just amazing.

Chronicle II is everything i thought it would be, its heavy when it needs to be, melodic and subtle elsewhere. There is so much going on it will take repeated listens to fully absorb everything which is the mark of a great release. In a week where I’ve reviewed a compilation of ten years work, technical death metal, Uber-technical death metal and avant-garde post metal, this is acting as the greatest palate cleanser of all time.

Daybreak begins with a calming guitar that soon is swallowed by the first of many great riffs as they start their journey that takes us on so many different places, it’s a fantastic start, as it ebbs and flows and keeps you engaged right the way through. There is a clear plan in each song as each progression within them is organic and alive. The closing riff in Daybreak is a smasher, as is the bass opener in The Archivist (which made it onto my SOTY list for 2023) and is a stunning piece of music. Their ability to find balance and use it to build in those quiet and subtle parts and BANG drop a killer riff in which is somehow better than everything that came before it.

Dead Language vocals included!! Delivered in a way that seamlessly fits in what has come before, and the accompanying press doesn’t note who (Claire or El) is handling the vocals this is a barnstormer. There is a quality break at around 3 minutes where the three of them are in unison with rising drum pattern from Max that suddenly falls away to allow an impassioned vocal drop that ushers yet another prime riff and used so effectively. Into The Hazel Woods offers an emotional solo over a gently plucked riff and then they do it again with a stomper of a riff that now carries you forward. The interplay between guitar and bass is superb as it changes direction again, this time the three of them moving forward as they narrate a story without words. 

March Of The Göll, released as a single is just sublime. It’s got so much going on that if you play guitar, bass etc you could have so much fun playing along to it (yes, I still play along to music. Bite me). Final song, Hypergenesis has the honour of bringing the curtain down. If you imagine taking the content of the songs that preceded it and distilling them into a mould, then you would have this. It plays out like a victory lap in that in has that ascending, happy feel to it. They really squeeze an awful lot into this and it’s an epic, epic track. It could be used in film, its that good.

To put it simply, Mountain Caller have dropped one of the earliest contenders for inclusion onto AOTY lists. There will be undoubtably other instrumental albums but there won’t be another one like this. The craft on display is top notch, the songs stellar with performances to match. It requires that you give it your undivided attention and in doing so will reward you with an experience that takes in the light, the dark, the heavy and the soft. They can write music that will tick every box you need and do it at a supreme level. 

I understand that music without vocals may not be to everyone’s taste, and I get that because instrumentals do get a bad rap for being overlong, overblown but not here. Here they have got everything right, and what’s more they can back this up in a live setting. I’m telling you that if you get chance to catch them live – DO IT. Get this album because it is essential. 10/10

Sovereign – Altered Realities (Dark Descent Records) [Paul Hutchings]

There’s something decidedly old school about the debut album by Norwegian death thrashers Sovereign. Just one listen to the opening track, Altered Reality provides the answer. This is a band who clearly drink deep at the well of Death, Morbid Angel, Sodom, Kreator and Entombed. It’s frantic stuff, with second track Futile Dreams providing evidence that these guys can shred for fun. The music is claustrophobic, suffocating, harrowing. Dark, atmospheric, yet with the lacerating impact of a bat studded with rusted nails. If Lucille, the bat used by Negan in The Walking Dead had a soundtrack, it would be this album.

Vocalist / bassist Gravskjender has a delivery that is fitting for the gnarly savage style the band play. He’s been dragged up from the depths of hell, with a roar that sends shivers down the spine. A hybrid blend of old school influences it may be, but with only two of the band even born when the likes of Pleasure To Kill and Agent Orange were released, there’s a pleasing technicality that surges through the songs. Tommy Jacobsen’s slicing lead guitar bursts scream with energy and dynamism, whilst the drumming of drummer Cato Syversrud, a veteran of several other bands is tightly wound, driving each song forward.

It might be a little stereotypical in layout, such as the Testament style intro to The Enigma Of Intelligence, (think Eerie Inhabitants) but there’s no doubting the intensity and relentless aural assault that Sovereign present. There are changes in tempo, slower, riff heavy sections that interchange with visceral explosions of full-on thrash metal, all rolled up in five filthy minutes.

They save the best til last though. The epic ten-minute sprawl of Absence Of Unity is well crafted and retains all the sheer aggression that the band have poured into every other second here. It’s raw yet contains progressive elements that work. Slower segments piece together with more gritty and feral parts, especially towards the end as the track slows to a doom-laden outro.

An album that will appeal to those who want their metal with a nasty edge, there is plenty more to come from Sovereign, and I will be keeping a keen eye and ear out for future releases. 7/10

Kill The Thrill - Autophagie (Season Of Mist) [Patches]

France continues to produce a high calibre of interesting, unique, experimental bands. I’m fairly certain if you went through the last five or so years and picked out the bands that genuinely surprised me with originality at least 67% of them would be French. Autophagie by band Kill The Thrill is a fascinating compound made up of elements of industrial rock, ambient goth, dark new wave, post-punk, post-rock, experimental metal and dreamy abrasive mesmerising soundscape.

It’s all about creating an atmosphere that invites or perhaps dares the listener to immerse themselves in. An atmosphere that opposes convention, both harsh and beautiful, enticing yet dangerous, familiar though abstract. The compact short nature of this review is a testament to this works, as the album feels like a journey one needs to experience themselves. Perhaps bring a medicine man, witchdoctor or shaman along with you as they make this tranquil and turbulent trip feel like some kind of spiritual experience. 

As their first studio album in 19 years Autophagie serves as a triumphant return for Kill The Thrill. Listing some of their influences as Swans, Godflesh, Killing Joke and The Young Gods may give you an inkling of what to expect. A high recommendation for fans of dark atmospheric soundscape, post-rock/punk and melancholic shoegaze. 9/10

Hyloxalus - Make Me The Heart Of The Black Hole (Self Released) [Matt Bladen]

Canadians Hyloxalus have been called Fear Factory/SYL meets Tristania and they are very much both of those bands combined. Dark power metal that edges to industrial metal and melodeath but forgoing the death vocals for a full power soprano. I'll say the drumming is great but unfortunately the rest leaves me a bit cold, the vocals stay the same with little variation to them, while the music feels processed, possibly as it's all one guy with the exception of the drums. 

It does benefit from having a real drummer but it wasn't until Undead In Ward 6 and Sailors Underneath The Waves where the theatrics and gothic parts came in that I paid a little more than just lip service. I can understand the talent here but I just couldn't get into the record the way someone else would, when they slowed down it was better but I felt it was a little one note. 5/10

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